Historical Events

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"We lived during this time entirely on seals; for the grizzly bears, which had been numerous here a month earlier in the season the year before, had now all moved inland. "

May 20, 1911

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My Life with the Eskimo - Chapter 20

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

Facultative Carnivore
Eskimo
Carnivore Diet

During the two or three weeks that followed our crossing south from Victoria Island , our progress westward along the mainland coast was slow on account of frequent troubles in getting around the open spaces in the sea ice created by the mouths of small rivers, each of which was bringing its quota of warm inland water to help thaw out the sea. We had now and then to make a considerable detour to seaward through rough ice to avoid these river deltas. We lived during this time entirely on seals; for the grizzly bears, which had been numerous here a month earlier in the season the year before, had now all moved inland. The small seals were out in numbers, basking on the ice. Although white men agree in general in preferring the flesh of the bearded to that of the small seal, my tastes are in that matter, as in most other things, with the Eskimo, so we shot only common seals, though the bearded variety were also abundant.


I neglected to say that on our way from Bell Island across the Straits to Point Tinney Natkusiak killed a polar bear which was the largest animal of its kind I have ever happened to see, although not quite so large as others the skins of which I have seen among the Eskimo. I measured it with a common string, for my tape did not happen to be convenient at the moment, and then of course I lost the string before the measurements got recorded. I suppose the animal would have weighed in the neighborhood of eight hundred pounds. According to our custom we carried with us only about two days' supply of this bear meat. This was our only change in diet from the time we left the Victoria Island Eskimo, May 17th, until about a month later, when we shot some sea gulls near Cape Lyon. Otherwise we lived entirely on seals.