2004 Annual Meeting and Arctic Forum | Reception and Banquet
Charles Wohlforth is a lifelong Alaskan whose passion for writing and devotion to the state of Alaska has seen him published in a number of magazines, including National Wildlife and Outside Magazine. He is also the author of several books, including The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change, the focus of his presentation at the ARCUS Annual Meeting. Mr. Wohlforth discussed his experiences with Inupiaq whalers and climate change researchers striving to understand and adapt to a shifting arctic landscape.
Date and time:The banquet was held Thursday, 13 May 2004 in the Terrace East & West Rooms. The special presentation by Charles Wohlforth was given during the banquet.
Poster Session and ReceptionThe poster session and reception was held in the State Room on Thursday, 13 May 2004. There were posters on arctic research, a hosted bar, and a variety of light finger foods for all participants. The public is welcome and there is no charge to participate.
Download a Flyer (414 K - PDF) for Wohlforth's banquet presentation on The Whale and the Supercomputer: On the Northern Front of Climate Change
Below is an excerpt from The Whale and the Supercomputer:
Whaling With Savik Crew in Spring and FallUltimately, Richard Glenn (pictured on the right) abandoned the degree with only the writing of the dissertation left to do. Partly, life became too busy with ’Berta’s arrival and the gas field project to finish. But he also became uncomfortable with the idea of having the degree at all. >He saw a lack of Iñupiaq humility in the basic assumption of his project, the idea that he could take traditional knowledge to a higher, scientific level. Through two years of study, he had discovered how little he really knew. What he had learned instead was that traditional knowledge existed as an organic part of a person living in the environment, a whole world constructed from experience, and couldn’t be extracted and rationalized into datapoints. “I didn’t want to become the ice man, the expert in a town full of experts, some kid from California that thinks he knows everything,” he said. “To me, it’s not so much about finishing a degree as continuing to learn about this life.”
As he made that statement, Richard stood on white ice in pale sunlight, gazing over the sea from inside the hood of his white hunter’s parka. We snacked on a frozen caribou haunch. The waves were up a bit, so Savik Crew was not boating, instead just waiting for a whale to surface nearby, the harpoon and shoulder gun laid out with care at a high point on the ice edge. Waves boomed and reverberated underneath, so Richard had moved the snowmachines back a little; the camp with the tent was well back among the multi-year ice. My questions were a distraction from his quiet watching until I asked one that really interested him, made him think: which way did he know more about ice, as a scientist or as an Iñupiaq? He debated with himself a bit before he answered: He knew more as an Eskimo. Scientists, he observed, know a collection of facts about ice; Eskimos know ice itself. “The best ice scientist is almost an Iñupiaq,” he said. “If he’s a good ice scientist, then he’s thinking the way these people here do.”