Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Eugene Brower, Interview 1

Eugene Brower was interviewed on June 25, 2009 by Matthew Druckenmiller in Barrow, Alaska. This interview was part of Matthew's research for a Ph.D. in Snow, Ice and Permafrost Geophysics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. For his project, he mapped the trails built by whalers to their camps at the edge of the sea ice and talked with local residents about ice conditions, whale camps, and trail building. Results of his research can be found in his dissertation Alaska Shorefast Ice: Interfacing Geophysics With Local Sea Ice Knowledge and Use (2011). In this interview, Eugene talks about the ice conditions, trails, camp locations and whaling in Barrow during the 2009 spring season.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-25-16

Project: Sea Ice Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Jun 25, 2009
Narrator(s): Eugene Brower
Interviewer(s): Matthew Druckenmiller
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
North Pacific Research Board
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
Slideshow
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Sections

Breaking trail

Slush ice

Cracks in the ice

Ice movement and establishment of grounded pressure ridges

Choosing trail location and ice movement

Effect of the current on ice conditions

Location of pressure ridges

Presence of multi-year ice (Piqaluyak)

Understanding ice formation throughout the year

West wind, warm water, and being careful on slush or thin ice

Importance of multi-year ice (Piqaluyak) for whaling

Building a trail through pressure ridges

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Transcript

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, so you already said you guys were on this trail here -- trail No 8.

EUGENE BROWER: Trail No. 8.

Yeah, we started the trail breaking in March.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: It was about minus 20, minus 25 when we were still heading out there with our -- first start breaking it.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Do you guys stay on that same trail the whole -- whole season?

EUGENE BROWER: Yeah, we stay on the same trail. Kept working on it.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: Until we pulled out about what May -- May 15 -- May 16 somewhere around there.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Was that because of the ice conditions or -- ?

EUGENE BROWER: No, when they start outboarding.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Okay.

EUGENE BROWER: And then after that the ice came in and kind of shut it down somewhat. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: But it was the first we ever seen almost four and a half weeks of southwest winds blowing.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: That’s first -- first in my lifetime.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Really? EUGENE BROWER: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Did you guys encounter the same slush ice out here that everyone else was? Up in here? At the edge?

EUGENE BROWER: Our slush -- It went away.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: The Muġałłiq. EUGENE BROWER: Muġałłiq. We had a little bit, but it went away. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: The ones that are farther north to the -- out toward NARL and what not had a lot of Muġałłiq and the -- We had a lot of good ice. I mean you’ve been out there. You seen it.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Yeah. So how would you describe the ice along the trail? Like the quality of the ice?

EUGENE BROWER: Our trail was good. It was solid. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: All the way down. There was one spot where the ice had opened up and closed and refroze.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: And people were trying to say that it's Muġałłiq. It's not. Muġałłiq is a finely crushed ice. That’s -- breaks if it warms up. The bottom is gonna get eaten by the current and -- It's finely crushed powdered ice. That's Muġałłiq.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: That’s -- that's what they had up here because they had to go through that to bring that -- those whales up.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: But over here, we didn’t have any. We were pretty solid.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: On the edge we had about -- about between four and five feet of -- of first year ice.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Yeah, I actually thought cause I -- I was out on your trail twice. EUGENE BROWER: Uh-huh. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And I didn’t -- It seemed pretty solid to me.

EUGENE BROWER: It was solid. Our -- our trail was solid.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Were -- were there any -- any cracks that you guys were concerned about?

EUGENE BROWER: The only cracks that -- that came up was by the Y here after we had that southwest wind and it got real -- it picked up quite a bit. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: Then we had a -- then when she start breaking, we had a crack. It came from over here from the pressure. This way, it come in. It opened up about that much and stopped.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Okay.

EUGENE BROWER: We put a marker on it. Right by -- just by the Y here, but it never went anywhere.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, were you -- were you guys camped on this side of that?

EUGENE BROWER: We were camped on the other side of it. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Um.

EUGENE BROWER: And then we moved back this side. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: But nothing ever materialized.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Because if that -- this ice pretty much stuck around the whole season, right?

EUGENE BROWER: Yeah, this -- this was -- this is free, because this side you will get the blunt of the ice moving north. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: Over here from Ualakpa to Nunavaaq you never get the -- it doesn’t hit hard. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: From Barrow, just this side of Barrow, here it hits hard right here.

The ice will come in because of the curvature it hits hard here, then -- then she's gonna grind and she starts going -- it starts going in circles. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

EUGENE BROWER: And then she'll loosen up as she goes farther toward Nuvuk.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: But you get more pressure ridges right from -- from around here this way.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. So -- so was it -- were there many -- a lot of grounded ridges down in this area? EUGENE BROWER: Yeah, down here we were. You could see them.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. They’re just those --

EUGENE BROWER: You can really, really see the grounded ridges.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. So one of the things that I’m trying to do with the data set that was look at how the ice -- how it varies from the beach out to the lead. And how -- how that really contributes to the ice being stable.

Do you guys consider it pretty stable from -- EUGENE BROWER: Uh-huh. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: -- the grounded standpoint beyond -- beyond like from pressure ridges?

EUGENE BROWER: From here down this way because the way the pressure were formed. They were from -- from this way.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: So they were grounded. They were solid. Cause the pressure ridges are formed from this way, it's not solid.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. Okay. So -- so you mean these ridges here that were kind of going -- EUGENE BROWER: This way. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Aligned this way? EUGENE BROWER: Yeah, aligned this way.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Those are solid, yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: They’re solid.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Okay. So like this here? EUGENE BROWER: Uh-huh. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Alright.

EUGENE BROWER: These were the early ridges and they were formed early.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Right.

EUGENE BROWER: It was solid. They never moved. For a long time we were just camping right out here by the No. 8.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: When the ice come in, came about a mile off -- mile in and stand there watching it.

We see some of it would come off of a little bit at a time, but the ones that were out here were -- didn’t have any flat spots.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: Out by NARL. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Hum.

EUGENE BROWER: There're a lot of pressure ridges.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And so what was the main reason that you guys decided actually to put your trail down there? Was it -- was it the ice conditions?

EUGENE BROWER: No. This from -- from Nuvuk to the bridge -- Top of the World Bridge. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

EUGENE BROWER: When they -- when they -- be is you get a narrow channel here -- narrow channel of opening.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yep.

EUGENE BROWER: So when the wind shifts, that closes quick. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: Where over here, it takes a long time for the ice to come in. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

EUGENE BROWER: But over here, because of the way the ice is set up, none of the channel narrows toward Nuvuk here. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: And -- and when she gets over here, then she starts widening.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Okay. So -- so you -- you have more open water?

EUGENE BROWER: The polar pack comes in over this way. You get more open water and it don’t hit hard. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

EUGENE BROWER: Over here you're all going look out for that ice is going to be coming in when the current shifts to the southwest. Whether it's gonna bring the ice in or it is gonna to grind. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: Along the edge and open up. And only from the Top -- from the Top of the World Bridge over to -- to the NARL. From there she’ll start opening up. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: And this comes from a small channel.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. So you guys probably did see a lot more whales down there this year?

EUGENE BROWER: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. There's a lot of whales. Back in April, as soon as we went out in the first part of April, we were seeing young whales traveling.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Well, the day I went out on your trail, I can’t recall who it was I spoke to at your camp, but we went out there and saw quite a few whales. A ways off, but there's a lot of open water. EUGENE BROWER: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: When I think things were closed up there.

EUGENE BROWER: We used to go out toward NARL, but -- and by the shooting station, by Pigniq. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: You’d be on constant alert at the edge of the -- you could have a northeast wind five to ten knots blowing and the current is so strong it's going to close. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: Where the big pans of ice heading -- coming down heading west from the Point where it gets real close to the shorefast ice out there. Between Pigniq to NARL.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: They’ll have to close.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. So the currents down here are weaker?

EUGENE BROWER: The ice is weaker. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: A lot weaker than what's up there farther north. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

EUGENE BROWER: Just that six mile spread can make a lot of difference out there.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. That’s kind of -- that's what Joe and I was just talking about here too saying that a lot of times, you know, it's much calmer down here.

EUGENE BROWER: It is.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, yeah. That's actually important to us just to understand how -- how you do have huge differences over kind of a short -- short distance. EUGENE BROWER: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Because you see a lot more ridges up here and a lot more grounding. But I guess you need a lot more up here.

EUGENE BROWER: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: To keep in place.

EUGENE BROWER: But it's deep here also. And this is a lot shallower than over here.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: So when the ridges ground over here, they’re there to stay. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: But these ridges form early here.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: These ones close to the beach?

EUGENE BROWER: Uh-huh. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

Is it common to have ridges this close to the beach down here at Napasraq?

EUGENE BROWER: Oh, yes.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I’ve only been down there a few times. Well, just the last couple years I've been down to Napasraq each year and saw -- I thought I'd seen ridges kind of in the same spot.

EUGENE BROWER: They’re almost in the same spot every year where the pressure ridges are formed here. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: They're always in the -- almost in the same general area. But over here, this can be all almost all the way out sometimes. With a little flat spot in between the pressure ridges.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. But how would you describe a -- well, not describe, but was -- was there anything unique or striking about the ice cover off Barrow this year that was -- that was different or at least just the most important?

EUGENE BROWER: Well, the thing is that we didn’t have any glacier ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: We might have seen one small glacier ice in here somewhere, but it was hard to get at. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: Just a small, I’d say about maybe 20, 30 feet in diameter.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: But you can just see the -- from the pressure ridges. All the pressure ridges are ragged.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. EUGENE BROWER: This one was smooth.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, I saw quite a bit of that up -- I went up here one day with Roy Ahmaogak and we saw a bunch of -- a bunch of that glacier ice.

EUGENE BROWER: Uh-huh. There was one right off -- one right off NARL -- I mean off -- off Browerville. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: And the other one was right here in front of NAPA . So that's where we got our ice -- ice water from.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. So it would be typical to find it down here, too?

EUGENE BROWER: Oh, yes. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: More scattered?

EUGENE BROWER: They're scattered all the way up and down the coastline, but not this year.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. Yeah, okay. Well, that was one of the questions I had because you know it's frustrating actually to read some science reports that I have and they say there's no more multi-year ice around.

EUGENE BROWER: There is. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: But it's there. It's just that they can’t see -- you can’t see it in these images.

EUGENE BROWER: No, you can’t see it from --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: You need to actually get out there.

EUGENE BROWER: From satellite photos you ain’t going to see it. Ice is ice.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, yeah, it looks the same.

EUGENE BROWER: Unless they’re looking at the density of the ice all the way around.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Yeah. So it is -- it's --

EUGENE BROWER: They can tell the difference between the salt free ice and salted ice and then -- then you can see it.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: They're trying to. It's -- it's kind of one of the things that people are working on, but they haven’t -- they haven’t achieved it yet.

EUGENE BROWER: Uh-huh. Normally up here you're gonna get a lot of multi-year ice all the way here and there. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: All the way around. And there was one out here in front of NARL. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: On Sagvak's trail, close to Sagvak’s trail. He had glacier ice.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I saw some -- some small pieces on this trail here. EUGENE BROWER: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Which I guess was Nageak -- EUGENE BROWER: Nageak's trail?

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, we -- we saw a few small pieces.

EUGENE BROWER: Uh-huh. There weren’t no big pieces. They were small. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: Look at that, Michael Jackson has died.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Really. Wow. That’s sad. That's pretty young guy, too. Well, I don’t know how old he is, but --

EUGENE BROWER: He's 50. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Must be in his 50’s, yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: Only 50 years old.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. That’s going to be --

EUGENE BROWER: He went into cardiac arrest and then --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Wouldn’t doubt if someone like him took his own life with drugs or something. He's pretty reclusive.

EUGENE BROWER: Okay, what else do you want to know about the ice?

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, I’m trying to think. Well, just in general I guess one of the things I’m trying to fully learn is what are the most important things you look at when -- when you are actually are trying to decide when to get off the ice? When it's unsafe? What are the -- what are the different stages that the ice goes through when it's transitioning from safe ice to unsafe ice?

EUGENE BROWER: The -- when you're looking at it -- when -- as the season goes on and it starts warming up, is the ice makeup.

As the year goes on it freezes, and the pressure ridges are formed. What's in between the pressure ridges? And also what's -- how the ice is when you walk it either side.

You get a lot of thin ice. You have pot holes that are going to form early. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: And then you have to cross that to get out to the open lead.

And last year we had ice that people that weren’t watching, thinking they can skip hop over it and lose their snowmachines in the past.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: So the ice makeup isn’t fully solid -- if it's not solid, like if you have Sikuliaq that was formed. Young ice is very strong. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: The ice comes in, it takes a while for it to buckle. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: When it reaches the multi -- you got four or five foot thick of ice it's going to get real quick.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Shatter?

EUGENE BROWER: Yes, the elasticity on the ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: Young ice will give. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: Like elastic. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: But the -- the ice conditions and the ice is formed and how -- and the thickness of the pressure ridges in their form, telling me if it's going to be there for quite a while or not. If it's two to three feet thick, I don’t worry about it.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: But if it's a foot thick pressure ridges and the winter hasn’t been all that cold, I know it's not going to be that thick.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: And also if there's a lot of snow. There's been a lot of snow on top of the ice it forms an insulation, so it ain’t going to get thick.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. I think it was -- was it last year, that I think a lot of people that I had spoke to were referring to the warm water comes up and melts --

EUGENE BROWER: Oh, yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: -- and melts the cracks.

EUGENE BROWER: When you get the west wind. The Qaisaġnaq. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

EUGENE BROWER: It'll be there before -- it'll be there before the wind shifts. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

EUGENE BROWER: And you can see it -- you can hear it coming at you.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: Twice last year we heard it. The current had shifted. You can hear it, just like a -- just like a low humming sound slowly coming at you.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: The current?

EUGENE BROWER: The current, yeah. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: From out there -- from out here. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: And it's slowly coming in. And when she hits, she go right in this and the -- and the floes coming will get sucked under.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

EUGENE BROWER: And when you can feel that water, it's warm.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: You guys can feel the difference?

EUGENE BROWER: You can see and feel the difference.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Did -- does that -- I've heard a lot of people say it melts the cracks out, but what about the slush, the Muġałłiq, does it --

EUGENE BROWER: A Muġałłiq lead is real quick.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: On the Muġałłiq it'll take it and get it soft, and you walk on top of it you’ll fall through. And if you have -- even have a walking stick when you're falling through because just with your weight alone, you go right through it.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: When you’re walking on Muġałłiq, you better have a walking stick with you.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: You can put that down and put your weight on it and you stop it.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Let’s see, I’m trying to figure out anything else that I was trying to --

Well, I guess this is the last question I have is -- was in regards to that glacier ice again. What -- when you do see it scattered about, what are the main advantages that you associate with that ice?

EUGENE BROWER: The only thing I associate with the glacier ice is it is close to the open lead. The whale is going to come right toward it. It's like a magnet to the whale. It's bright.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

EUGENE BROWER: It's -- it's deep. And it’s a -- it's got a -- it's like a snow white and pure white object you’re looking at.

And the whales love to go through it because you're going to have plenty of plankton going underneath it.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: So they’ll swim close to that glacier ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

EUGENE BROWER: I don’t know why but the glacier ice is like a magnet to a whale.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. So when it's along the lead that's -- that's one advantage of being near it?

EUGENE BROWER: Yes. Set your camp close to that thing.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: You get a whale that are come right by it.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Catches their eye.

EUGENE BROWER: The mother whale is she this glacier ice right next to the open lead, that's where they're going to go.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, well, I've -- I’ve heard people say that. I just -- I didn’t know if there was more just cause you're close to drinking water.

EUGENE BROWER: Oh no, it's -- it's bright.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: The -- the density of that ice is different than the -- than the salt that the ice has around it.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Yeah. I --

EUGENE BROWER: And somehow the whale -- the whales know it.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. I don’t -- I wonder -- I don’t know a whole lot about the, you know, the algae at the center of the ice, but I would -- that’s probably different when you have the multi-year ice and the saltwater ice?

EUGENE BROWER: Yeah, multi-year ice is like a magnet to a whale. I don’t know why, but I’ve been on glacier ice -- multi-year ice enough to know that when you put your camp close to the edge of that multi-year ice, the whale is going swim right next to you.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. Yeah, that’s interesting.

EUGENE BROWER: And it's a good source of drinking water.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Well, did you see those multi-year ridges -- do they tend to ground better than the first-year ridges or -- ?

EUGENE BROWER: The multi-year -- the multi-year ridges are just like a camel. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: They're smooth.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So they don’t typically add much to the stability?

EUGENE BROWER: No.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. I had -- I had actually the first couple of years I was up here I had that thought in my mind that they do, but the floes that I’ve seen are pretty low. They're not necessarily huge.

EUGENE BROWER: One year -- I don't know how many years ago we came across a great big band of multi-year ice. It was probably -- down by Nunavaaq.

It was Ben Itta crew, Leavitt crew, my crew, and David Leavitt’s crew. You could see the whales blowing way out there. All the way out there by NARL. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: All we see was blows out there. So the head -- I went down scouting. And walked these multi-year ice and it was about maybe a good eight feet above the regular -- the shorefast ice we were in. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: And I went on looking at it. Ivu. And I said this has got to be grounded. It ain't gonna move. So we come one to the other and back out our crew and headed.

I tell them what I found and Ben Itta followed. And Joe Leavitt and then followed. David Leavitt, too, followed. And we break trail and went out there.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: When we set up that camp, in one day there's four whales.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Really. Wow.

EUGENE BROWER: All I had to do was shove my boat out and struck 'em.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Because that multi-year ice -- EUGENE BROWER: Yep.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Wow. That’s the first time I heard that. That’s -- that's interesting.

And we're studying this ice it’s -- it’s neat to learn how the whales actually behave along that lead. EUGENE BROWER: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Especially now that I've observed them a few times.

EUGENE BROWER: Some leads -- sometimes when the whales are running, they'll be on the far lead for -- for a while.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Too far.

EUGENE BROWER: Then it's too far. And then they'll go to this current that's in between. The polar ice and the shorefast ice you have a current. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: You have a lining there. They follow that.

They follow that for a while, and they see -- one whale has hit the shorefast ice and after that the other whale will start following him. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: It's a pattern. It never changes.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. So they do typically follow a lead whale?

EUGENE BROWER: Uh-huh. But when they first come up, the young ones they come up first, are always close by. And they go north and they come back, and they go north, and they generally go back and forth. Then they finally head north.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. That’s just the young ones?

EUGENE BROWER: Yeah. They’re the ones when they come by they don’t look back. They're heading -- they're heading towards Canada somewhere.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So the young whales you typically get a couple shots at because they go back and forth?

EUGENE BROWER: Yeah, you the eye, come out and --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. I think that -- I think that answers all my questions. I try to --

EUGENE BROWER: You look for glacier ice and that's why them guys were scrambling trying to find a spot to go whaling out there at NARL.

Everybody launching off that one little flat pan of ice.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: These guys out here?

EUGENE BROWER: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. I haven’t really figured out why everyone was -- was congregating in that area. I didn’t -- I didn’t know if it's cause these ridges were --

EUGENE BROWER: Yeah, there were too many . They had to go through 'em, make a ramp up and ramp down. You go through the pressure ridges. See what they had to do is make a ramp and come up and go on top of that pressure ridge. Flatten it out. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: You can go a long ways just flattening the top off of a pressure ridge. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

EUGENE BROWER: And that's all we do sometimes.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Just stay on top?

EUGENE BROWER: You stay on top. You get a 10 -- 10 to 12 foot wide road on top, smooth, you can look long distances.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

EUGENE BROWER: While the other people were -- went around trying to go -- it's exacting enough, and trying to get down there, we just go right over the pressure ridge, and have pretty much a straight line.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Yeah, I think I was on that. It was David Leavitt’s trail last year.

I don’t know if you were out there, but his trail did go up -- CRYSTAL : Well, hello .

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: -- and set on a ridge. EUGENE BROWER: Uh-huh. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, I'll let you visit with your parents.