Dear Reader, I invite you — if you are of the age and comfortably seated — to draw yourself a wee dram of a lovely single malt (or even a high-quality blend); to marinate yourself into the appropriate mindset, and brace yourself for the lengthy read (sry..).
A merry company raises their goblets and their multi-dialected voices in a cheerful ‘Och Aye!’ to mark the first of many cheers of the evening of the 2016 Qikiqtaryuk Scottish Feast. *Editor’s note: ‘Och Aye!’ or ‘Ahoy!’ is a Qikiqtaryuk cheers adopted in the 2015 Feast through a mix of fortunate misunderstandings on the intricacies of the Scots’ languages – just as the Gaelic ’sláinte’ turned to ‘sshhllllnn..?’*.
The 2016 Scottish Feast was definitely that of Downright Majestic speech, toast, poem, ode and song. Everyone took their allocated titles (the 2016 Feast schedule found below), with great dedication and pride. After the night’s Chairman (author) warmly welcomed everyone to shut up and listen; the Selkirk Grace was recited – by the night’s Clergyman John Godlee himself.
Some hae meat an canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
And sae let the Lord be thankit
The Haggis and other local delectable foodstuffs were then piped in by an impressive a cappella pipe-band consisting of the entirety of the Qikiqtarmiut (‘people of the island’), this year with a rendition of ‘Scotland the Brave’. At this hour, the party people were already drooling over their plates, with their eyes busily indulging upon the many delicacies perched on the table. However, there were formalities yet. Marek (from AWI’s Polish Reinforcements Division) made a great speech in appreciation of the Haggis and it’s Polish equivalent, the Kaszanka, borrowing selectively from the ‘To a Haggis’ by Rabbie Burns. Before the Qikiqtarmiut were unleashed upon the Feast, England’s own Andrew Cunliffe was invited to deliver ‘The Loyal Toast’ in respect of the Queen, her supreme rule in the Commonwealth (which even Qikiqtaryuk is a part of), and her Fertile German Blood (in celebration of the new Royal Baby, Charlotte).
The spread across the table was splendid and abundant indeed. Among the many scrumptious dishes were sauerkraut, stovies, neeps, tatties, roasted parsnip and carrot, green long beans, scones, buttered peas and local game followed by apple crumble, Hugues’ ‘twice-cooked cake’ and Ricky Joe’s famous lemon meringue pie. Hands were flitting around the table in attempt to secure the juiciest pieces and freshest of green leaves, all the while making sure everyone got their fair share (which ended up being quite a pointless endeavour, as left overs fed Team Shrub for the coming two days).
The Qikiqtaryuk – Herschel Island Scottish Feast is also often referred to as Qikiqtaryuk Burn’s Supper, as the greatest Scottish gathering in the Calendar Year is the Robert Burn’s Dinner. In the Motherland this takes place on Robert Burn’s Day (25th of January), and usually exactly a 6-month after on the island. Our feast took place but a week after the 220th anniversary of Burn’s death (21st of July 1796). Thusly, in the Immortal Memory of Rabbie Burns, the Principal Speaker, Hughes Lantuit (head of the Alfred Wegener Institute crew) gave his respects to this great hero and invited him to bless us with great strength and fortune; including a wish for shrubs to grow fists to help us fight Climate Change. *Editor’s note: the first Robert Burns’ Supper was held on the Anniversary of his death by his friends, and not his birth, as it is currently celebrated*. In return, Team Shrub’s own token German, Jakob Assmann, eloquently and in great rhymes complimented the Principal Speaker, and then gave way for Edward the Ranger to Toast the Wildlife that had given their life to be served on our table that night.
Many people went to great lengths to deliver a memorable oration at each of their turns, but perhaps the most successful at this was the Team Shrub Magnum P.I., Isla Myers-Smith, who had composed and written a song to be known as: ‘Whiskey it is a Superior Drink’. The chorus echoed for days in the many nooks and cupboards within the Community house and likewise within the corners our minds…
Oh, whiskey it s a superior drink,
It is golden as the day is lang,
With a dram in your hand you can sip and think,
Smooth, peaty or terrible strang
*Editor’s note: lang = long, and strang = strong, the length of day in the song refers to the length of an Arctic summer’s day, 24h*
After the final clash of cup on cup and fainting away of laughter, Samuel stepped up to toast the Lassies (the QikiqtarMEOWt). With his eloquent delivery, minimal testiculation and glistening smile he not only moved the womenfolk to tears of absolute emotion, but found the feminine nuclei in all of us menfolk, and touched us all deeply. The Reply given by Sandra and Eleanor, in turn praised the island’s men. And though the compliments were not as readily available from the lyric of their salute as from Sammy’s, and the jibes and joshing were a bit more plentiful, the girls (in the end) did not fail to bring forth a sense of pride and delight in the muscly heads of us Lads.
After a moment of silence (of an efficient two seconds) for the fallen drones out there in the world, Julian read out loud his newest love letter addressed to the Arctic Turd (Jeff Kerby’s FX-61 Phantom fixed wing UAV), or as Julian would have named it: ‘The Polar Thunderbird’. As Ricky Joe had gone to sleep early that evening, instead of toasting the local fauna (as was allocated for Ricky), the company cheered his lemon meringue pie, and his superior traditional knowledge in his absence. Much stirred by the earlier confession of love toward his drone, Jeff performed a whimsical ode to our lavish outdoor gear, especially that of Fjällraven and Norrea, and the wonder of the G-1000 fabric (of which the cat’s pyjamas are surely made).
Sandra and John then took their turn to appreciate the glorious AWI flume, decorating West Ice Creek, and collecting all sorts of data (supposedly). The flume has lasted many climate event and season and was rightfully at the centre of all praise. However, equally tested in the climate and season are the point framers and other victims of the Qikiqtaryuk Ecological Monitoring Protocols, which were then oded by AWI’s superb (and only) lassie, Caro. *Editor’s note: the word ‘victim’ was used here simply to punctuate witty prose. Team Shrub loves ecological monitoring in all of its forms. The long-term data from these protocols is unparalleled in its statistical strength and value*. After the lengthy methodology back-patting was over, Eleanor called everyone to raise their cups in merit to the cooks and sous chefs, and in apology to the dish washers about to climb the Mt. Logan of dirty feast pots, plates and pans.
There was yet one speech, saved rightfully to last. Haydn had spent three days in preparation of this ode. The Ode to the Decomposing Glory of the Dead Beluga. At this moment it is hard to do the Ode justice in any other way than copying an excerpt of it here. *Editor’s note: this ode refers back to the exciting event about five days before, when a deceased beluga whale was found on the beach next to camp, and had to be dragged onto the other side of the island, to keep hungry bears away from camp. Edward the Ranger also removed the whale’s jaw to send it for analysis to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, DFO. Additionally, Haydn had earlier, mistakenly, described the full-grown whale as being 36 inch (91 centimetres) long (136 in for reals)*:
…Thirty six inches long from your nose to your tail!
Where there ‘ere such a beast! Where there ‘ere such a whale!
Thirty six inches long from your tail to your nose!
Or perhaps one three six. Ach I dinnae suppose
You saw it! The sicht were a feast on the eye
The monster of Herschel, beast of Qikiqtar-aye
For a moment twas almost I knew, staring into your maw,
As you smiled sweet torment. The Ed cut off yer jaw.
So over was the feast. But over was not the night. As the plates were gathered and hidden into the kitchen for later torture, the company gathered into the Community Hall inner museum. Here, Ed the Ranger, performed Inuvialuit Drum Dancing, impressing us all. These dances describe animals and activities, e.g. bathing water fowl, seal hide tanning and harpooning among others. After the applauses, breath-catching and filling of cups, the jolly assembly moved to the outside, to engage in Ceilidh dancing. Dancing to the instruction of Jakob and to the melody of Isla’s viola and Sammy’s guitar, everyone made brave attempts to dance correctly. A few correct steps were hit, and many spins spun, during the Gay Gordon’s. The ‘next level’ was reached during ‘Strip the Willow’, which highlighted some great G-force-16-spinning (in the hands of Andy and Marek) and bruised arms for some. Everyone survived the event with a smile on their face, however, only to be forced to wipe it off; as it was time for Animal Muk. Animal Muk is a traditional Inuvialuit game where the crowd forms a circle, and one person in the middle tries to personify an Arctic animal (for example the Collapsing Polar Shark, reincarnated by Hugues), and make attempts to make others in the circle laugh. The one who ‘cracks’ takes the spot in the middle to summon further creature spirits. The grand finale of the evening was a magnificent bellowing of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, completed with the proper crushing circle dance… But.. the eve was merely half-way… (hopefully this blog text however is already 80 percent done…phew..)
Most of the people hurried to the improvised volleyball court between the Bone House and the Mackenzie Cabin, some playing ball, with some music playing in the background and chatting lively on the sidelines. At this point, the midnight sun on the sky deceived most, and before anyone realised, the clock had hit 4am… The music jam went on for a little while longer, while some people dragged themselves to their tents and beds for a well-deserved rest. A small congregation found their way to the front of Community House, for some quality 4am to 6am log-sitting, chinwagging and scallywaging. Many great games were conjured and concocted, among them ‘Hatty Head’ and ‘Lighter Hand’. Finally, the eye-lids of even the most determined stayer-uppers and night owls started to weight them down, and reluctantly we had to call the end to the grand evening.
To those who have made it to the end of this monstrously long blog post, (I ask forgiveness for my habit to push the limits a sensible word count), I have this gift for you: a painstakingly edited version of what I’ve tried to describe above. Perhaps in this day of YouTube, Vine (still a thing?), Micky Mouse and TLDR, we at Team Shrub ought to only reach out to you, our trusty fan base (hi mom!), in the form of video. Enjoy and keep following us, not much longer to go with this year’s field season, but the blog posts will keep coming until we have run out of stories to tell! *Editor’s note: due to time and disk space constraints, the fully epic video has not made its way on the blog yet. Instead enjoy the pretty pictures, and the feast time-lapse.*