National Geographic : 1954 Jan
146 What Short Teeth You Have, Grandm: Chewing sealskins for soft footwear has worn this wor nearly to the gums. Following the birth of her first child were tattooed on her chin. Today the custom is no longer we went for walks along the sides of the island or climbed the steep cliffs, birds flew around us like swarms of bees. Birds and Eggs Supplement Diet The birds were shot or caught in nets and ordinary steel-jaw traps. Hunting was car ried on mainly during the short, dusky nights. Early in the morning we often saw a tired family scrambling down over the cliffs to the village, carrying 50 or more auklets. Some had been caught by children with a noose. These birds, together with their eggs, pro vide an important addition to the villagers' diet. Eggs can be kept for a considerable time in the ice cave. We found the meat of the birds, particularly that of the auklet, de lectable. The sandhill crane, snow goose, and a vari ety of ducks visit the island briefly in the spring and then move northward. One morning in mid-June, we awoke to find the sun masked by thick black clouds. The sea churned into a mass of spray and foam; the last of the ice tore loose from shore. "No more ice," the villagers sadly announced. "We go to Nome when storm over." No more ice meant no more wal rus. There was no further reason to stay. Now was the time to hurry to Nome for summer jobs. We knew that as soon as the village leaders thought the storm was over, we would leave, with per haps only a few hours' notice. The 35-mile trip across open ocean from the island to the nearest point of the mainland was risky at best. Fair weather and a calm sea were necessary, for the skin boats would be heavily laden with Eskimos and their goods. Everyone Goes but the Dogs Finally everyone was ready. We sat and waited for three days. Every few hours the captains of the umiaks climbed to the highest part of the island and looked toward the mainland. SAt last the word came down: "Get everything into the boats. We leave tonight!" aI Men, women, and children stag an's teeth gered down the steps under loads ,blue lines practiced. of meat, blubber, and household goods and loaded them into the boats. The piles grew higher and higher. I wondered how the people would possibly find room for themselves. Still they continued to load, until some of the boats had barely three inches of free board. Then paddles were fastened in an upright position to the gunwales of the umiaks, and canvas sides were strung up over them to keep out the ocean swells. At a signal, everyone climbed into the boats and we chugged out to sea. As we left, the island's heartbroken dogs lined up on the beach and howled mournfully. I shall never forget that dismal serenade of nearly a hun dred dogs, all howling at once. The noise of the dogs and the outboard motors frightened thousands of birds from their nests in the cliffs. The sky was literally blackened as the flocks circled over our heads. As the six umiaks rounded a corner of the island, the village vanished from sight. A fresh evening breeze whipped our faces. We shrank down into our parkas for warmth; Nome was 13 hours away. Our winter on King Island was a thing of the past.