Wednesday, July 23, 2008

2008 World Eskimo Indian Olympics Blanket Toss (Nalukataq)

Mens Blanket toss at the World Eskimo Indian Olympics, Fairbanks, Alaska
Canon 1Ds Mark III, 24-70 2.8L, 1/200 @ 2.8, ISO 1600

The World Eskimo Indian Olympics concluded on Saturday night in Fairbanks. The men's blanket toss finals were judged on height, style and dress. Volunteers from the audience held the blanket made from walrus hides, and hurled the contestants into the air. The annual event will return again to Fairbanks in July of 2009. Below is a quote from WEIO's site on the blanket toss.


Several walrus skins are used for this event. The skin has holes on the edges so that rope can be looped through all the way around and used for handle grips. One person gets in the middle of the skin and stands there while being tossed. With a good coordinated effort on behalf of the pullers, the person being tossed can get as high as thirty feet in the air and lands on his/her feet without falling down. This is quite similar to a trampoline, with the only difference being that people are the springs and they can move to catch an errant jumper.

The Nalukataq is done in the whaling communities in the spring if there has been a successful whaling season. It is been part of the whaling feast activity as long as people can remember.

There are two schools of thought as to why this sport is being done. One is for the simple exhilaration is provides, and the other is for spotting game over the horizon. The judges look at balance, height, movements in the air - sometimes you can see jumpers dancing or running in place - and all around form and grace when determining a winner. Sometimes, flips and somersaults are done to the delight of the pullers and spectators.

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