Every February, whaling crews start preparing for the spring whaling season. Some whaling crews replace their bearded seal skin boat covers because of holes or tearing. The ladies in this picture, at the Inupiat Heritage Center in Barrow, are the usual seamstresses for sewing the skin boat cover, and will sew for 10-15 crews each February. It takes anywhere from 8-20 non-stop hours to sew one skin boat cover, and usually 5-9 bearded seal skins are used. The ladies partner up with each other and begin sewing from the middle, making waterproof stitches and sewing to the outer edge. They check each others seams for accuracy and work together. The coffee can is filled with seal oil and is used to help make the stitches waterproof. L-R: Emma Neakok, Josie Kaleak, Mary Ahkiviana, Isabel Kanayurak, Priscilla Sage, Flora Brower, Doreen Ahgeak and Margaret Leavitt.

~ Mary Sage February 2006