It began as an interest in Inuit art. Once Fred and Joyce Sparling booked their first cruise to Nunavut to visit its master artisans, they had taken the first step in what would become a ten-year odyssey exploring the stark beauty of the Canadian Arctic and the culture of its Native Peoples. While many couples in their early sixties are thinking of quietly retiring, the Sparlings instead made increasingly adventurous forays onto the tundra. Canoe trips across the Barren Grounds took them to campsites abandoned decades ago during the Canadian government’s relocation of the Inuit from their traditional lands. Up-close encounters with caribou, white wolves, and musk oxen became transformative experiences, as did the couple’s personal relationships with many Inuit families, aided by the modern miracle of email and extended visits to their hamlets and isolated summer camps. The Sparlings’ memoir of their experiences, North to Nunavut is a touching introduction to the lives of the Inuit both past and present and an impassioned plea to help save their wild lands before they disappear forever. The book is also an affirmation that new adventures are always possible, even for old married couples.
G. Jones: North to Nunavut… “is elegantly written, and…I felt the silence and beauty that you experienced in the barren lands.” Other unsolicited comments include: (An Inuit art expert): ”beautiful and passionate…” (An experienced barren grounds canoeist):“you two have written a great book…” (An Inuit art collector): “I was immediately overcome and tears came to my eyes…” (An Inuit culture expert): “loved the inclusion of Inuit songs/poems…”
Frederick Sparling M.D. is a professor of Medicine and Microbiology and Immunology at the University of North Carolina. He is working full time, rejuvenated by traveling through the Arctic.
Joyce W. Sparling Ph.D., PT, OT is a retired Associate Professor in the Department of Allied Health at the University of North Carolina. At age 74, she has become passionate about Inuit sculpture and textiles, leading to thrilling canoeing and camping experiences on the Barren Grounds.