Thule whale hunters left mark on High Arctic
University of Toronto geology professor Marianne Douglas and colleagues at three other Canadian universities have discovered evidence of an ancient ecological disruption preserved in the sediments of a lake on Somerset Island in Nunavut’s High Arctic.
Microscopic examination of algae in the lake sediment showed it filled up with moss and slime because Thule Inuit butchered several bowhead whales each season on the shores and may have tossed some of the unused meat and bones into the water.
As a result, moss and algae thrived along the shore due to heavy fertilization from the slaughter.
The Thule likely used this vegetation as insulation in their whale-bone-and-hide dwellings.
Research shows the lake has still not returned to its original condition, even though the Thule left the site around 1600 AD, and its water still contains higher levels of calcium and phosphorus.
“The Thule were very much part of the environment, but they also definitely altered the ecology,” one of the scientists involved in the study told the Toronto Star.