#3. The Inuit Dig Through Frozen Sea Water Caves for Mussels
The native Inuit of certain areas of northern Canada eat a shit-ton of seal meat, because there really isn't anything else around (not even plant life), and Applebee's has yet to recognize the franchise potential of the Arctic Circle. After subsisting on nothing but adorable flesh for months on end, the situation becomes so desperate that the Inuit are driven to dig directly into icy chunks of frozen ocean for a chance of finding some mussels, essentially walking right into a natural booby trap.
There is a thick layer of ice that covers the arctic sea for most of the year, as you might expect. However, when the tide recedes, it just leaves a big frozen slab. The sea level drops by almost 40 feet, leaving mussels on the seabed exposed for a few crucial minutes beneath that perilously unstable sheet of ice. The palate-bored Canadian Inuit will dig through the frozen layer and enter the shifting, groaning ice caves formed by the receding tide to collect these mussels, because they are seriously that fucking tired of seal meat.
They have maybe a half an hour to scuttle through the ice caves and scoop up bucketfuls of mussels before the tide returns, flooding the caves and pushing the ice back into place, trapping them underneath. Of course, that's assuming the caves don't just collapse on top of them -- with the ocean gone, there is literally nothing supporting the weight of the ice. It's only a matter of time before they get crushed or drowned or both, all for a few pounds of seafood that will probably be eaten in a single evening. But hey, it's better than eating more goddamned seal!
#2. The Sami Castrate Reindeer With Their Teeth
AFP / Getty
"Hell no. You go in that tent."
The nomadic Sami reindeer herders of Siberia traditionally half-castrate their male stock for practical reasons that surely must have existed at some point. Half-castration is when you don't actually remove the testicles, but merely pulp them within the scrotum, like smashing a sock full of hard-boiled eggs against a refrigerator.
However, there aren't any veterinary clinics within hundreds (maybe thousands) of miles of the Sami people, and those reindeer balls aren't going to crush themselves. So, calling on that practicality and tradition we mentioned earlier, most of the Sami herders still do their castrating the same way their parents and grandparents did before them -- with their teeth.
Sven Nackstrand / Getty
"Susie, it is time to learn the ways of your people. Did you bring a roll of floss and some mouthwash?"
As you can imagine, biting reindeer testicles is a two-person job, because doing it alone would just be ridiculous. One person cheerfully lassos the panicking deer and holds the struggling animal down while another buries her face in its crotch to chew on its furry beanbag. And as this bizarre quasi-Epcot Center video makes perfectly clear, storied tradition dictates that the ball-munching be done by the Sami women:
Why this cannot be done with a mallet or two big rocks is never made clear, nor is it clear why the Sami don't simply cast their male reindeer in a Farrelly brothers movie to receive the necessary groin trauma. At any rate, the resulting half-castrated reindeer will still produce male hormones, so he'll grow to full size and strength, but will be much less aggressive (due to, and we cannot stress this enough, his balls being jellied in his nutsack by a woman's teeth). Fully castrated reindeer don't grow as large, producing inferior pelts and antlers, and are less suitable for pulling sleighs.
Finnish Tourism Board
"Minka may have squished my testicles like fruit-filled Gushers between her teeth,
but at least I get to drag bastard children through the snow with a bell around my neck."
Also, the Sami method of half-castration doesn't break the skin, unlike the way a full castration does, or a spirited boot-heel axe kick might. Since the animal is left with no open wounds, this greatly reduces the risk of infection, which is a good thing because medical facilities are thin on the ground in an icy wasteland. Frenzied testicle chewing was simply the Sami ancestors' best available option, and since Siberia hasn't been developed much beyond the Road Warrior Christmas special it's been for the past several centuries, it's still pretty much the best option. To produce the best herd of pliable and efficient sleigh pullers, half-castration is almost a must. This is another way of saying that Rudolph, before guiding Santa's way to the chimneys of virtuous children, was probably busy lighting Mrs. Claus' midnight scrotum gnashings.
#1. The People of Lamalera Stab Whales
Yes, that is a man flying through the air and dive-stabbing a whale. Look, no one likes seeing whales die. That's something just about everyone other than Captain Planet villains and the Japanese can agree on. As such, there has been a worldwide ban on whaling in place since the mid-1980s. However, the people of the Indonesian town of Lamalera are exempt from the international whaling ban, because whaling in Lamalera looks like that.
That dude in the middle just leveled up.
The Lamaleran whalers begin a day of hunting on the beach, peering owlishly at the surf, watching for the telltale breach or blowhole geyser of a whale. If one is spotted, the whalers race to their boats, shove them quickly into the water and then spend a couple of hours paddling out to where they last saw the whale, because Lamaleran whaling vessels don't have motors. Check out the above picture again (which is ridiculous, we know you never stopped looking at the picture) -- it's just a bunch of dudes in a rowboat with ropes and bamboo harpoons. They don't use modern technology of any kind. Lamaleran whaling, you see, is based on a series of heavily contingent "if"s.
If they manage to make it out to the whale before it leaves, and if they can maneuver their boat close enough, one of the designated harpooners will grab the bamboo tool of his trade and fling himself at the whale like King Leonidas if Persian Moby-Dick had bitten his leg off. After being stuck, the whale will either thrash its tail and dive, often smashing boats apart or dragging them down with it, or start circling the whalers. Provided they haven't been obliterated or drowned, the rest of the whalers will start jabbing at the whale with harpoons and other traditional stab-struments like machetes.
If one boat gets destroyed, the whalers swim to another, often going through several in a single hunt. On one occasion, a whale trashed two boats before dragging the third (and all its occupants) all the way to Timor, which is a different freaking country. Many of the whalers eventually forgo the boats altogether and leap directly into the water to hack at the whale with knives, which is especially dangerous when you consider that a bloody melee in the ocean is exactly the kind of party that sharks attend.
Once the whale is finally too exhausted and wounded to continue, the whalers drag it back to shore, singing a song that is part gratitude and part apology to ease the whale's departing spirit. Every part of the whale is then harvested as either food or resources to sustain the entire town. Before you write it all off as gruesome or cruel, think of how many times you've bothered to sing to a bucket of KFC as you drove it back to your family. The answer is probably less than five, and you didn't participate in any stage of the chicken hunt.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 6 People Who Should be Banned from Driving in the Left Lane.