Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
The Nganasan worked swiftly, braving the dangers of the wind and the waves. They had managed to hide twenty to thirty daggers that way.
The areas where they had dug in the daggers were by the water, at the border of the ice layer. With the wind blowing and the waves hitting, it was extremely dangerous to stay in that area. Hence, they had to work fast.
As the wind grew stronger and the waves got taller, the impact on the ice layer created some noise. Ping, ping, it went.
Seeing the daggers were poking out of the surface of the ice, Li Du understood their method of killing the seals.
The seals had a soft stomach. When they moved along, they had to stay on the surface of the ice. Hence, when they crossed the areas with the daggers, they would be quite literally cut up.
As the seals had a thick layer of fat around their body, there were not many nerves in those outer layers. Hence, they would not feel the pain, but would soon die from losing too much blood.
Li Du said, “I know of such a method of hunting. However, it was used to hunt alligators. I never thought anyone would use it for hunting seals.”
Big Ivan looked at him strangely and asked, “Alligators? You’ve seen people using this method to kill alligators?”
Li Du shrugged and said, “I’ve never seen it with my own eyes, but I’ve read about it in books.”
Big Ivan shook his head. “No, boss, what you’ve read is false. You can’t use that method to hunt alligators.”
Li Du asked him, “Why not? Alligators have tough skin on their backs. Isn’t it a clever strategy to target their stomach?”
Big Ivan continued to shake his head. “First, alligators crawl. They have strong limbs and their body does not stay on the ground. Besides, alligators are most valuable because of their skin. That method would damage it. Most importantly, alligators have very sensitive skin on their stomachs. At the tiniest cut there, they would feel the pain.”
Hearing that, Li Du paused for a minute before saying, “Could it be that the information I’ve read is wrong?”
Big Ivan replied, “Definitely wrong. Most people shoot or net the alligators to hunt them. They would trap the alligators around their neck before dragging them up to the land to kill them.”
When the Nganasan were done setting up their traps, they came over and waved to them, gesturing for them to leave together.
Soutar Nasang took the effort to explain the reason for what they did. Big Ivan translated and said, “That’s tough labor. They have to risk the dangers from the wind and waves, and they have to get the job done quickly.”
“Why?” Li Du asked. “Can’t they do it when the weather is milder?”
“That won’t do. On days with mild weather, the seals would stay by the shore or in the waters. They would not go deep inland. Besides, on usual days, the waves would not cover the daggers. The seals would be able to spot the traps and avoid them.”
“They also have to act fast because they won’t know when the seals will actually come up from the water. When the seals realize that there are strangers in their vicinity, they might attack. They could easily kill a man.”
After that, all they could do was wait. The hardest part of all was preparing the traps.
The bunch of men drew their furs tighter around themselves and kept their heads low. They shivered in the cold wind as they watched the seals from afar.
Li Du asked, “Can they go back and wait? Then, after a while, they can return to check out the situation. In any case, the dead seals won’t be able to run off.”
“They can’t run off, but they will be eaten. When the seals are wounded, they will lose a lot of blood. There are sharks in the sea and polar bears on land, and also Arctic foxes, Arctic wolves and predator birds in the sky. All of these animals love seal meat.”
The long wait had begun. The waves that were slapping on the shore created a huge amount of splash. It was able to hide the daggers that poked out from the ground. When the waves rushed back to the sea, the daggers poked out. Slowly, they turned into razor-sharp icicles with a steel core.
Only a small part of the dagger protruded above ground. It was done that way because the seals were not dumb either. If the dagger remained too easily visible, the seals would notice it and avoid the traps.
The Nganasan did not blink. However, they were not staring at the daggers. They were staring at the sea.
They had hoped that seals would appear. They knew that if the seals appeared now, they would not be able to tell that there were daggers because of the cover from the waves. In addition, because the daggers had yet to be iced all over, they would easily bleed the seals.
Sadly, despite the hunters’ best efforts, no seals came onshore.
Soutar Nasang and the rest shook their heads and looked demoralized.
“It is tough to live in extreme conditions. They often risk their lives to hunt but come away with nothing,” Big Ivan said.
Li Du thought of the time when he had met the nomads in the African wild. Their lives, too, were hard. It was very difficult to hunt out in the wild with primitive weapons, quite unlike the safaris where rich men drove out to have some fun with their guns.
They waited for four or five hours and still, nothing happened. Their hunting effort was a failure.
The Nganasan went out to the wind and waves again to retrieve their daggers. They had to continue their journey and keep hunting.
As there was no gain from land, they turned their attention to the waters. They threw a fishing net into the sea and tried to fish.
The waves brought some fish close to the shore. That was their goal. After casting their nets a few times, they managed to get some silvery-white fish.
Seeing that, the men shook their heads again. The amount of fish they got was insufficient. There were easily fifty or sixty people in their tribe. They would, therefore, need as many kilograms of food per meal.
The Nganasan went to retrieve their fish and cut off their heads before throwing them back into the sea.
Li Du said to Big Ivan, “Is that too wasteful of them? Those fish heads could be used to bait their prey, like seals or wolves.”
Big Ivan went over to speak with Soutar Nasang. When he returned, he said, shaking his head, “That’s their belief, perhaps a part of shamanism. They believe in reincarnation. Therefore, by throwing the fish heads back into the sea, they believe that they give a new life to the fish.”
Li Du shrugged. There was no arguing with traditional beliefs.
Big Ivan told him that the Nganasan were very particular when it came to naming babies. Usually, the babies would be named after whoever had recently passed on. Otherwise, they would be named after the most important deceased members of their tribe. It would represent giving a new life to that person.
Hence, the Nganasan were unafraid of death. Following their religion, they believed that death was the start of a new life.
Big Quinn shook his head. “That’s the reason why there are fewer and fewer people in their tribe. If they were afraid of death and tried their best to stay alive, then perhaps they would have a longer life expectancy.”
After laboring outside for the entire day, the men started on their return journey, tired and disappointed. They only had twenty fish to show for all their efforts.
Ah Ow and the rest of the animals were running and sliding on the icy surface. They were well-fed and had a great time. As long as Li Du did not punish them, there would always be cheery. The young animals played happily.
When they passed by the sea, they bumped into a trapped seal.
Seeing that the seal was round, fat, and seemingly clumsy, Ah Ow ran over to tease it.
However, seals were not to be trifled with. This particular one weighed around one hundred kilograms. Ah Ow swiped at it and the seal actually turned around in Ah Ow’s direction and opened its mouth, ready to attack!
Fortunately, seals were less agile on land and Ah Ow had a fast reaction. Hence, she was able to run off in time to avoid the attack.
However, the surface of the ice was too slippery and Ah Ow did not manage to stabilize herself while running. As a result, she slipped and fell on her head.