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Sensing Landscapes: Alaska-Mongolia

Walking through landscapes in Alaska and Mongolia




  The Arctic Ocean (Barrow, Alaska)

  North Slope children love to go to the beach ‘to look  for creatures’; ‘look at the water change colour,’ to ‘run from the waves’; to be with family; to go whaling.

Photo: Fabiola Gorgonio



Ice Cellar (Barrow, Alaska)

One whaling captain invited students to descend into his ice cellar. Built into the permafrost this long-time Iñupiaq technology permits food storage for up to a year. With climate change, dangerous gases may be released by melting permafrost; or cellars may become flooded due to the rising sea level. Ice cellars should be cleaned out every spring so that migrating whales ‘see’ a welcoming place for them and decide to give themselves up to the whaling captain and his wife.

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Utqiaqvik Iñupiaq Corporation research reserve, just outside Barrow

In Alaska as in Mongolia, walking across the land is expansive. Because the tundra is both desert and wetland, footsteps can cause erosion almost immediately; on this preserve visitors must stay on the undulating walk-way whereas the Mongolian children may spread out at will.

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Bayangol, Mongolia — children run towards their local river


“The land is drying here and there is less grass in the summer. The main difference between us and [the children in East Anglia] is they have a lot of water.”

Transitioning from the cold, wet arctic to the dry Mongolian steppe relationships with landscape are conditioned by local experience.... Special places on the Mongolian steppe and in Mexican cloud forests