Saturday, October 10, 2009

Leviathan Carved

I just spent the last few days up on the North Slope, in Barrow and Atqasuk. In Barrow, there was a very successful fall whale hunt. Three whales were harvested from off the Point while I was there. They were towed back to the Naval Arctic Research Lab runway and the whole town had a big party. It was great fun to watch all of the people coming and going during this incredible event. Biologists were sampling the stomach; kids were crawling all over the carcasses, fascinated by the rubbery texture of the flesh; and the proud captains stood by and watched the men and women from the community slowly peel back the thick layers of blubber.

Atqasuk was also fascinating to me. It looked and felt much like the Prairies down south, with the wind trying to blow the soul from your body. People were busy ice fishing and building a collection of caribou meat that hung just outside their doors. A woman…a single mother of six young kids…disappeared for five days out caribou hunting alone. Finally, just as our tiny Cessna Caravan was leaving, she was found alive with a helleva story to tell. I look forward to returning and hearing whatever stories people are willing to share with a stranger.

More pictures here.