Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Crawford and Simeon Patkotak, Sr., Part 1
Crawford and Simeon Patkotak, Sr.

Crawford Patkotak and his father, Simeon Patkotak, Sr. were interviewed on November 13, 2013 by Karen Brewster and Dyre Oliver Dammann at Crawford's home in Barrow, Alaska. Crawford's wife, Laura, and their son, Josiah, were also present at the interview. Inupiaq is Simeon's first language, so at age 81 he is more comfortable speaking Inupiaq than English. During the interview, Simeon would speak in Inupiaq and Crawford would translate what he said into English. The "In Inupiaq" portions of the transcript were translated by Muriel Hopson. In this first part of a two part interview, Crawford and Simeon talk about learning to go whaling and how to read the ice conditions, wind and current. Crawford speaks in particular about the unusual ice conditions in the spring of 2013 and his decision to keep his whaling crew at home for the season, as well as about safety issues in general, changing ice conditions over the years, and about trail building.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-25-01_PT.1

Project: Sea Ice Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Nov 11, 2013
Narrator(s): Crawford Patkotak, Simeon Patkotak, Sr.
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster, Dyre Oliver Dammann
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Coastal Marine Institute, North Pacific Research Board
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.


Spring 2013 ice conditions

Decision not to go whaling in spring 2013

Ice break-out event in 2013

Multi-year ice (Piqaluyak) and safe ice

Monitoring the ice all season

Changing ice conditions and timing of break-up and whaling season

Simeon's experience as a young man whaling with Otis Ahkivgak

Observations of thinning ice through the years

Simeon first going out whaling

Ice breakup event in the 1950s where crews lost equipment and dog teams

Role of the wind and current, and testing the current

Learning about whaling and ice conditions as boys and young men

Being cautious on the ice and moving camp for safety

Continued relevance of traditional knowledge and adapting for future change

Making decisions about safety

Adapting to change

Use of trail and camp location maps

Conditions at the ice edge (Agiukpak)

Trail building

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.


KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. I have to do my standard little introduction, which is today is November 11th, 2013 and this is Karen Brewster here in Barrow with the Patkotak family,

which is Crawford and his wife, Laura, and their son Josiah and their daughter --


KAREN BREWSTER: Taaqpak Marie, and Simeon Patkotak. As the elder of the family.


KAREN BREWSTER: The oldest. 81?

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: Well, yes, I’m 81 year old. I’ll be 82 next -- if the Lord (inaudible).

KAREN BREWSTER: And now we have another participant. What’s your name?


SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: That’s our baby there.

KAREN BREWSTER: That’s the baby. That's great.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: I like him so much.

KAREN BREWSTER: So today we’re going to talk a little bit about the sea ice situation here in Barrow.

And so Crawford maybe you could start by talking about what the ice conditions were like last spring -- spring 2013.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yes, so 2013 it seemed like the -- Well, I guess if you go back a little bit to winter of 2012 and you know how we used to see the ice --

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: Hurry up -- (rest inaudible))

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Ii. (In Inupiaq: We have to take turns when we’re telling stories. They’re recording us right now.)

So in 2012, we started to see the ice formation coming in late. And usually by November, December -- right around there where the shorefast ice -- landfast ice is starting to form and then depending on how solid it gets and how much pressure ridges are formed will really start to be a telltale of how the season is going to be going.

And then as we got into January, ice was still fairly thin and it wasn’t grounded like it used to be.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And so with every east wind it would open back up.

And you get your north northwest westerly winds and then it would get pushed back in.

It piled up a little bit here and there, but it didn’t really freeze over, and also we didn’t see any multi-year ice coming in as -- like we used to.

There was some bits and pieces of it, but not enough to really make for solid ice like we've seen in the past.

So February came and we got an east wind, it opened right up and it was able to come back in, but still it wasn’t frozen enough -- wasn’t built up enough.

There was not enough pressure ridges to really ground it because, you know, those are your safety points.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Over time when the elders taught us to watch for safe ice.

It's got to be grounded. It's got to be thick enough.

You got to find a good spot to be able to pull up a whale on top of the ice to butcher it.

And looking at the combination of all the things that were happening early on, we had made a decision not to go out in the spring, because of the danger of the ice and we kind of knew that early on.

And as we had seen, March came, April and still we weren’t -- we didn’t see much building up of the ice.

Usually you get a wild west wind where it'll really pile it up.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Make some good pressure ridges. And if there was some multi-year ice, then it would get more solid, but we didn’t see that.

And so we knew it was going to be pretty dangerous to go out there. We’ve -- past few years we’ve kind of going through the change in the crew and the makeup of the crew.

Got a lot of younger folks that are just learning and we're probably down to three or four seasoned crew members that would really know what to do in the different circumstances and the different situations that we would run across --


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: When you're out on the ice.

And when you can’t be there full time, you depend on those seasoned crew members to really watch over things. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And so -- so a combination of the different things just kind of occurred to where we decided early on not to go out in the spring.

And it's a good thing because we all seen the results of what happened last spring where crews went out and all it took was just a little southeast wind where it broke up

and they had to come scrambling back on -- scrambling back on land and thank God nobody got hurt.

They were all able to safely come to shore.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: But after that I don’t think anybody else went back out, because the ice was just cracked up all over the place and it was all unsafe.

KAREN BREWSTER: Do you know when that happened?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: That probably was right around the end of April, first of May I believe.

And, you know, when you’re not going out, you’re not -- you’re not observing as close as you would if you were actively out there.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: That’s my best guess is right around end of April.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. Yeah, I --


KAREN BREWSTER: -- didn’t know that it happened. I'd heard that, you know, the ice had formed late because of that February breaking -- breakout.

And then I just thought the lead was closed the whole time from the winds.


KAREN BREWSTER: I didn’t know that there'd been this breaking up.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, yeah -- it closed -- yeah it closed in for a long while, but still it wasn’t -- it hadn’t piled up like -- like in the years gone past, right, so --

And then when it finally did open up, the -- the landfast ice close by was still pretty dangerous.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So, yeah, it was -- was kind of a bum spring season.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, I’ve heard that -- I've heard it said before there's not as much multi-year ice as there used to be.

You guys have been saying that for awhile, but this last year there was none?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Didn’t seem like there was much. There might have been a few pieces here and there. And, you know, we usually get a lot of glacier ice -- Piqaluyak.

KAREN BREWSTER: Piqaluyak, yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And there was hardly any of that, too. So --

KAREN BREWSTER: And why is that Piqaluyak important?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Well, not only is it a source of fresh water when you're out on the ice, but it usually comes in -- in real thick slabs.

But you never count on that when you’re -- when it's starting to -- when -- when the wind changes and the ice starts coming in, usually the glacier ice is the -- the first ice that cracks up.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: In a big way. It doesn’t hold up like sea ice, right. So this stuff just cracks up so it's not -- it is not good to try to use as any kind of a safety area like they try to find.

You try to make sure -- whenever we pull up, you know, what we term Naŋiaqtuu. When you Naŋiaqtuu is when you run for safety.

You pull back to try to get to the safe ice.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And so identifying a place for -- a place to Naŋiaqtuu would be at least behind some heavy pressure ridges that you know are grounded to the seabed.

That won’t move even if you have a wild east wind.

And, you know, you usually camp out there or you can safely leave your whaling gear on that Tuvaq side.

You know the Tuvaq is the landfast ice. But at least on the shore side of the heavy ridges.

KAREN BREWSTER: So how do you know that it's grounded?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So there's a few telltale signs. Sometimes you’ll see gravel attached to the ice as it's been pushed up -- pushed around and piled up.

Part of that ice that have scraped the seabed comes back up and that's one telltale sign. And then depending on how far you are offshore and how high that ice is piled up.

And so it also won’t move when -- when you get your west wind and the tide comes up. This stuff just won’t move at all.

KAREN BREWSTER: So are you watching it all season?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You try to. You know, you can’t be out there all the time, but you try to observe it as much as you can.

There's more folks that are -- there's folks that are more active. They’re out there hunting seals or polar bear or whatnot that probably monitor it a little closer than others.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So it all depends on how active you are out on the ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: But you're monitoring whether it moves? You kind of look to see -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: -- when the pressure ridge forms and -- ? CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you keep an eye on it? CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, you monitor -- from the shore you can easily tell once you start looking.

So you keep an eye out once you see a big pressure ridge form. You're keeping an eye out where it's at and you can tell if it's moved or not.

So, yeah, from the shore you monitor it that way, too.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. So, last February where there was this big part that moved out. Is that what happened?

Why the ice was so thin that there was a big part that opened up?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Well, yeah there was just no real pressure ridges that had formed strong enough to withstand the east wind and even the south --

southwest when the tide comes up, because it'll either start floating and going away if it's not grounded good enough.

And then if it ain’t grounded at all, it'll just be at the whim of the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Winds and the currents, so --

KAREN BREWSTER: Do you recall seeing other years where the ice was as bad as last year?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Not -- not that I recall. In years gone past in the short -- few short years that I've been going out I haven’t seen it this way.

We’ve seen it on the other extreme as far as pressure ridges built up everywhere -- lots of multi-year ice where immovable.

Some of the elders and old-timers were used to that and they would break trails many miles further than we have been in recent years.

So not to this extreme we haven’t seen.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: There was a few years ago there was early -- early breakup, you know, but that’s as the season has progressed into mid-June and the end of June.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And when we were growing up, it would finally open up, break up around first of July.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And then several years ago it broke up as early as June the 3rd -- 4th week of June.

And I think the latest we had gotten a whale when dad was the captain, June 15th.

Amii, (In Inupiaq: we caught a whale). We got a whale. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, really.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And the ice was really thick that time -- 198 --



CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: I think so when Robert --

LAURA PATKOTAK: Robert and Avra?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. When they were -- that year they were born.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: 1987 -- Amii. June 15-mi (we caught a whale).


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, that was the latest that --

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. And that was whaling from the ice?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yep. Spring whaling.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: That was the latest that I recall.

KAREN BREWSTER: And what were the ice conditions like then?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Lots of multi-year ice -- nice and thick. Still safe enough to butcher.

LAURA PATKOTAK: How far away were we out of town? CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Haul the whale.

LAURA PATKOTAK: Couple miles?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: We were not too far. It was just -- just right out here south -- southwest from here and probably just maybe within five miles. We weren’t too far, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: 'Cause this year what -- when did Jake get that whale in June this year?



JOSIAH PATKOTAK: Twenty-six. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Our anniversary.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow! And that was open water way?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: That was open water, yeah.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: He’s our harpooner, our current harpooner.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Pulled it up on the beach.

KAREN BREWSTER: Used like fall whaling?


KAREN BREWSTER: Does Simeon remember that ever happening before in the springtime?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: (In Inupiaq: Do you remember long ago about the ice melting that was thin?)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: Uvva, (In Inupiaq: Our father told a story of one year when it did not go out.) Only one time.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So on the other extreme, his dad had told a story about the ice never leaving in the summer.

So it was so thick and piled up that it never did leave.

KAREN BREWSTER: And that would be Paul Patkotak who would have told that story?


KAREN BREWSTER: I'm trying to get a time frame on when that could have been?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: (In Inupiaq: When he told the story-- ). What year (In Inupiaq: I wonder did that occur?)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: I wouldn’t know, but it was long ago (as the story goes).)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Ii. Aippaani means long time ago.

KAREN BREWSTER: I remember that much Inupiaq. Aippaani.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: There was one year when it did not go out). CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Ii. There's the one year.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: After disappearing. That was what our father told us. He knows. And he never told lies.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Aasii, (In Inupiaq: Do you recall when the ice became so thin and not being completely frozen? Has that incidence occurred in your memory? As you know, last spring the shorefast ice had become very dangerous causing the men to return to shore due to the ice cracking up when it became dangerous. Have you seen that before?) Naumi?

So he hasn’t seen it like that ever before.

KAREN BREWSTER: The open water?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, early in the season breaking up like that.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: That was the first time that I’d seen that.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Hm. That’s the first time he's seen it.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: Our father would chuckle.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: What happened last spring that was the first time he's seen it.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: We used to catch seals from above the cliffs throwing rocks at them. I recall catching a couple of them.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Ii, aasii. (In Inupiaq: Can you talk about the time when you were growing up and becoming a whaler? How was the ice condition back then? The thickness of the shorefast ice. Can you talk a little about that?)

I’m asking him if he can tell about the years gone past.

KAREN BREWSTER: That would be great.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: When he was either growing up or as a whaling captain how he's seen the ice how thick -- how much it pressure ridged all around.

KAREN BREWSTER: How it's changed -- how it might be different now?

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: We used to listen to our father and obey him when he talked. As soon as he said something his sons would obey and do as he said.)

Because he was captain for many years, you know. (In Inupiaq: One thing he did not do was mistreat anyone. He did not mistreat us.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So when he -- he remembers his father-in-law Otis Ahkivgak. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And he was a captain for many years and he used to be with them going out on the ice. And they learned a lot from him.

And they would have to obey him, because he had been a captain for many years.

Aasi, siku (In Inupiaq: Can you talk about the sea ice condition as far as how thick it used to be long ago?)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: Uuvakii (In Inupiaq: When our father told the story he said that the ice is becoming thinner).

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And he used to say that it was -- he could notice that it was getting thinner over the years.

KAREN BREWSTER: Otis said that or --



CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: That it was from years gone past when they used to see it a lot thicker.

Even back then they were noticing that it was getting a little bit thinner.

Aasi, (In Inupiaq: What about your experience, did you see it first hand, what was it that you can talk about with respect to the ice?)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: It never went out one time that I remember. That was the one time that it happened exactly as my father’s story goes.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Ii. Aasi, -- it’s already been noted. SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: Uh huh.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. (In Inupiaq: What you experienced with your own eyes. How was it during the years that you were whaling?). How many feet thick?

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: Today it is thin.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: (In Inupiaq: Long ago), how many feet? (In Inupiaq: How much would it have measured long ago?)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: Well, that was the way my father told the story.)


SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: My father, Patkutaq.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: (In Inupiaq: Uh huh.)


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Ii. (In Inupiaq: She’d like to know what your experience has been, what you’ve seen with your own eyes.)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: It’s not very thick. I’ve seen it happen twice. I’ve thought that it must be true because my father did not tell lies.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: (In Inupiaq: When you first caught a whale --) In 19 what -- ’67 -- 1967. (In Inupiaq: When you first caught a whale in 1967, how thick was the ice?)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: Not very thick.)


SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: Taimani. (In Inupiaq: It’s become thin over the years.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: (In Inupiaq: The times when you would break trail going long distance.)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: Aasi, (In Inupiaq: It left again and there was no ice for us. It disappeared. It happened just one time only, one year. There were other young men also who I don’t know today, but they can attest to it. They don’t lie. His father taught us that lying was not good.)



CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: (In Inupiaq: I thought that the ice many years ago used to be thick.)


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Taimani (In Inupiaq: Back then, when you were whaling captain and was out whaling, I thought that the ice was always thick back then.)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: No. (In Inupiaq: It was always thin. In the words of Aqivgaq and Taaqpak, they two used to be sitting in front of our old house. He was a man who did not mistreat anyone.)


KAREN BREWSTER: And would you like to tell me what he was talking about?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: A little bit. So the -- it's been getting thinner basically, you know, over time.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So that’s what he's seen.

KAREN BREWSTER: So when -- when did you start whaling?

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: I wouldn’t know the year. Back then) --

a long, long time ago. I was just -- I was going with the Otis Ahkivgak family. He was our captain.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. How old were you?


KAREN BREWSTER: A bo -- Seven years old?

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: No, no, much longer -- older than that.

I was much older than that. No, no, not even more than that.


SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: More -- no, maybe seventeen.


SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: Aqivgaq was a man, like others, who did not mistreat people.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: (In Inupiaq: Talk to her. Speak in English to her.)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: When that lady come around, we can't -- What can we do, you know, we just go by our captain. If he said so, we have to do it.

KAREN BREWSTER: That’s true.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: That’s my responsibility as Otis, Buster. Ahkivgak. Ralph. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: Sakkaaluk and -- (In Inupiaq: How many of us were there?) Five or six, amii?

KAREN BREWSTER: So the brothers?


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: My mom’s brothers. KAREN BREWSTER: They were your mom’s brothers? CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: They were all younger than our mother (my wife).)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. Mom was the oldest. They were all her younger brothers.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay. Yeah.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: They did not mistreat us.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Aasii, you were in Oyagak’s crew, too, right. Roxy Oyagak’s crew?

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: Huh? CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: When you were whaling --

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: Yeah, yeah, I remember well.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: (In Inupiaq: Tell her the story.)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: Roxy Oyagak. (In Inupiaq: My first whaling experience occurred when I went out with Roxy Oyagak’s whaling crew. I listened to him when he told me that they would be going out whaling the next whaling season. I used to tell them it was up to Aqivgaq. That’s how he did things.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Ii. Taimani (In Inupiaq: Back then when they lost all their whaling gear was the time when huge ice pressure ridges had formed.)

So there was an incident years ago when my grandfather Ahkivgak they were out and they were with several crews.

And the ice suddenly came in and they couldn’t get out fast enough, and they just barely had time to cut the dogs loose.

But they lost all of their equipment -- all of their whaling supplies -- all of their equipment.

And they barely made it to shore. Years ago. And I think that was back in the late 50’s, maybe.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And they lost everything. And all the men barely made it to shore.

It was a number of years where my grandfather didn’t go out whaling because they had lost everything.

KAREN BREWSTER: And that was your grandfather, Ahkivgak?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. Otis Ahkivgak. And these were -- there were the equipment -- the whaling equipment that my great grandfather Taaqpak he had willed them to my mom, Susan,

but out of respect she had her dad continue to use the whaling equipment. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And it was during that time --

them years when they were using them that they lost everything in the ocean.

So years later -- 1967 my dad and my mom started the Patkotak crew when I was born. About when I was one year’s old.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: I remember that time when whaling equipment were lost, whole dog team.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yes. He remembers -- SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: They disappeared.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: He remembers the incident way back then. They lost the dogs -- some of the dog -- whole dog teams.

KAREN BREWSTER: Does he remember what caused that -- the ice to do that -- what led up to that?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: That was the current that was already bringing the ice in.

And I heard the story first from my mom and then I also heard it -- a guy that was their first-hand Raymond Kalayauk, Sr.

He had told me that story.

It came out of nowhere is how he put it. He said it was calm --

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: It happened out of nowhere, totally unexpected.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: The water was like glass and then before they know it big ice coming in, and that's how strong the current was and it was pushing it in.

All of a sudden, and then they just barely scrambled to save their lives.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And they lost everything.

KAREN BREWSTER: So it wasn’t -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: But he was saying how it was --

the southwest winds that probably were further offshore that they couldn’t really feel or tell and the currents that came suddenly.

It just came out of nowhere. And there was, according to Raymond Kalayauk, Sr., there was 22 men that were in four different crews in that area southwest of here that barely made it to shore.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: The dogs disappeared right before our eyes.) One whole dog team. (In Inupiaq: They became lost.)

KAREN BREWSTER: Dog team went in the -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: They did not cry for their dogs because it was beyond our control what happened.)

KAREN BREWSTER: I’ve heard of that incident before and I did some research by looking at weather records.


KAREN BREWSTER: And I think I figured it was 1957.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh. Yeah, that’s about right.



CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Apparently, there was some other crews, too, that were closer to Barrow that barely made it to shore, too.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Because of the other guy that told me he was a real -- he was pretty young at the time, Charlie Hopson.


KAREN BREWSTER: Kupaaq told the story. I don’t know where his crew was, but this story about losing all the equipment and years before you could start over again. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

KAREN BREWSTER: Seems that happened to a number of people.


KAREN BREWSTER: And that for your family Taaqpak’s gear that was valuable old whaling gear.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Right. Yeah, the way Charlie told the story to me recently was that that was their main thing that was to try to save the boat and the harpoon and the guns,

because that that was the most important stuff on the -- in the whole crew.

They threw everything else away trying to get as light as possible and trying to bring the boat to shore. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And those guys apparently bare -- made it to shore with their boat and I think it was his grandfather’s crew or something.

So Charlie would be a good resource.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Sounds pretty scary. But I was wondering it's interesting you say that it was the current in that case more -- there was no wind.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh. Otherwise if the wind was already blowing, they would have known better to already scramble back to shore, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: So the wind and the currents seem to be important in understanding what's happening out there.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh. Yeah, my mom used to always say the current would change first before the wind and it was an indicator.

So that’s why they stress the importance of what we call Kivguqsraq (inaudible), where you put the -- check the currents all the time -- monitor the currents at the different levels.

You get the upper level, the shallower currents see what they’re doing.

Check the lower currents because sometime they could be crossing, too. So --


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: But she would always say the current will start to change before the wind and that was the telltale sign.

KAREN BREWSTER: So how do you check the current? You drop something in?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, you have your string and a weight

Kivguqsraq. What we call Kivguqsraq.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (Inaudible) (In Inupiaq: When it’s accurate, my father -- ) (Inaudible)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And you constantly do that.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You constantly do that when you’re out there on the ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You check the currents all the time to keep monitoring whether they're pulling out, coming in, coming sideways, which ever way they’re going.

KAREN BREWSTER: And how deep do you put that?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You check the different levels.

KAREN BREWSTER: How many levels of current are there?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So, I don’t know, but it's -- you try to monitor that, you know.

You try to go as deep as you can, depending on how far you are offshore and how deep it is.

KAREN BREWSTER: So how long is your line?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Try to keep at least a 500-foot line. Some people carry a thousand-foot line, you know, so --


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Just try to have enough.

Sometime you don’t reach the bottom because your weight is not heavy enough, and then the current will just take it too, so --


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: But right away you can tell which way the current is moving and how strong.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: The dogs with the sleds included disappeared. They did not cry for their dogs. It happened right before our eyes, their disappearance.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, he was recalling the time the dogs were just taken under the ice and before you know it --

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: Aqivgaq used to talk to his grandson (inaudible) Mike and spoke with a lot of knowledge and wisdom. His dogs always stayed in one place. They did not live in fear and that is how it’s been since time immemorial.)

KAREN BREWSTER: So when did you start whaling, Crawford?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Well, growing up with the crew. Probably when I was maybe eight or so started being able to get out there, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: And what about Josiah? How old were you -- do you remember when you first went out?

JOSIAH PATKOTAK: Probably around ten or so, eight, nine or ten.

I would go when they would catch a whale, but actively being out there before the harvest was -- I was a bit older.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, he became an expert in butchering when he was quite young.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so when you start going out as a boy, how do you learn what you need to know?

I mean you go out to butcher you learn to go and butcher, but how do you teach your boys about ice?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So, not only do you try to remember what you've been taught, but you go out there and actually do it, you know, and by example.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And observing ice. So you try to have your elders with you --

your middle age folks and then your younger folks so you try to catch the whole spectrum when they’re learning --

when you’re teaching them, but it's also all aspects of whaling from the time you’re -- so it's a year round process, right. You’re getting ready the skins that you need.

You got to catch the ugruks, the caribou legging for the sinew and the threads that they’re going to make. And getting ready for whaling basically year round and observing the ice, looking at how the strength of sea ice is, how safe it is, at what thickness you can walk on it, snowmachine on it.

And so that’s -- you just kind of do it by example and hands-on basically.

KAREN BREWSTER: So if you're going to go out and check the pressure ridges, you'd bring Josiah with you?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yep. KAREN BREWSTER: And you'd talk about what you’re seeing.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yep. Bring them with you -- let him learn -- let him listen -- let him do.

And one of the first things that they have to learn if they want to be a harpooner or a gunner or -- is to go butcher the whale and go observe and learn and do.

And look at all the vital spots of the whale how where it's -- you can have a kill -- better kill -- efficiency. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Where the neck is. Where the heart is. Where the spine is, and that would be the best way to learn. That's --

KAREN BREWSTER: That’s -- that's true. I'm wondering what Otis -- is there something that Otis taught you about ice that you remember specifically?

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: We heard that from Aqivgaq and from Patkutaq.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: (In Inupiaq: She’s asking you what things Aqivgaq taught you. What do you recall from what you learned?)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: They always taught us to be obedient.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So the first thing he would say is to try to obey. Is what he learned from -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.


KAREN BREWSTER: But did he learn -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Is to --

KAREN BREWSTER: -- ice things, too?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Aasii, sikukun?

KAREN BREWSTER: About surviving and not getting into trouble out there?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: (In Inupiaq: What things did Aqivgaq teach you regarding the sea ice, its risks and dangers to be aware of being out on the ocean. What did Aqivgaq teach you?)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: I recall three times when we withdrew our whaling camp due to ice conditions.) Three times. (In Inupiaq: Aqivgaq at the time was a young man and very strong when he withdrew his whaling camp.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, he remembers the time they let him pull back three times during the whaling season after they go out onto the edge of the ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And any time, you know, because you got to be ready all the time.

He remembers that one day he let them pack their gear, come back up, pull from the edge and go to the safe ice.

Later on go back down and then come up again and then do the third time, but that was how much they were --

what they call Kipiġniuq (desiring to return to whaling) where they -- they want to go out -- they want to catch and their -- that's their, you know, driving force -- KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: -- behind them their --

what do they call it Kipiġniuq (a longing to return to whaling) in English anyway. Like --

JOSIAH PATKOTAK: It's like eagerness or -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. Like your --

KAREN BREWSTER: Your inspiration? JOSIAH PATKOTAK: Kind of like, yeah.



CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Motivation, yeah.

JOSIAH PATKOTAK: Really excited about it.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Motiva -- yeah, motivated to go out and catch a whale.

KAREN BREWSTER: So you don’t just want to sit on safe ice, you go back out?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, yeah, constantly.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (Inaudible) (In Inupiaq: He didn’t speak. He was a White man named Charlie Brower, also Arnold’s Brower Sr.’s father.)


SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: He used to motion in a certain way without speaking when he wanted prayers. And they listened and obeyed him.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So he's saying how Charles Brower used to -- when he wanted them to pray he would just hold his hands like that and not say anything, but he would make that gesture to --

for somebody to pray so -- And prayer has always been a big thing.



CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Community and our whaling crew and --

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, your lives are on the line so you have to make sure you’re safe.


SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: Aqivgaq may have spoken and taught his grandson, Mike. He always listened to his grandfather.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: My grandfather, Ahkivgak, used to talk to my oldest brother, Mike. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: His grandson. And taught him a lot.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: He withdrew his whaling camp the three times and that one was) the worst one. (In Inupiaq: He used to say, “It’s time to withdraw our camp. The dangerous shorefast ice is coming in fast!)



CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. He’s recalling again the three times that they had to pull up. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Because of dangerous conditions kept coming up.

KAREN BREWSTER: Does he remember what those conditions -- what was happening with the ice? Why they had to keep moving?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: (In Inupiaq: What occurred for all of you to withdraw Aqivgaq’s whaling camp?)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (Inaudible) (In Inupiaq: We always listened and obeyed him.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: (In Inupiaq: What was happening with the ice?)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: When the ice begins to come back in.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Ice was coming in.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: The ice was coming in and getting close to hitting the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.


KAREN BREWSTER: And that -- go ahead.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: They used to be afraid of it when it was coming in strong.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: The currents are strong that's why you got to really -- they would always be extra cautious. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: They always listened and obeyed their elder.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: They would always listen to the elder that’s out there.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: The elder is the one that --

KAREN BREWSTER: That’s right.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: We have to do whatever he says, you know, whether you like it or not.

(In Inupiaq: There were times when we did not like hearing it.) What does that mean? Ki. (In Inupiaq: Time for us to come ashore even though the ice wasn’t moving. And Aqivgaq would take us back to shore. The whaling captain is to be listened to and that’s the way it’s been since time immemorial.) Mike learned a lot from him because he was obedient to what Aqivgaq said. If he were here I’m sure he’d want to say something too.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Tavra. (In Inupiaq: He would have something to say.)

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: He would have something to say. I’m forgetful. He used to tell him, “Okay, the ice is about to come crashing in and we need to go!” This coming from Aqivgaq. And he’d take us back to shore without incident.) We never questioned the whaling captain. And maybe he was passing down what he had learned himself from a young age.

KAREN BREWSTER: So Crawford, you were talking about you were teaching Josiah things.

Are there things that you learned from your dad that don’t work anymore?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Not necessarily. I think some of the things that we've learned are basically from time immemorial in being extra cautious.

Being attentive to your surroundings both in the ocean, on the ice, and the air.

The ways to approach a whale if you're going to strike -- when to strike -- when not to strike. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: I think they're relevant today as they were in yesteryear.

Some of the things that we've learned.


SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: Aglaan, (In Inupiaq: But the captains demanded obedience from us.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You always got to listen to the captain. SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: Regardless of what he says, we must obey him!)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: No matter what he says.

KAREN BREWSTER: But I was thinking that, you know, now the ice is thinner there is not the grounded -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

KAREN BREWSTER: -- pressure ridges like there used to be so what you know about how to be safe on the ice, do those things still apply?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: For the most part I think they do. You know, I was -- I just thought about that too as far as conditions might be changing and, you know, that’s going to take some adapting --

adjusting the way we do things and with the thinner ice and more danger that we're faced with we're just going to have to do it a little different.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. Do you have any ideas about how it will be different -- what that means?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Well, there's -- going to have to look at the different options, right?

I mean if you're out at the edge of the ice and you still want to go spring whaling and it's not thick enough to pull up on that ice, you’re going to have to cut the whale in the water.

And that's how they used to do it a long time ago in the fall -- KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: -- whale hunts, and even sometimes in the spring.

KAREN BREWSTER: I’ve seen old pictures where they did that, yeah. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh. Yeah, so --

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: He told the story of one year when the ice did not leave at all.)


SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (Inaudible) (In Inupiaq: And we had to obey what we were told and not question the whaling captain. We do not say “Why are we leaving?” No!)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Tavra. Yeah. You mentioned that previously and it has already been recorded.

KAREN BREWSTER: I’m just going through my notes.

One thing I know this last spring you guys didn’t go whaling, but when you do go whaling, what are you looking for out there that makes it a good place to set up camp and -- ?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Safe conditions for the first, you know, first and foremost safety is always the priority.

KAREN BREWSTER: What makes it a safe spot or safe ice?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Safe ice, you’d have to look at thick enough ice that's stable enough.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And not going to be moved so easily.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You got to have good grounded ice and watching for cracks -- watching for any different weather patterns, so it's all about safety.

And, you know, it’s not really worth the risk if -- if you're going to endanger the lives of anybody.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: I think that's the first thing that we've been taught growing up is that even when you're approaching a whale you're out there.

You've been watching for whales. You're at the edge of the ice and you launch the boat,

and any time that you are faced with a dangerous situation you're going to abandon the strike.

You're looking out first and foremost for the safety of your crew.

And it's no different when you're going to be taking the young boys and the young men out on the ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You want everybody to come home safely.

And if it's not safe enough then you can’t take that risk.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. So you didn’t go whaling in 2013. In 2012, did you guys go out whaling?

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: Qanuqpa? (In Inupiaq: What did she say?)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Did we go out in 2012?

JOSIAH PATKOTAK: We went fall whaling. I don’t think we went spring whaling.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: When was that last time -- when did you (In Inupiaq: catch a whale) -- 2012 spring?

JOSIAH PATKOTAK: 2010. No, 2012.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, so we did -- yeah, 2012 we were out there spring.

LAURA PATKOTAK: So it was 2011 you didn’t go out?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh. LAURA PATKOTAK: When it was also bad.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (Inaudible) LAURA PATKOTAK: (Inaudible) It was just dangerous.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, 2012, springtime we got a whale. That was when we Nalukataq.

KAREN BREWSTER: So 2011 was --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: With Edward and Aviļļuq?


KAREN BREWSTER: So 2011 was another bad ice year?

LAURA PATKOTAK: It was just cracked up all over and the pressure ridges --


LAURA PATKOTAK: Lots of holes in it. I remember that. And we just didn’t want to put the crew in danger.


KAREN BREWSTER: Do you know if other crews are making these same choices about not going because it's not safe?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Some of them -- some of them are. You know, it's all different for everybody.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I was just wondering.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: One time the ice cracked at the spot where our tent was. But then it didn’t move. (inaudible) Nothing happened to us and we were fine. Arnold Brower Sr. used to tell him to be obedient.)

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I was wondering about, you know, how you know what you know and what you -- what’s still useful.

The idea that, you know, what you learned --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You learn from -- try to learn from everybody, right? KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: I mean not only your parents, but you have uncles and your fellow whaling -- elder whaling captains and attentively listen to what they’re talking about -- what they’re saying.

And try to learn as much as you can, you know.

So it's -- you got all the different resources that you learn from. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And not only by experience, but by your mentors.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: Would you like to have my daughter-in-law speak about how we fared? She previously talked to us about Arnold Brower Sr.)

KAREN BREWSTER: Charles Brower.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: He would say that when he asked for prayers. He never said it to his dad.] That’s what he said anyway. He never talk. Hardly.)

KAREN BREWSTER: Sometimes you don’t need words.

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: Uh-huh. (In Inupiaq: What did she say?)

KAREN BREWSTER: I was asking it because hearing about how the ice is changing,

and if you learned like camping by Piqaluyak is a good thing to do, but now there's no Piqaluyak then what do you teach your young guys about how to be out on the ice?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Bring fresh water from home.

KAREN BREWSTER: That trying to see if there're things that --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Either that or melt snow.

LAURA PATKOTAK: Other things -- other things, why Piqaluyak, because it's so thick to be by.


KAREN BREWSTER: And that, you know, what if there's no more pressure ridges?

What if that this is the -- becomes the new norm -- then what?

Do you think whaling will continue?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: I believe it will.

LAURA PATKOTAK: It always will. Just adapt.


SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: I will always remember him telling us to leave the whaling camp that time. He always told us not to be in the front or the rear of the boat. I still remember his teachings. I was uncomfortable with the ice cracking around us. So when he told us to leave the camp we had to obey him. In Wainwright, they have to deal with the shorefast ice. They always wanted us to be obedient and do as we’re told.)

KAREN BREWSTER: So maybe the adaptation's going to be go open water whaling in June?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: I think we're already seeing that.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, maybe that's going to be the new norm? I don’t know.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yep. Adapting to the changing times.

I think that's going to be what we're seeing. We are going to see more of.

KAREN BREWSTER: Have you seen those maps that Oliver and Matt did of the trails?


KAREN BREWSTER: Have you seen those? CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Some of them yeah during the springtime and when they're showing them.

KAREN BREWSTER: Have you found them helpful in any way?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, very helpful.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Just to know whose got what -- the trails where they are and how close they are.

Unless you're out at every trail checking out everybody else’s trail and you're able to just look at the snapshot of that and know how many different trails are out there.

What direction. Where the whale counters might be if they’re out there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Does it help you in any way with understanding the ice conditions?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: I guess it would if you were to look for that, you know, if you’re looking at --

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: Breaking trail -- (inaudible).)

KAREN BREWSTER: But you’re not looking at it in that way?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: No, not really, but when you look at the --

like some of them, I guess, they show the different thickness of the ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Where they tell, you know, and that really helps out.

What’s the thicker ice. How far they are. Where it gets thinner.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. So if you could see that on -- would that determine where you might put your trail and your camp if you saw that?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, but it’s -- it seems like it's a lot easier going out there physically, you know.

You can refer to that. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: But I just -- I don’t see using that to determine where we're going to go unless it's real obvious where the thicker ice might be.

Where the pressure ridges are and how the edge is because there's been years where -- there's been time where we have the wall of sheared ice along the edge of an open lead of water that has been formed by the grinding action of floating ocean ice against shore-locked ice -- the edge of the ice that was pushed up against and broken off.

And all that edge is straight up for 20 feet in some areas.

And sometimes it'll be straight. It's pretty amazing where you see that.

KAREN BREWSTER: No, I’ve never seen that.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: It's -- there's many -- For several years we will -- we'll see that.

And so if you’re going to go to the edge of the ice in that area, you’re talking tons of ice to chop down just to have a ramp.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: To make your ramp to either launch your boat or pull up a whale. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: But most of the time it's piled up so high and it's real thick and it's nice and safe.

But there's going to be a lot of work cutting them out and then just a few years ago there was --

it was like that where Ahkivgak's whale they had a spot like that they pulled the whale up and that stuck around for quite a while, too.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so that’s not a pressure ridge. It's something different?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: No, it’s -- it's part of the pressure ridge, but it's -- it's a part where the landfast ice has been hit by the main pack ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And it's been rubbed really hard. And it's real straight and I guess, you know, depending on where --

what the winds and the currents are doing, it makes this super straight edge.

KAREN BREWSTER: Kind of along the face of the pressure ridge.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Agiukpak. What we call a Agiukpak word, yeah, where it's like a --

yeah, you go right up to the edge of it and it's all straight up and there's, you know --

And those are real obvious in the photos that they --

SIMEON PATKOTAK, SR.: (In Inupiaq: I wish for Susan (his wife) to be here, but she’s not here with us.)

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: That they show it's, you know, you got to physically go out there and look at.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.


KAREN BREWSTER: But those are, as you say, they’re safe, but it's a lot of work?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Most of the -- for the most part there's a lot of safe ice there.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: But you got to have a way to launch. You got to find a spot low enough.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So that’s always the thing you’re looking for is a --

Some place where you’re going to be low enough to launch and to pull up a whale, but ice thick enough to pull that whale up on to butcher and whatnot.

So you try to plan for those things.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I think, safe enough to be on it for your camp, too.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh. And a safe trail going out there.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know, cause if you got a lot of rotten ice behind you, you're going to endanger the lives of the folks that try to go out there to help butcher the whale.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So it’s from the very get go.

KAREN BREWSTER: So is there a certain type of ice you're looking for when you build the trail?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Nice solid thick ice.


CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Flat. So over the years we’ve seen more patches of thinner ice that you're going around -- navigating through and -- and if you’re --

If the season is prolonged, starts to warm up, ice starts to thaw because you got your current underneath on the ice plus your nice warm days and whatnot,

and so you’ll have dangerous trail conditions if you -- if somebody that might not have the experience and they're just going out there and they’re trying to take a short cut or something, you know,

that’s why you got to constantly talk to the young crew members of staying safe, following the trail.

There's a reason why the trail is where it's at.

We’ve had some of our crew members dunk snowmachines in through the thin ice because they decided to go on a shortcut and not listening to what we were telling them.

Where we -- We had already caught a whale.

We're starting to haul maktak to shore and telling everybody you got to stick to the trail. No shortcuts and doing so or trying to pull the snowmachine out from the water.

Lucky he had -- was tied to the sled and he was able to hold onto the sled, so --

KAREN BREWSTER: Sometimes those holes go all the way down.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: All the way. Yep.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oliver, do you have questions?

Do you want to change tape?


KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, we're going to change tape, then Oliver can ask a few questions.