Heading to the ice for spring whaling

Here are some pictures from last Friday evening while the Akootchook Whaling Crew headed out to the whaling camp located on the shore ice about a mile off of the locked in shore ice here in Barrow, Alaska..

1. Kaden Kignak, 1, future whaler, and Frank Nageak, 10, youngest member of the Akootchook Whaling Crew, play on the snow machine while the crew prepares for the ice.

2. While everyone is preparing to head to the whaling camp on the ice, Carmen Kagak and Kivvaq Sage play in the puddle. Barrow experienced unusually warm weather for a week, resulting in a lot of melting snow.

3. The umiaq, or seal skin boat, is loaded with the floats, paddles and harpoons needed for spring whaling.

4. Captain Roy Maloney Nageak and his wife Flossie spread the ashes of Perry Nageak, long time member of the Akootchook Whaling Crew. We lost Perry in March, and the crew followed his wishes of including his ashes on the boat and also spread out to sea.

5. Frieda Nageak and her youngest son EJ, 5. EJs older brother Frank, 10, was heading out to the whaling camp with the crew. EJ was worried about his safety and expressed his concern to his mom. The crew assured him Frank will be safe.

6. We still use the traditional umiaq seal skin boat, for spring whaling. Eight bearded seal skins are sewn together using waterproof stitches with sinew made from caribou muscles.

7. Frank Nageak, 10, is ready to go on the ice with the crew. He is the youngest member of the Akootchook Whaling Crew. The crews sign is the traditional marking for the Akootchook family and is shown on his hat: | / |

8. Andrew Akootchook Sage, 5, watches as his father, co-captain Joseph Napaaqtuq Sage, leaves the beach and heads onto the ice.

9. Akootchook Whaling Crew co-captain Joseph Napaaqtuq Sage leads the way to the trail on the ice. The crew worked hard on breaking a trail to their desired spot chopping and removing ice in their path. Notice how much water is around! We normally see this in late May, but weve experienced an record-breaking warm spell last week that resulted in a lot of melt water.

10. The Akootchook Whaling Crew heads out on the ice, down to their whaling camp, which is a little more than a mile from the beach.

Photos by Mary Anniagruk Sage