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| p.2 #14 · High in the Arctic .. .. Eskimo ! |
Hauling or dragging a 48 ton whale out of the ocean and getting it safely on the ice presented a huge problem for us here, the ice kept breaking under the weight of the whale, Several tons of blubber had to be removed in very large sections to lighten the load.
Barrow Alaska 1991 (no pics)
This was the exact same situation, This is the dangerous part, putting a strain on that block and tackle to pull the whale out of the water. anything can happen out here, and usually does in many bizarre and strange ways.
The captain is noticing the strain on the O ring on the block and tackle, he turns around to check on the people ready to pull, he notices on his left side as he is facing the people pulling; that 3 white new nurses are down on the ice, from the hospital in town, they are too close, He points to them, he yells at them.. GET OFF THE WAY, your too close, move back. get off the way, They start to move back, and as the captain turns around to check the gear, they quit moving, The captain gives the command to pull.. The O ring snapped, That block and tackle took off like a speeding bullet. Two of those women were instantly decapitated, that mess and the block and tackle hit the third woman, who to this day remains in a vegtable like state or condition. Prayers were said, the unsightly bloody mess was cleaned up, prayers said again, then back to work!
Life is harsh up here, unforgiving, when someone tells you something up here, you best listen and obey.
During the hunt, these whales know that the umiaq's are in the water, The whales do not lift their tails out of the water, They can easily avoid any umiaq in that water. But although no notice is given or posted when we reach our quota of strikes, then and only then. when we are still out on the ice, hunting other animals, Somehow these whales know this and then and only then do they lift their tails out of the water as they pass by as if to say, bye, see you again next year. These people are truely one with that whale!!
I hear laughter, but that is normal everywhere out here, lots of people having a great time, but then I hear, .. .. 'Hey Dave !" and I turn around to see this !!
Walk in freezer, no electricity needed !! Store 48 tons of food out here, for a few days and then transport it all back to the village and to the "siglauks" the deep root type cellars, dug deep into the perma frost.
These "cellars" are extremly dangerous, Some of them are 30 feet deep or more.
They are covered with plywood and huge rocks hold the cover on, When a person has to climb down there, to insert more food or remove food, this presents a major life threating problem that must be dealt with very carefully.
That siglauq must be aired out, to get rid of all the toxic fumes, from "food"? fermenting. Even when that siglauz is safe to enter, a rope is usually tied to the person desending, in case of unconsciousness, the people above can pull that person up safely.
Fermented food is dangerous to eat. You must not have any sugar in your system.
You bette be sure, you have had no fruit, no soda pop, no sugar of any type or any candy.
This food can kill you, if you have sugar present in your system. Here is what happens. If your body is free from sugar, you can eat this and all is well, the food sits in your stomach and "boils" releasing the toxic gases, but if you have had any sugar, that boiling action hardens over with a hard crust and the gases cannot escape and the person dies brom botchulisim!
That was the case in1989 Henry Attanguanna, forgot he had sugar and he died that year much to the surprise of everyone in that village.
Reggie Oviok had to go to the hospital in Kotzebue two years ago, but he made it through the very painful sick period and survived.
the ocean ice is not as thick as it used to be and it doesn't get as cold out here as it used to be, decades ago.
and according to the elders, it does not get "dark at night the way it used to"
in the winter months.
I gotta stop here and jump in line and help pull this whale up.. every body is needed, Hey you, put that camera away and get in line.. Oops.!! when they had to stop to re-rig, I jump out of line (with permission) and capture this scene. ha ha ha.. hold that rope,, don't let it slip !!
Once that whale is upon the ice, then it is carefully marked, and divided in the traditional manner, here is how it works.
If that captain that harpooned the whale, if this is his first whale, That captain does not receive any shares of this whale, Al;l of the Captains shares go to the elders of the village. for his first whale only.Also, the oldest elder in the village, gets to pick anything that Captain owns at his house. ANYTHING. she has a choice of anything that he owns (except his house). If he has a new snowmachine, or 4 wheel honda or vehicle such as a car or truck, she can request anything she wants.
J.J. Lane caught his first whale in 2007, The oldest living female elder is - Rosemary Oviok, she got her choice of ANYTHING.. J.J. was worried and with good reason, He has lots of material possessons. J.J. came over to see Rosemary, worried as to what she would pick from his house or possessons. She smiled really big when he walked in, J. J. was worried big time, it showed all over his face. Rosemary laughed and said, don't worry, all I want is your VHF radio so I can hear what the community is talking about, J.J. smiled even bigger and said I will buy you a brand new one today !! Both people were very happy and J. J. was noticably relieved !!
Then in the ocean.. as each crew reaches that whalel that has been haprooned by the successfull captain. the 2nd umiaq to reach that whale, receives the next amount of shares, the 3rd umiaq and so on for each and every crew. Every crew has shares in that whale in the order in which they reach that whale.
The crew of the successful captain, donates a small portion of thier shares to that 1st time captain. so that he does have some shares of his whale.
guess what. ?? I even received shares from that whale for all the work I did as part of the crew I was assigned to.. But, what ? where am I going to put all of this
I call Joe Oktollik over.. Joe, all of this is yours, I don't want it. I have no room to store all of this.. It is all yours, for a bag of M&M's and a hershey bar !!
He agreed ! whew !
All night long these workers work dividing up and cutting that whale into shares for everyone in the village, Meanwhile back in the village, people are handing out small shares for each household in the entire village.
This is an incredibly team oriented village, a close knit community, that is just so fantastick to share in and be one with these people.
I seem to provide much entertainment for these people with my stupidity!
Hey ! I am a city boy from Boston, I don't know squat about "country or rural type living. I do learn my lessons .. .. the hard way, and usually in strange ways that no one would ever expect.
Such was the case one day, a wet day, and we had moved into Dorcus and "em's" old house. We had to get the heat on. I had to chop wood for the woodstove. all of the wood I had was wet ! soaked through and through, that is not a problem, I know what to do to get this fire going, all I have to do is to split this huge log I have outside the house. It was only about 3 foot long. and about a foot in diameter.
I never knew you split wood length wise..I have never had that opportunity to watch and learn how this is done.. simple task eh? Well I was doing it the way I have always seen on t.v. ha ha ha - watching cartoons and such. I was cutting a huge V in this log.. first one side and then the other side. trying to get this log chopped into two large pieces.
I was just about through this log, very wet water logged saturated log or piece of wood. I almost have it and I came down on that piece of wood with all my might with this axe I am using.. furp.. not quite. almost.. I am going to give it one last shot with all my might. I grabbed the axe handle just a little further down and went into the swing delivery. I went high up on my toes to get all the momentum I was capable of and I swung with all my might. that axe came down on the wood and 1/2 inch from the wood the axe suddently stopped and sprang back and hit ne in the head just above my right eye and smacked me so good and hard I cracked the axe handle.. stupid me. caught the clothes line above me and I never noticed. SMACK I went down hard, I managed to crawl over to the door to the house and fell inside with blood coming out from over my eye above the eyebrow.
Screams erupted from the many female visitors inside my house and the clinic was called immediatly. Darlene Lane came rushing over with 4 miles of bandages. she thought I cut my leg off! The bleeding was minimal, but the job wasn't finished yet.. I took about a 1/2 dozen valerian root caps and went back outside to finish the job some 20 mintues later. but I didn't have an axe.. ha ha ha.. I was given an axe to finish the job from the neighbor next door. A DOUBLE SIDED AXE.. ha ha ha..
I would not swing that axe but held it at arms length and went .. tink.. tink.. tink..
I eventually got through that piece of wood, and successfuly got the stove fired up and working to keep the house warm. All it took was just a little sicpan a tiny bit put on that piece of wet water logged wood. The sicpan melts and coats the wood, It is that oil that burned, not the wood, That stove burned for 3 days before that wood finally dried out enough to catch fire and burn.!!
Out on the ocean ice, I would walk around and look up constantly to make sure there were no clothes lines for me to catch the axe on..I always had these people in uncontrollable fits of laughter watching this city boy, try to adapt and perform in the Arctic, simple chores, such as riding a snowmachine!!
All night long this whale is worked on. @ 4 in the morning, after working all night this image was created,
Baleen is a much sought after prize of the whale, Each lip has 300 slats or strips of baleen. Shares of this valuable material are passed out to all crews. this is worked on to produce some very amazing art including baleen baskets which are in huge demand all over the world.
Sears used to sell corsets to women in the late 1800's and early 1900s' It was used in corsets tohelp form and keep the womans shape.
Here are a few items made from the baleen of a whale.
"Hanko" - Henry Koonuk made this drawing or etching, He his perhaps the best in the village when it comes to this type of traditional art work depicting the old ways.
My son MarkAndrew made the item above a mask with the traditional "labret" as the old whaling captains used on the side of their lip(s).
Using his artistic Inupiaq imagination he designed this moving piece of Art.
The head bone is all that is left when all is finished. This is thrown back into the ocean to give thanks for the gift received and I swear there was more rejoicing over this than when thay actually caught the whale!!
Nothing is wasted from that whale, everything is eaten every scrap!! Nothing is thrown away, not even the bones, all of them are saved and used in various ways for other purposes, functions & uses!
Whaling festival comes next.. BLANKET TOSS:
This is not what you think or expect!!
Do you think that NFL football is tough ?? NO! NFL football has rules, Blanket toss has no rules, the players : ? The oldest women in the village compete!
diving, running, jumping, crashing into the ground head first to grab that prize. These are 80 & 90 year old women running like they were in their teens once again.!!
Blanket toss, is one of the main highlights of the 3 day festival in Pt. Hope
Quaqaruq is the Inupiaq name for Whaling Festival in Pt. Hope, Blanket Toss is Nalakutaq, In Barrow they do not refer to whaling festival as Quaqaruq, It is just referred to as Nalakutaq !
Edited by Majik_Imaje on Feb 13, 2008 at 09:46 PM GMT
Edited by Majik_Imaje on Feb 13, 2008 at 09:51 PM GMT (Reason: broken links)
Edited on Feb 14, 2008 at 06:51 AM