Historical Events

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The Eskimos knew that caribou in June would be fat-poor, but fat-rich in August later in the summer. "He brought back with him only the skin and forty pounds or so of back-fat"

July 31, 1909

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My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 7

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

Man The Fat Hunter
Facultative Carnivore
Eskimo
Carnivore Diet

When we finally got to Smith Bay Akpek's troubles were augmented by a severe case of snow- blindness, so we left him and his family behind at our food cache, telling them they might stay as long as they liked, and then moved on the fifty or so miles to Point Barrow. We could leave them without fear that they would stay to eat all our provision store, for although there were plenty of white men's provisions at our cache there was no fresh meat to be had in Smith Bay, and it does not take an Eskimo long to get thoroughly tired of white men's food. They were sure therefore to follow us as soon as they could to Point Barrow. 


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They turned out to be all skin poor, as was to be expected on account of the season of the year, for in June no caribou except the oldest bulls have any traces of fat on them whatever in this district. 

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No sooner had we left Dr. Anderson than we sighted caribou inland. It was evidently a big bull and we were very anxious to get him, for the skins of the bulls about the middle of August are in ideal condition for winter boot-soles and the animals then are fatter than at any other season. We got within range of the bull, fired at him, and wounded him. Just as he started off for the mountains I happened to turn around, and saw a sail to the westward, the first of the incoming whaling ships, which, according to the news we received at Point Barrow, we had not expected to come at all. I therefore left Natkusiak to follow the wounded bull while I ran as fast as I could the six miles to the coast to make a smoke signal for the whaler, and if necessary to put out in our boat to intercept her, for I recognized even from the mountains that the ship was Captain Pedersen's schooner the Challenge, which had been wintering at Point Barrow, and I knew Captain Pedersen would be willing to go out of his way to do us a service. When I got down to the coast the faint breeze of the morning had given out completely and the Challenge lay becalmed a mile or so offshore just a little west of our camp. It turned out that Natkusiak had plenty of time to kill the wounded bull he was following, but on account of his fear that the wind might come up again and take the ship away, he brought back with him only the skin and forty pounds or so of back-fat, abandoning all the meat to the wolves and foxes. It was a great pity to waste over two hundred pounds of prime venison, especially as we had for several months been living on lean, flavorless meat. It took a good while for all of us to get over thinking about the feast of which accident had deprived us, and later when we boarded the Challenge and told Captain Pedersen about it he was scarcely less regretful, for he and his men were without fresh meat.