Mr. John Murdoch lectured before the Anthropological Society last night in the Peabody Museum, on the "Arts and Customs of the Point Barrow Eskimos." A few years ago Mr. Murdoch was a member of the United States meteorological station established on Point Barrow at the north-westerly extremity of Alaska. In his stay there he had a good opportunity to study the habits and customs of the Eskimos who lived in the surrounding country.
In winter the temperature there ranges, on the average, about 28 degrees below zero; while at times it is as low as 50 degrees. The sun is below the horizon for seventy-two days in the year. The temperature in summer sometimes rises to 60 or 65 degrees and during the summer months the ground thaws out to a depth of about two feet, while below that it is frozen to unknown depths.
The people themselves are much like the Greenland Eskimos in appearance and physique. Both men and women wear the ordinary hooded frocks that one sees in pictures of them. The men wear knee breeches and high kneebooks both made of reindeer skin. The women wear long trousers of the same material terminating in boot feet, this garment being all in one piece.
The tribes live together in small villages along the coast, which are composed of houses, each shared by two families. The houses themselves are constructed of driftwood and are covered with a thick layer of turf to render them air-tight. The entrance to these houses is an underground tunnel about thirty feet in length, which finally emerges through the floor of the one room. The furniture consists of a sleeping bench about six feet wide running the length of one wall, and a few racks for hanging clothes. The only other things that could be called furniture are two soapstone lamps fed by oil made of whale's blubber, which burn day and night. In summer the people generally abandon these huts and live in deerskin or canvas tents.
Mr. Murdoch gave also a short description of the methods of transportation on sledges and then finished with a description of a peculiar method of trapping wolves. The Eskimos take a piece of whalebone about a foot long, sharpen it at both ends, and bend it into the shape of a letter Z. This bone is then imbedded in a piece of blubber and frozen there so that it retains its Z shape. When a wolf sees one of these balls of blubber he swallows the mass whole. The heat of his stomach melts the blubber and the whalebone, thus set free, straightens out with a violent spring, piercing the walls of the stomach and so killing the animal.