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Volume CXXXIII, Number 5
October 10, 2003
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Sea kayaking, "A Life Well Wasted," and frosh advice

ELLIOT JACOBS
COLUMNIST

 

The San Juan Islands provide a beautiful backdrop for kayaking. (courtesy of Bowdoin Outing Club)
"The Eskimo has always had a constant fight for survival against what would seem to be overwhelming difficulties-the long dark winter, the eternal cold, and the never-ending search for food. The only element which can provide sustenance is the sea."

The sustenance that the sea provided for the Inuit, who spread from Alaska to Greenland along the rim of the Arctic Circle, came in the form of seals, whales, and the ability to travel great distances over water. How did these hunter-gatherers survive in the world's harshest environment? They got good at sea kayaking.

The Inuit boats were usually skin-on-frame, made with animal hides and whatever driftwood or bone they could find to build them. Inuit could travel incredible distances in their boats, and had amazing seamanship: they could navigate by the stars, control their boats in foul weather, and were able to roll them using their paddle, their knife, or just their hands. This ability to roll was absolutely essential, because, when whale hunting, Inuit and Greenlanders would often sew themselves into the boat so that they wouldn't fall out and be immersed in the frigid water. Because of the rarity of driftwood and supplies, their kayaks were their most important possessions, passed from father to son with each new generation.

Though boat design and materials have changed over the years, the reason for paddling remains the same: to kill sea creatures. With that in mind, I have taken the liberty of contacting the United Nations and applying for a license to hunt gray whales from a small craft. That's right, all of you that thought the Bowdoin Outing Club was a bunch of tofu-loving hippies, you were wrong . Pending UN approval, the first-ever BOC whale-hunting trip will be going out November 26th. It should be an incredible trip-mortality rates are expected at around 50%, but if we succeed and survive, each participant will be allowed to take home approximately 247 pounds of blubber, suitable for turning into garments, making candles, and cooking delicious blood soup.

In the unlikely instance that the international embargo on whale hunting is not lifted on account of my request, sea kayaking trips will still go out the weekend that we return from fall break, and I encourage anyone available to sign up. All joking aside, if you haven't been sea kayaking, you are doing yourself a disservice-it is an amazing way to get to know the ocean, see the coast from a whole new perspective, and reconnect with a rich history of paddlers. People pay top dollar to paddle the Maine coast each year, and BOC members have the opportunity to do it for free. Don't miss your chance-trips will go out one more weekend this fall and all spring.

Also, don't forget to mark the date of October 27th on your calendars. Alvah Simon, author of a book called, "A Life Well Wasted" is going to be speaking at Bowdoin. He is a fantastic speaker, and his slides are truly amazing. As a young man, Alvah decided that he didn't want to join the working world, and was "terrified with the prospects of responsible adulthood." His quest to live life on his own terms has led him around the world and back. You won't want to miss this presentation.

Finally, I would like to conclude my column, once again, with helpful advice for the wee lads and lassies of the class of 2007. This week, I have heard many of you around campus complaining about how cold it is. My advice: Get a Clue, Freshmen! Follow me close here: it's not cold yet. Last winter, I woke up half-naked in a snow bank outside a campus-wide. My hands were purple, and would very clearly need amputation. My beer had frozen solid next to me. A squirrel was trying to chew through my flesh to sleep in my still-warm abdominal cavity. Did I complain? No. I got up. I put my shirt back on. And I went dancing!

Oh sure, you laugh now, but pretty soon we're all going to be trudging to class like the main character in "To Build a Fire." And, to be quite honest, some of you Floridians, Californians, or even Massachusetts-folk are not going to make it. And we'll leave you there on the quad. OTSS-Only The Strong Survive. It sounds harsh, but, as Lord Byron says, "The cold in clime are cold in blood." Remember that, and come on BOC trips while you still can.

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