Into the Arctic

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Photo courtesy Maksim.
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INTERESTENG. welcomes a new little student to our family from the Far North of Russia, some 90 miles inside the Arctic Circle. Darya is still a little too young to share her own stories with us, but her family has kindly sent us some photos. 

     The advent of any new student brings with it the happy task
of learning about a part of
the world we knew little (or nothing) about before. One book we would never have dreamed of being so gripped by is Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez.   

     In all cultures, the importance of words in helping us see what our eyes miss, or misinterpret, is often overlooked. Yet, more often than not, it is words that open our understanding to other places and cultures. Barry Lopez gives a wonderful example of this. Explorers to the Canadian Arctic in the 1930s showed their invaluable native guide a pair of binoculars. After looking toward the direction they’d left and then toward the direc-tion they were headed, the guide said words to the effect, “Ah, a tool to see yesterday and tomorrow!”  

     To see, with the help of the binoculars, the distant igloo they had left yesterday was to see yesterday. To see the polar bear in the distance, where they hoped to reach tomorrow, was to see tomorrow in their eyes. 

ArcticTime


    Not only “distance,” but time, is thought of in unique ways in the Arctic we’ve learned already. Where there are months of only daylight, and months with only dusk and night, “sunrise to sunset” has very little meaning. Instead of a world thought of in “24 hour”
increments, there is a world more accurately measured by 2 seasons: winter and summer. The sun 
in the summer (when you see it), rather than “rising in the east and setting in the west,”  is more like a huge beach ball staying in one place and slowly “rolling over” in the sky each day.  The photo below is the view from Darya’s family’s apartment about noon in mid-December. The temperature was -40F. The light map shows the sunlight at about noon that day. It was below the horizon but still cast light in the sky. (Darya’s city is indicated by the red marker.) 

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 ©InterestEng. July 2013 - July 2021 §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff photos or used with permission.  §  To contact us:  go.gently.on@gmail.com