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Ice Capades: Life in the Arctic

by Devin Reese -- Oct 19, 2015

Devin is the lead digital science writer for the Q?rius website. She writes and gathers media for the Smithsonian Science How? webcast series,...

Ski boots worn by the Arctic Sami people of northern Norway. Smithsonian E398453-0, photo by Don Hurlbert.
Ski boots worn by the Arctic Sami people of northern Norway. Smithsonian E398453-0, photo by Don Hurlbert.

It’s hard to believe that people have been living in the Arctic for 40,000 years. How can people survive in such a harsh environment, and what would motivate them to stay?

Anthropologists who study Arctic cultures have discovered that it’s quite a hospitable place for those who figure out how to get by. Hundreds of cultures have occupied the Arctic over time. These communities have adapted to life on the ice, inventing a variety of ways to get around and find the resources they need. Skis, dogsleds, reindeer, kayaks, and snowmobiles have helped Arctic people connect with each other and the natural resources.

Webcast on Culture and Climate Change in the ArcticNatural resources that sustain Arctic life include huge concentrations of marine mammals such as bowhead whales and ringed seals and massive herds of land animals such as caribou. An Arctic mammal offers a full set of essential supplies, from clothing to food to cooking oils, plus bones to make tools or boat frames.

Both people and the wildlife they depend on are intimately connected to Arctic conditions. Small changes in temperature lead to large changes in sea ice, spurring migrations and adaptations of animals and people. For thousands of years, Arctic people have been adjusting to seasonal fluctuations and longer-term climate changes.

Find out more about how people in the Arctic adapt to changing conditions. Watch a "Smithsonian Science How" webcast on Culture and Climate Change in the Arctic on the Q?rius website. Archaeologist Dr. Bill Fitzhugh from the National Museum of Natural History will discuss and answer questions. Get teaching resources to support your webcast experience.

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