This egg hunt is a far cry from the search for the colourful, foiled-wrapped chocolate ones at Easter.
Members of an Inuit community at the eastern edge of Russia cross icy waters and rappel over rocky cliffs once a year to get a taste of a local delicacy: the eggs of the thick-billed murre. Director of The Great Human Odyssey, Niobe Thompson travelled — twice — to Chukotka to witness this centuries-old time honoured tradition.
Every spring millions of murres lay their eggs on Bird Island, an island in the middle of the Bering Strait, out of reach from (most) predators. But the hunt is a tradition these Inuit people have been taking part in for centuries
Each year, they have one chance to collect the eggs, and their timing has to be just right — they can only leave as the ice starts to thaw, but they need to get there before the eggs hatch.
An Extraordinary Journey Across Kilometres of Sea Ice
As the ice starts to break up, at the end of June, travelling by boat is nearly impossible. But not in a traditional boat, known as an umiak, which is made from used wood and a single thinly shaved walrus skin.
With around 20 kilometres of open sea between the edge of the Inuit community and the island, it’s not an easy ride - and it's only the beginning.
A Heart-stopping Climb To Gather the Bird's Eggs
After getting to the island, it's a tough climb to the top of the ridge where the most experienced climber ties a simple rope around his body.
With other men supporting the rope at the top, the climber rappels over a rock cliff more than 100 metres tall.
He collects a few dozen eggs out of the thousands perched on the cliffs.
To some, it seems like it’s a long way to go for some scrambled eggs, but the hunt echoes what the earliest Beringians would have done to survive.
Watch more from The Great Human Odyssey from The Nature of Things.