The great auk was once abundant and distributed across the North Atlantic. It is now extinct, hav ... Read more
The great auk was once abundant and distributed across the North Atlantic. It is now extinct, having been heavily exploited for its eggs, meat, and feathers. We investigated the impact of human hunting on its demise by integrating genetic data, GPS-based ocean current data, and analyses of population viability. We sequenced complete mitochondrial genomes of 41 individuals from across the species’ geographic range and reconstructed population structure and population dynamics throughout the Holocene. Taken together, our data do not provide any evidence that great auks were at risk of extinction prior to the onset of intensive human hunting in the early 16th century. In addition, our population viability analyses reveal that even if the great auk had not been under threat by environmental change, human hunting alone could have been sufficient to cause its extinction. Our results emphasise the vulnerability of even abundant and widespread species to intense and localised exploitation.
This paper investigates the cultural-historical processes that connect early twentieth century Ar ... Read more
This paper investigates the cultural-historical processes that connect early twentieth century Arctic colonial histories with experiences of coloniality. Ada Blackjack was the only survivor of an expedition that travelled to Wrangel Island in September 1921. An Inupiat from Nome, Blackjack had joined four Anglo-European men recruited by the Canadian anthropologist and explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson to reclaim the island for the British Crown. Although the only member of the group remotely ‘at home’ in the Arctic environment she was consequently accused of neglecting or even murdering a male colleague, after the rest of the men had disappeared to seek help across the ice in January 1923. As she defended herself in the press, Blackjack was framed either as a heroic ‘female Robinson Crusoe’ or a questionable anti-wife who had failed to assist the endeavor of building “A new Empire of the North”. Linking this micro-historical episode of Arctic colonial history to the macro-historical matrix of imperial power and expansion, the paper exposes the contested nature of Arctic historiography. While illustrating the entangled nature of cultural and social memory it also explores the transformative potential of historical research that both implicates and unsettles established global narratives.
This paper was presented as part of the panel "Varieties of colonial history" at the 12th Annual Conference of the International Society for Cultural History at Tallinn University. It will be submitted for peer-review/publication in 2020.