Sea Ice Stories

The Inuit people have lived in Canada’s Arctic for nearly 5,000 years, subsisting off of the land and the sea until settling in towns in the mid-1900s. Communities in Nunavut today navigate cultural shifts between the values of elders raised in a nomadic hunting lifestyle, and the young generations growing up with modern influences, cable TV and satellite Internet.
In the past three decades, multiyear sea ice — the thickest type that supports the Arctic marine ecosystem — has declined globally by 95 percent. In many parts of the Arctic, elders can no longer predict safe travel routes on thinning ice, and animal migration patterns are changing. Yet every spring, when animals migrate north and the sun never sets, Inuit children on the north of Baffin Island join their families on camping trips across the sea ice to ancestral hunting grounds, where they learn the hunting skills and cultural values passed down for millennia. Although the future of the ice is uncertain, the families I traveled with explained that maintaining close relationships to the land is an essential part of adapting to change — and keeping their culture alive.


Acacia Johnson is a photographer, artist, and writer from Alaska, focused on human relationships to wilderness. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Acacia received a Fulbright grant in 2014 to overwinter on Canada’s Baffin Island. Since then, she has been increasingly interested in human stories in the Arctic and Antarctica. Her work is housed in collections including the Anchorage Museum and the Smithsonian Museum of American History, and has been featured by numerous publications, including National Geographic, TIME, and NPR.
Acacia also works as a seasonal expedition guide and lecturer in Greenland, Svalbard, the Canadian Arctic and Antarctica, where she lectures on photography and visual representations of the Polar Regions. She has made over 50 expeditions to the Polar Regions for work and personal projects and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Virginia. In 2020, she was featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in Art & Style.
When sea ice ages, the salt sinks into the ocean, leaving fresh, drinkable water on top. Charlotte Naqitaqvik collects a teapot of water at her family’s hunting camp in Nuvukutaak, near the community of Arctic Bay in northern Canada.






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