Our preparations have begun. Read on to learn more about how we prepare for fieldwork in 2011, and how Peary prepared in 1908.
This project has its roots in years of research on Robert E. Peary and his work. We have read every book, studied expedition journals, ship’s logs, newspaper accounts and photographic records. We have mounted an exhibit and sponsored a symposium. One thing that stood out in all of this is, on the one hand, the importance of Inughuit (Polar Inuit of Northwest Greenland) to Peary’s work, and on the other, the dearth of research on or documentation of their important contributions. They did not keep journals, publish books, or go on lecture tours like the American members of the expeditions. Their story is largely untold.
As archaeologists, we suspected that the communities that Inughuit families working for Peary established at Cape Sheridan during the winters of 1905-06 and 1908-09 could provide some perspective on their daily lives while they lived and worked far from their familiar homes and extended families. Not knowing how well these briefly occupied sites have withstood the rigors of over one hundred Arctic winters, we applied to the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs for funding to carry out a brief reconnaissance to evaluate these sites and determine whether a larger research project if warranted.
Now funding is in place (thanks to the NSF-OPP). Permits have been applied for, and plane tickets booked. In mid-July we will travel north for a two week field season. But before then, we have much to do. Although our trip is much shorter than one of Peary’s, there are still many things to do. We will be able to fly to Cape Sheridan, but even today it is still a very remote spot, and we will have to bring everything we will need with us. Peary had a heavily loaded ship, we will have crates and boxes on a smaller scale.
We won’t have customized dishes either, but we’ll manage.