Nalukataq edition! by Florencia Mazza Ramsay

By the end of June Barrow celebrated Nalukataq (NAH-loo-kah-TUCK), one of the town’s most important annual events. A traditional community thanksgiving after a successful bowhead whale harvesting season and the safe return of the captains and crews.

The celebration starts around noon with a prayer, gospel singing and the raising of the whaling crews' flags. I’ve been told that some elders go as early as 6 A.M. to choose a spot. No matter what time they arrive, everyone arrives armed with foldable chairs, blankets, and coolers for the long day ahead.

Photos (Top left clockwise): This group performs some gospel songs, while filmed by BBC and others, and invites everyone to participate by handing the lyrics to anybody interested / 30F and rainy weather won't stop the joy / Kids get exhausted after running around and playing with their friends while they wait for food / A good seat and warm clothes make a happy Nalukataq

People get different goose and caribou soups, caribou ice cream, bread rolls and Eskimo doughnuts in between many home made dishes.
Whaling crews share their bounty with the whole community. Quaq (frozen whale meat), muktuk (frozen whale blubber and skin) and mikigaq (fermented whale meat) are distributed among the attending families. Everybody carries platters and plastic bags full of raw whale meat and the excitement is much. All this is part of a generous gesture that not only involves the locals but also sharing with the visitors, who get the aqikkaak (whale fluke).
The amount given away depends on the success of the whaling season.

Members of the Nusunginya Whaling crew distribute muktuk with the present families / Muktuk is cut with an ulu (traditional Iñupiat woman knife) in little bits for immediate enjoyment / Rain or shine all family members help out / Yumm! Buttery bread rolls / Everybody eagerly waits for the whale banquet


After all the catch is distributed the blanket comes in. Made of ugruk (bearded seal) skins that once covered an umiak (traditional skin boat), the blanket is held in place by tight ropes pulled between wooden beams. With the blanket raised about shoulder height, people circle it and hold the edges to pull out on the blanket and throw the jumper in the air. The first ones to jump on are the whaling captains & crew After that, any brave participant can join.


Candy is thrown from up high is a gesture that symbolizes the joy of sharing. Kids get incredibly excited and can be seen teaming up and trading different obtained sugary treats.

A member of the whaling crew teases the crowd with a bag full of candy before jumping / Kids of all ages wait for the sweets on every corner / The excitement runs so high that teenagers scream as in a music concert / Candy is thrown up in the air / The scavenging starts / Full pockets and smiles everywhere / The sugary aftermath, energized kids play and run all over the place / Inupiat People wear mukluks (soft boots made of reindeer skin or sealskin) or kamik and parkas or anoraks of seal, caribou, wolverine, wolf and fox skin.


After having fun with the blanket everyone is invited to dance. The drummers get in first and a prayer is said. Each dance lasts several minutes and begins with a soft introductory chant. Then the drummers add to the singing their loud heavy beats, while the dancers perform. Everyone at the gymnasium can join the dance party.

The blanket comes in and a prayer is elevated to thank the bounty and the safe return of the crew members / The drummers and singers accommodate to begin the session / Let the celebration begin! Gordon Brower dances among family and friends / A proud father looks into his son's eyes while playing the drums / A local kid enjoys pranking on tanik (white man) / Remember to hug your loved ones was one of night's motto / Eugene Brower, President of the Barrow Whaling Captains Association, smiles satisfied / Selfies and Instagram photos where taken every second of the celebration

The native Inupiat people have lived in Barrow for four thousand years and continue to practice traditional ways of life, including whaling and subsistence hunting whilst perfecting their tools and techniques with modern technologies. For an archive of historical photographs, check out:

Alaska natives have been hunting bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus) for thousands of years. This traditional subsistence hunt is protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and hunting is allowed for registered members of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC). A quota for the number of whales taken by the AEWC is determined by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
Only Alaskan Eskimos who are registered members of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission may hunt bowhead whales in the U.S.

A photo journey into Arctic research and culture, Part 1 by Florencia Mazza Ramsay

Barrow, Alaska is the northernmost city in the United States – a good 320 miles north from the Arctic Circle, only 5.3% of the Earth's surface lies as far from the Equator as Barrow (NOAA weather data).

Around May 11 or 12 the sun remains above the horizon for the entire day thus beginning a 24 hour daylight period. Barrow's Sun Won't Set Until Early August – that’s about 80 days of sunlight –

12:45 A.M. in Barrow

Coming up to here requires a lot of preparation, both individually and as a group. After hoping on and off airplanes from El Paso to Barrow (check the Google Tour, we were welcomed by cold, cloudy weather and a meal at the Top of the World Hotel

Photos: (clockwise from top left) A travel weary Marcela boards our last flight from Anchorage to Barrow. / Stephen is unaware travelers must cross the tarmac to board our last plane. He severely underestimated the frigid summers up here. / Barrow's luggage claim, not the fanciest but effective / A sign welcomes tourists in town; built over the ground where original village once stood. / Not my kind of polar bear greets guests at the Top of World Hotel

We've been through gun training, Arctic Field training & GPS groundwork. A lot of unpacking, grocery shopping and overall preparations for busy season ahead.

Photos (clockwise from top left): Stephen receives firearm safety training at Ft. Bliss Rod & Gun Club / Gabby preparing to unload a few rounds / Allen O'Brien shows us how deal with an unconscious person in the Tundra / Cute little patch for completing Arctic Field Training / Meanwhile, Dr. Craig Tweedie is interviewed by a Chinese film crew doing a story on Climate Change / Spencer, a geospatial technician going through the ins and outs of the differential gps system / Jackpot! in the local supermarket; glad the essentials are here / Reindeer meat which I will not be partaking in. 


The first part of our season was spent with the BAID-UTEP crew hurriedly completing surveys on the Elson Lagoon Coastline. By straddling the kilometers of coastline, carrying precise GPS equipment, the guys aim to record coastal erosion from year to year. This region has been particularly affected as warmer temperatures thaw the permafrost coastal line. The ice covered lagoon limits boat access to there coastal areas in early June, so the crew must hike through the mushy tundra to get things done. They, in collaboration with other universities also maintain towers and tramways bearing tons of sensors, time lapse cameras and instruments to document weather patterns and tundra responses to climate changes.

While at the hut, Ryan and Stephen craft a mission plan for the upcoming week / Stephen's first visit to the tundra / Ryan checking in on one of the lab's many coastal time lapse cameras / Group day at the International Tundra Experiment / Ryan helps Marcela replace a 3d printed infrared camera; a little bit of group collaboration goes a long way in the field / Stephen gets ready to record Dr. Rhett Herman study sites / Funny enough, Stephen is wearing clothes with the same colors as the BAID logo / Dr. Rhett Herman sets up a system to measure temperature withing a microclimate inches above the ground; Rhett and Sarah O'brien are looking at preferential nesting sites for migratory birds / Marcela and Zeke teach me how to fly a very serious kite

During these three weeks we have experienced the craziest weather possible. Snow, fog, wind, rain, glorious sun and all in one day. As soon as you get the grip on how to dress up for the day, getting used to the cold is not as difficult as expected.

The Barrow Arctic Research Consortium where "the lab" is / Stephen being cold in a super cold day / Outside of the lab in a cold but sunny day / All that snow you see there is now extra green vegetation / Told you, pretty green / "The fog" makes you think about all those zombie movies...  /  Snow! / We don't get much snow in El Paso, bear with our excitement / Fog, sun and ice happening altogether / Sun and breaking ice

We had the opportunity of walking over the frozen Chukchi Sea, the same stretch of water that our friends from San Diego State University jumped into on surprisingly hot day (58F).

Stephen walking over the frozen Chukchi Sea

Sunny, warmer days still bring joy to the locals and everyone around (including the gigantic mosquitoes). The mosquitoes are different here. They're bigger, slower and, well, stupid. If they do manage to land on an exposed piece of skin, which is likely because they swarm in the thousands, their itchy bites last for days. It came as a surprise when, during a presentation by Aquatic Ecologist Dr. Malcolm "Mac" Butler, I learned that these millions of little blood sucking invertebrates do not nest in the many ponds and lakes of Barrow.

Cassandra has her Baywatch moment after jumping into the freezing Chukchi Sea / Locals enjoy the higher temperatures and bring their grills out for a "night" at the beach (the photo was taken 12.30 A.M.) / Dr. Mac Butler shares part of his 40 years of research history

There are so many exciting things happening. Keep tuned for the 'blanket toss' celebration (Nalukataq), a very special 4th of July, lots of birds, boat adventures and world renowned researchers! Thank you to all those who helped make this project a reality and thank you for reading!

Quanaklaaglutin - "Go with care" and Happy 4th!




Fundrazr campaign - English by florencia mazza ramsay

 Proper acknowledgments before we start:

  • Music by Carli Aristide (awesome Argentinian musician and wonderful friend!). 
  • All Barrow, Alaska photographs displayed in this video belong to Craig Tweedie (SEL, University of Texas at El Paso)and are used under his permission.
  • Climate Prisms + Francesca Samsel (University of Texas at Austin Bradbury Museum of Science, Los Alamos National Lab)


I’ve been granted the beautiful and unique opportunity of traveling to and documenting the Northern-most city of the United States. Situated well above the Arctic Circle, Barrow Alaska is an epicenter of scientific research and home to the Iñupiat people who have thrived in this harsh land through a continued cultivation of their traditional subsistence lifestyle. This Summer I’ll be attached to a multidisciplinary team of researchers, scientists and technicians working in this part of the frigid tundra in their efforts to better understand the shifting landscape that climate change has brought about. By way of the University of Texas at El Paso and headed by Dr. Craig Tweedie, the Systems Ecology Laboratory (SEL - / BAID - boasts a roster including Biologists, Environmental Scientists, Engineers and Computer Scientists. The lab is drawing on a legacy of historical research in Barrow to determine how tundra ecosystems respond to climate warming, studying and quantifying coastal erosion and creating an infrastructure for information and data sharing between researchers. As their work builds upon the collective body of research in Barrow, it's also used to help local communities in land management and decision making. Being the first team member from the art community, I’m proud to document and experience the arctic with this multifaceted team during the 2015 field season in addition to the wonderful traditions and lives of the local community.


This is quite a departure from my usual line of work. During the past eight years I have worked in the fashion world shooting celebrities and luxury lifestyle publications. My training in photography, both fashion and documentary, has provided me with an atypical skill set, which I consider an effective language to dialogue with my contemporaries. The focus of this project is to document the researchers and their journey through Barrow, learning about them and their projects. Given the intimacy that will be granted to me as part of the crew, I will share their every day lives and show the public the importance of the research being done here, emphasizing on the human kinship. The other phase of this project will be a closer observation of the Iñupiat; a community rich with tradition, deeply connected to the land and wildlife and exposed to the effects climate change first hand. The telling of their stories, rituals, food and their interactions with this extreme landscape will help in the understating of the size and depth of this issue. My story will convene with that of the Iñupiat and the challenges they face now and the ones that lie ahead of them. Standing on the edge of the world I will stand witness to the extensive work of the science community in an ever-shifting landscape.


  • The images and video resulting from this experience will be turned into a multidisciplinary exhibition (photo, video and mapping installation) to be placed at The University of Texas at El Paso.

  • A self published book & ebook
  • Scientific publications, educational material and press for the project. 
  • Online journals and social media contents, as I will manage both my personal accounts and the official ones. 
  • Video pieces related to climate change, featuring the Iñupiat peoples and scientists for online release.
  • An Archive of image and video files of the 2015 field season to be used by the Systems Ecology Lab and shared with collaborators.

Supporting further exposure of this project and strengthening its educational reach, Craig Tweedie, Cathy Wilson (Los Alamos National Laboratory) and I will be contributors representing the activities in Barrow for 'Climate Prisms' a project commanded by Francesca Samsel ( & Climate Prisms will provide users with insight into the science and implications of climate change. It is an interactive and self-guided system of threads through artistic, literary and scientific presentations. This project will be constituted by a fixed exhibition and a nomadic component that will travel around the U.S. and the world.


Polar regions are hit the hardest by climate change thereby affecting the welfare of the arctic communities. Rising temperatures, declining snow cover, thawing permafrost, rising sea level, retreating Summer sea ice and eroding coast lines are but some of the trends being observed by scientist in Arctic. Climate change is not an abstraction in Barrow, it is a fact of daily life. Shedding light on the hard work of the scientific community and the inhabitants of the region is fundamental.

Photography and video play a core role in the understanding of an issue this expansive. Images hit us in the gut, they aid us to gain a better understanding of matters that could easily seem overwhelming and distant if experienced as mere statistical analysis, graphs or scientific terms. The wonders of science, nature and anthropogenic impacts on environment are the foundation of my interests. The products of such fascination can potentially take any form (film portraits, photographs, books, immersive spaces) and it comes straight from my own enchantment with the world and how we inhabit it. Through these works I hope to mesmerize and and spark the curiosity of others so we can find, at least for a moment, affinities with complete strangers through increased self-awareness.


I will work in Barrow, Alaska for 3 months starting June, 2015. I'm participating as a non-paid volunteer. This means my expenses (plane tickets, food and housing) will be covered but I will not be receiving any compensation as payment.

With your support, I will successfully be able develop my project. Everything gathered here will go the production of the final pieces, camera gear and polar clothing

Any help you can afford would be an IMMENSE gesture of support. 


Fundrazr campaign - español by florencia mazza ramsay

Agradecimientos antes de comenzar:

  • Música de Carli Aristide (músico Argentino y gran amigo). 
  • Todas las imágenes de Barrow, Alaska mostradas en este proyecto son propiedad de Craig Tweedie (SEL, University of Texas at El Paso) y son utilizadas con su permiso.
  • Climate Prisms + Francesca Samsel (University of Texas at Austin Bradbury Museum of Science, Los Alamos National Lab)



Me ha sido otorgada la maravillosa y única oportunidad de viajar y documentar la ciudad más remota la norte de los Estados Unidos. Situada por encima del Círculo Polar ártico, Barrow, Alaska es un epicentro de investigación científica y hogar del pueblo originario Iñupiat, quienes han prosperado en esta tierra severa a través del continuo cultivo de su estilo de vida basado en la subsistencia. Este verano seré parte de un equipo multidisciplinario de investigadores científicos y técnicos trabajando en la frígida tundra, en un esfuerzo por comprender el inestable panorama traído por el cambio climático. Perteneciente a la Universidad de Texas en El Paso y dirigido por Dr. Craig Tweedie, el Laboratorio de Sistemas Ecológicos (SEL - / BAID - despliega un equipo formado por Biólogos, Científicos del Medioambiente, Ingenieros y Licenciados en Ciencias de la Computación. El laboratorio cuenta con un legado histórico de investigación en Barrow, con el objetivo de determinar la respuesta del ecosistema local al calentamiento global, estudiando y cuantificando la erosión costal y creando una infraestructura de información y datos para ser usados por la comunidad científica. Los resultados y avances en la comprensión de estos fenómenos también son utilizados por la comunidad indígena para el manejo de tierras y toma de decisiones. Siendo el primer miembro de la comunidad artística en participar, me siento orgullosa de documentar y experimentar el ártico con este equipo multifacético y con el pueblo originario de la región, descubriendo su modo de vida y costumbres durante la temporada de campo del año 2015.


Durante los últimos ocho años, he trabajado en la industria editorial fotografiando celebridades y estilo de vida para publicaciones dedicadas al lujo. Si bien este emprendimiento es una bifurcación de mi línea habitual de trabajo, mi entrenamiento como fotógrafa, tanto en moda como documental, me provee de un conjunto de habilidades atípico que considero un lenguaje efectivo para dialogar con mis contemporáneos. El foco de este proyecto es documentar el trabajo y la vida de los científicos, aprendiendo sobre sus temas de estudio y sus vidas. Dada la intimidad obtenida al ser parte del equipo, mi intención es compartir su día a día y mostrar al público la importancia y las implicancias de su trabajo de campo generando un espacio de empatía con los actores. La otra fase del proyecto cuenta una observación de la vida en la región, en particular sobre los Iñupiat; una comunidad rica en tradición, profundamente conectada a su tierra y la fauna que experimenta el cambio climático en primera persona. El relato de su historia, tradiciones e interacciones con este paisaje nos ayudan a entender la profundidad del cambio climático. Mi historia será su historia y la de sus desafíos pasados, presentes y futuros. 


  • Las imágenes y video resultantes serán parte de una muestra multidisciplinaria (foto, video y mapas) que tendrá lugar en la Universidad de Texas en El Paso.

  • Un libro autoeditado.
  • Publicaciones científicas, materiales educativos y prensa para el proyecto.
  • Publicaciones en blogs y social media.
  • Videos y entrevistas a los nativos y a los científicos para publicación en línea.
  • Un archivo de imágenes y video de la temporada 2015 para ser utilizadas por el Laboratorio de Sistemas Ecológicos y sus colaboradores.

Como soporte multiplicador de la exposición de esto proyecto para maximizar su alcance educativo, Craig Tweedie, Cathy Wilson (Los Alamos National Laboratory) y yo contribuiremos imagen y contenidos sobre las actividades en Barrow para el proyecto 'Climate Prisms' al comando de  Francesca Samsel ( & Climate Prisms proveerá a los usuarios de entendimiento de implicaciones del cambio climático. Es una experiencia interactiva y auto guíada a través de un sistema de tópicos que atraviesan presentaciones artísticas, literarias y científicas. Este proyecto está constituído de dos partes: una exhibición en el Museo Bradbury (Los Alamos, NM) y un componente nómade que recorrerá los Estados Unidos y destinos internacionales.


Las regiones polares son las más afectadas por el cambio climático, por consecuencia afectando el bienestar de las comunidades del ártico. El aumento de temperatura, el declive en la nieve invernal, el derretimiento de las capas de permafrost, el aumento del nivel del mar, el retroseso del hielo marino y la erosión de las líneas costales son tan solo algunas de las tendencias observadas por los científicos en el ártico. El cambio climático no es una abstracción en Barrow, es un hecho de la vida cotidiana. Comunicar y entender el duro trabajo de la comunidad científica y la vida de los habitantes de la región es fundamental.

La fotografía y el video juegan un rol básico en el entendimiento de cuestiones tan masivas como el cambio climático. Las imágenes resumen experiencias que nos resultarían distantes pensadas en términos de análisis estadístico, gráficos y jerga científica.

Las maravillas de la ciencia, la naturaleza y los impactos antropogénicos en el medioambiente son la base de mi interés. Los resultados de esta fascinación pueden tomar múltiples formas de expresión. A través de este trabajo espero cautivar y encender la curiosidad en otros para que podamos encontrar, al menos por un instante, empatía y afinidades con completos extraños nutriendo así la concepción de nosotros mismos.


Trabajaré durante 3 meses en Barrow, Alaska como voluntaria no paga. Esto significa que si bien mis gastos básicos estarán cubiertos (pasajes, comida y casa) pero no recibiré paga para destinar al proyecto.

Con tu ayuda podré desarrollar el proyecto exitósamente. Todos los fondos conseguidos mediante esta campaña serán destinados a la producción de las piezas finales, equipo fotográfico y abrigo polar.

Toda tu colaboración será un soporte inmenso.