Frostbite gives insight into harsh climate…

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Elizabeth’s fingers, which she frostbit on Saturday night while setting up tents, are recovering well. The tips are still tender and a couple of them have blisters filled with clear fluid. If the frostbite had been more severe, she might have had blisters filled with dark fluid or skin that turned dark when it re-warmed. She is disappointed to be missing part of the expedition, but she knows that leaving the field was the right decision to protect her fingers from any more damage. She will rejoin the expedition in Pangnirtung, the next village. In the meantime she is enjoying getting to know Inuit community members. Today she learned how to crochet traditional hats.

The elders told Elizabeth that Inuit people have learned over many years how to travel safely in these harsh conditions. They told her that as the climate changes, however, some of their knowledge is no longer relevant. For example hunters who travel over sea ice know how to read the surface of the ice to determine if it can hold the weight of a human, a dogsled or a snowmobile. With changing currents and water temperatures, however, sometimes the ice can look safe on the surface while being eroded from underneath. Several hunters have fallen through the ice in tragic accidents. The loss of these hunters greatly impacts the villages. Country food (seal, walrus, fish and caribou) comprises a large proportion of Inuit community members’ diet. Inuit hunters provide meat not only for their own families but for the whole community.

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Elizabeth feels that her experience with frostbite gave her new insight into just how harsh the weather conditions can be in the Arctic. She is beginning to appreciate how much skill and knowledge of the environment the Inuit people possess.

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