NEVER IN THEIR WILDEST DREAMS did the young couple imagine their teaching careers would begin in a remote Yupik Eskimo village on a desolate, icy, wind-swept island in the Bering Sea.
It was 1951. On a whim, Charles "Tod" and his fianc , Doris Derby, answer a help-wanted ad seeking teachers in Alaska. Back comes a telegram from the Bureau of Indian Affairs offering jobs 3,000 miles away in Savoonga, population 250, on St. Lawrence Island.
The village had no airport, no roads, no telephones, and little contact with the outside world. The Rays arrive in a walrus skinboat. "Our lives have become so vastly different from anything we have ever experienced " Doris writes her mother.
Thus begins one of many candid, evocative letters Tod and Doris write describing their experiences being two of only three white people in the village ... melting ice for water ... teaching children who speak no English ... forming close friendships with villagers who welcome them warmly ... fighting a frightening measles epidemic ... and receiving groceries by ship once a year while villagers hunt walrus for survival.
Finding Savoonga is illustrated with 110 color photographs illustrating a self-sufficient, pre-industrial society subsisting on food from the sea.