Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Before his trip to Siberia, Li Du knew that the indigenous people of the Arctic were the Eskimos. That was what he had learned back in geography classes.
When he was preparing for the Arctic trip, he had read more about the locals. He realized that there were quite a few indigenous tribes across the Arctic. That area had been a habitat for humans for thousands of years.
Narrowly speaking, the Arctic region referred to the North Pole alone, where there were only a few people. However, the Arctic was commonly known as all the land within the Arctic Circle, including territories of Canada, the United States, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Greenland. All those countries had territorial claims in the North Pole area.
Looking at it this way, the population of the Arctic Circle was actually quite considerable. There were about four million people belonging to more than forty different tribes who all spoke different languages.
Because of the glaciers and the permanent icy layers, the regions in the Arctic were well connected at many points, enabling indigenous people to travel across the ice. Their language, culture, and traditions were intertwined, and there were many similarities.
In addition to the relatively well-known Eskimos, there were also Sami, Yupik, Chukchi, Yukagir, and Komi people in the Arctic. The Nenets and the Nganasan that Li Du had now bumped into were indigenous people as well.
Big Ivan and the two Nganasans interacted. The one who was speaking was always the man who stuttered. The woman never spoke a word and was always hiding behind the man.
The man introduced himself as Soutar Nasang and the woman was Gurichnaar. They were on their way out to the mainland to replenish some necessary supplies.
They had been floating around on the sea for a few days. Exhausted, they had covered themselves up with all their furs and fallen asleep. In the end, they were in bad luck when their boat knocked into The Hammerhead Shark. Brother Wolf had lost some focus and did not notice the small boat, which was destroyed in the collision.
Hearing Big Ivan’s explanation, Sophie was shocked. “They have been floating around the sea on that small boat for a few days? God, how could that little boat have survived the terrible conditions for so long?”
Big Ivan and Soutar Nasang exchanged a few more words. Then, Big Ivan explained, “Their boat was small and good for sailing in shallow waters. They have been traveling on the glaciers and when the weather deteriorated, they hurried and changed the course.”
Their boat had been destroyed, but luckily for them, Li Du had picked them up. They would have to change the route of where they were headed, but fortunately, it was not a big detour and they wouldn’t get too far off course.
The two newcomers were curious about everything on the ship. After having some refreshment in the form of cake and coffee, they felt more at ease and started to explore the ship.
After they had gone over every nook and cranny, Li Du pointed to a lifeboat and said, “I will give that boat to you guys. If you take good care of it, it can be used for twenty years, much longer than the boat you had before.”
Big Ivan translated for Soutar Nasang. Once he learned that he would get a new boat, he was extremely happy and went forward to give the lifeboat a kiss.
The house of the Nganasan was not far away. After cruising for five hours, Soutar Nasang waved at the front of the ship, gesturing that they could stop there.
The Hammerhead Shark would not be able to dock without a pier. Fortunately, they had lifeboats and kayaks on the ship and the two could get onshore with the small boat.
Brother Wolf went to anchor the vessel, and Li Du sent several people to accompany Soutar Nasang.
They had settled everything on the boat. Soutar Nasang and his wife had gone out to buy oil, candles, clothes, spices and other daily supplies. Those items were plentiful on the ship, and Li Du generously offered some to the couple and sent everything to the shore in the boat.
The couple was very happy and addressed Li Du as ‘Talade’. Big Ivan explained that in the Nganasan language, it meant ‘God-like’.
Li Du laughed heartily. The two of them were very interesting.
When they got on shore, Soutar Nasang and the woman invited Li Du and the rest to be guests at their tribe. Even Gurichnaar, who had not uttered a word previously, had spoken up.
Unlike her husband, Gurichnaar’s voice was crisp and sweet. Li Du could not understand Russian, but the way she spoke was smooth and spirited.
Li Du was not in a hurry. Besides, the weather out at the sea was turning bad. He decided to bring his people to the Nganasan tribe to seek shelter from the wind and set off again when the weather was good.
Herding the reindeer, fishing, hunting and gathering wild plants were key occupations to the lifestyle of the Nganasan. There was someone by the sea to receive the people who had come onshore. He had reindeers and dogs with him. The reindeers were meant to pull sleighs.
Seeing that a bunch of foreigners was coming up to land, the Nganasan youth who was crouched in the sleigh held his gun tighter.
Soutar Nasang waved at the youth and shouted. Seeing the couple, the youth smiled, waved and shouted back.
The three of them embraced in a tight hug. They looked like old friends who have not met for a long time.
Big Ivan spoke up, “Every time they sail out for supplies, it is a risk. As you have seen, their boats are unable to endure the waves in the ocean. If the weather turns bad or the current pushes them further out, they are doomed.”
The youth brought over eight reindeers. Four of them were pulling the sleigh along. Every sleigh was tied to a hunting dog.
It was unclear what breed the dogs were. They looked like wolves and were menacing. They started to bark when they spotted Ah Meow, Ah Ow and the rest of the animals.
Ah Ow, as usual, went forward to make her stance. She was bigger than two of the hunting dogs combined. However, the dogs were unafraid and growled as they rushed forward.
That attitude made Ah Ow retreat. In her heart, she was a timid animal that was afraid of the fierce and liked to bully the weak. Seeing that she had been unable to scare the dogs, she gave up her initial idea to launch an attack.
Soutar Nasang got Li Du and the rest to wait. The youth and he took the sleigh and traveled somewhere towards the yurts. The reindeer pulling the sleigh ran quickly.
In just twenty minutes, they saw a silhouette not far away. They could hear soft crisp and clear galloping from some distance.
Ah Meow, who had been playing in the snow, grew cautious and looked up to stare ahead. Ah Ow was just about to growl and opened her mouth when Sophie hurried over to stop her. She didn’t want Ah Ow to startle the reindeers that were drawing nearer. Soutar Nasang had brought along ten reindeers and a bunch of tribal people. They sat in the sleigh pulled along by the reindeer. When they saw Li Du, they revealed bright smiles and Soutar Nasang started to stutter as he spoke in Russian again.
Big Ivan helped to translate, “He invites us to get on and says that they are preparing dinner. Once we get there, we will have warm food to eat.”
“This sounds good,” Li Du smiled.
The reindeers were stronger than dogs. There were two types of sleighs in the tribe. One type had seats on it and was meant for humans. The other was just for ferrying goods.
Li Du had many people with him. Godzilla and Big Quinn were huge. Hence, they got into the cargo sleigh that was pulled by six reindeers.
It was Sophie’s first time on a reindeer snowmobile. She said happily, “I feel like I’m Santa Claus off to deliver Christmas presents.”