Leo Attungowruk was interviewed on January 4, 1980 by Ron Metzner and Frank Akpik, Sr. in Point Lay, Alaska for a project related to potential oil development of the Alaskan continental shelf. Amos Agnasagga was also present during the interview. The original interview was in Inupiaq. The interview was translated into English in August 2014 by Ronald H. Brower, Sr. and appears below synced with the Inupiaq audio. The audio quality on this interview is poor, so parts of it can be hard to hear and understand. The last thirty minutes of the interview were not translated as they are more about whales and whaling than about sea ice, so only the English portions appear for that portion of the transcript. Other interviews for this project appear in Historical References to Ice Conditions Along the Beaufort Sea Coast of Alaska (Scientific Report, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1979), but this interview with Atuungowruk is not in the final report. In this interview, Leo talks about sea ice conditions around Point Hope and Point Lay, effects of wind and current on the ice, a flood that occurred in Point Lay in the early 1940s, and living a subsistence lifestyle off the land and sea around Point Lay.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Sea Ice Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Jan 4, 1980
Narrator(s): Leo Attungowruk
Interviewer(s): Ronald Metzner, Frank Akpik, Sr.
Transcriber: Ronald Brower, Sr., Karen Brewster
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Being born in Point Hope and living in Point Lay
Hunting in Point Lay
Collecting coal for heating homes
Hunting and collecting eggs at Point Hope
Ice pile ups, and tidal surge causing evacuation of Point Lay in the early 1940s
Wind conditions that caused flooding
Caribou population and caribou hunting
More about the flood at Point Lay and wind and ice conditions at the time
Ice break off, drifting, and pile ups on the shore
Sea ice movement and animals
Development of leads in sea ice and hunting seals at the open lead
Getting lost out on the sea ice
Effect of wind and current on the sea ice, and being safe on the ice
Whaling crews in Point Lay hunting at Icy Cape
Types of whales seen in the area
Whales at Point Hope
Erosion at Icy Cape and Point Hope
Changes in the weather and storms
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.
RON METZNER TO FRANK AKPIK: Could you say something to see if it works?
FRANK AKPIK: We are preparing to interview Leo Attungowruk.
Leo, where were you born?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: I was born around Point Hope. In 1936, I left Point Hope for the first time when we were driving a herd of reindeer north. We left in June pulling our boat and arrived in Point Lay in July. On our trip we stopped at a place and had a July 4th there. I forget its name. It was by a creek. I was travelling with Yugu and his family. We were pulling a boat along the coast.
FRANK AKPIK: So where were you born? LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: I was born at Point Hope. FRANK AKPIK: At Point Hope --
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes. My parents were the Attungowruks, my parents asked me to move to Point Lay where they had previously moved while I was a single young man. And being of marriageable age, Tony Joule who was a lay preacher at the time in Point Lay. And I also had a sister who I wanted to see up there who had been adopted out and lived at Point Lay.
FRANK AKPIK: Okay. He said that he was born in Point Hope in 1936. And that his parents moved him to Point Hope on that time.
RON METZNER: Where are all the places he's lived? Was he living in Point Hope or Point Lay a long time ago?
FRANK AKPIK: After he -- He was born in Point Hope and he moved back in to Point Lay.
RON METZNER: How old was he?
FRANK AKPIK TO RON METZNER: He was single on that time. Single and he’s not married on that time.
FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: How old are you on that time when you come down this way?
FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: How many years old were you when you reached Point Lay?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: When I first came here?
FRANK AKPIK: I meant that time before you got married.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: 21, 21 -- maybe 23, because I was born 1913 in May.
FRANK AKPIK: Correction on that. He was born in 1913. And he come down here from Point Hope in 1936. And he met his wife in 1936 down here (in Point Lay). And he met his wife down here (in Point Lay).
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: In 1937, I married Kinavina the traditional way. I was not aware of church practices at that time, however, Aŋnalugruaq and his wife fetched a preacher from Point Hope and got me married the Christian way. I was a janitor for Tony Joule. I once was the old way, however they got to marry us proper. Tony Joule was glad that I got married and felt obligated that I should not face hardship and he taught me the ways of hunting in this area. He took me walrus hunting in July in a wooden boat a long distance travel from the shore. They would drag the wooden boat over the ice, which was like an extension of the land, to reach open water. We had to a long ways to go walrus hunting in them days. It was quite a sight to see a herd of walrus on large ice flows! It was quite scary when one goes after walrus for the first time.
FRANK AKPIK TO RON METZNER: Okay. He married on year -- a year later. He was 30 -- 21 on that time, 21 years old, and pretty soon he got married here.
And a year later, and ever since that time, he lived around here.
RON METZNER TO FRANK AKPIK: Has he been -- where else has he been besides Point Lay? Up and down the coast from here? Where did he go?
FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Now he asks where else have you been able to live ever since you got married. Where are the other places you have lived at?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: We did not move around to other locations. After walrus hunting was over, during summer people gathered coal for winter use. Local coal mining was the local economy around here. People had a good life here hunting. The ice cellars were not lacking for food stored.
FRANK AKPIK: So you have lived in Point Lay ever since?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes, in 1957, when I lost my wife, I moved down to Point Hope.
FRANK AKPIK: To Point Hope? So you moved back to Point Hope?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes. So when we reached Point Hope, I moved with our children to live there. Before I left, I worked for the Dewline for a while.
FRANK AKPIK TO RON METZNER: Okay -- uh, he moved down there in -- back in '57 he moved back into Point Hope. He go see his children down there in Point Hope. Before he moved back to Point Lay.
FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Now when did you move back to Point Lay? After you lived in Point Hope for a while, when did you move back again?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Since I had made a good living here at Point Lay, hunting and trapping, I had a hunting partner Qakik, James, a capable and knowledgeable hunter. Since he and I had learned the area and had been hunting and trapping foxes there by dog team and also had success hunting out in the sea, I returned to something I knew how to do.
FRANK AKPIK TO RON METZNER: He come back here from Point Hope, and he start to live here. Hunting, you know, and trapping and all that. And walrus sometime in the summertime out there on the ocean with big boats.
FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: What year -- when did you start hunting in this area?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Huh?
FRANK AKPIK: When did you first begin hunting in this area?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: As soon as I got married I started making a living here immediately. I started hunting and lived a traditional life here until 1967. I was feeling awkward when I returned at first. But I was intent in helping the elders who lived here in preparing for the winter by going hunting with those who had boats so I could get a share of the hunt. FRANK AKPIK: Now who were the ones with boats?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Huh?
FRANK AKPIK: Who had the boats?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: They were -- it t was Ukpiksoun and Tuuragruaq who both had large wooden whale boats with engines. They had the same kind of engines on them -- I think they were both 12 horsepower.
FRANK AKPIK: The old inboard. Yeah.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: They heaved a heavy load. And seem pretty slow alright, but nevertheless they would go out to where the walrus were. And they were faster than those who were oaring boats to go on the hunt. They nevertheless persevered and also returned from the hunt successfully. They were considered leaders as they were hard workers and they would share their catch with elders and the community.
FRANK AKPIK: Around the time of '67?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes, at that time, no one was in want of heating their homes. FRANK AKPIK: By using coal or some other means?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: We collected many sacks of coal. Up river, the coal is exposed. There are two exposed seams of coal where we could just go there and fetch coal filling our umiaq.
FRANK AKPIK: From up Kuuk River?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: It is possible to dig a shaft to mine coal where it is close to the surface, but that is a slow process. Going up river, it is a difficult trip to the coal seams when the water is low, but when the water is high, it can be a quick trip to where the coal is exposed.
FRANK AKPIK: Okay --
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: We would tow two whale boats, and pull up river Ukpiksoun’s boat and also Tuuraq’s as well to gather a winter’s supply of coal for elders who not capable.
FRANK AKPIK TO RON METZNER: Okay, he lived around here and went hunting a lot with old man Ukpiksoun and -- FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Mikey Tuuraq?
FRANK AKPIK TO RON METZNER: Mikey Tuuraq. And went in a big boat with an outboard. I don’t know maybe two people. RON METZNER: That’s a big boat --
FRANK AKPIK: It was like Aiviq , you know. A little smaller than the natchiq . They got them up here in Barrow.
RON METZNER: They had the little ones around here?
FRANK AKPIK: Yeah. They already live around here and go out and drive out and hunt some walrus, walruses. Way out there with a big boat. Come back in and live around here.
Trapping and hunting during the winter and come down here to get some coal from up river. Maybe he knows how far it is to Kuukpauraq.
FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: How far is it to the coal you mine?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Coal is exposed in many places, large seams in river eddies. There is coal from the mouth of rivers, all the way to the foothills, so the entire area has coal beneath. There were some white men who mined coal on the coast. Some were cooks, others made coffee. All were trying to make a living.
FRANK AKPIK: Yeah --
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: And from Kaŋiqtuuq , we mined coal with little hardship when the days get long in December.
FRANK AKPIK: Did you mine coal by dog team?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes. Because it was possible to make round trips a day. Because it was in a bluff, when we dug coal within the coal seam, one would put support beams to keep it from caving in from above. It also smelled like someone’s poop, as it gave off that kind of smell. It did not freeze up in there. But it was hard work to get the coal.
FRANK AKPIK: How is this place? How far did you have to go, 20 miles? 30 miles?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: I think the regular coal mine is about 30 miles.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: About 30 miles because one can make a couple trips in a day.
FRANK AKPIK TO RON METZNER: From where they haul the coal, it is about 30 miles away. When they haul coal in the winter time by dog team. Plenty of coal.
RON METZNER TO FRANK AKPIK: Let's ask these questions about Point Hope. How far south did they go from Point Hope?
FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: When you went hunting in Point Hope, how far south did you go hunting? Did you reach Kivalina?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: When I lived at Point Hope?
FRANK AKPIK: Yes, when you lived at Point Hope.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: When at Point Hope, they hunted by boat in the summer. After they stop hunting whale, then they start hunting bearded seal and seal with seal hooks in the month of June.
FRANK AKPIK: How far south did you go when hunting?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: They went out a ways hunting bearded seal, seals, whales and ribbon seals so they could barter and trade skins to the Native Store.
FRANK AKPIK: When you went hunting toward the direction of Kotzebue how far did you go? LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Huh?
FRANK AKPIK: How far did you go?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: People came from Kivalina and Kotzebue when I was growing up to go boating with hunters up here. There were many who came up here to hunt.
In the summertime, when they were done and had sled loads, they took their shares home to Kivalina and Kotzebue by sled.
FRANK AKPIK TO RON METZNER: The people from Kotzebue and Kivalina go down to Point Hope and they start to hunt the whales. They just joined with -- or -- But there were more men from Noatak who came up to join whaling crews. AMOS AGNASAGGA: Even today they still come up here to go whaling from Noatak. LEO ATTUNGOWRUK TO AMOS AGNASAGGA: Even today? AMOS AGNASAGGA: Yes.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Even to this day men from Kivalina and some men from Kotzebue, sometimes would return while the going was good for dog teams.
Then in July, Point Hope folks come by boat to go collect eggs for winter from nesting murres.
FRANK AKPIK: Yes, those murres. Probably down at Cape Thompson?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes. It's not possible to climb up at other places. But here it is possible to climb steep sides using a scoop stick for scooping eggs of every kind.
FRANK AKPIK: Oh, I have heard of them using scoops for collecting eggs.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Those were their tools for collecting eggs. I would participate in these activities so I could get a share for my parents. It was a time to have fun as well!
FRANK AKPIK: Yes! Yes!
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: I enjoyed helping.
FRANK AKPIK: So your family lived in Point Hope at that time?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes. And I also wanted to help those who were not able -- But they also included them in the division of the egg haul upon their return.
Even when one wears new pants they would tear in climbing the bluffs. The boats would fill up with eggs pretty quickly.
FRANK AKPIK: There were lots of eggs beyond count.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: It was unbelievable -- so many eggs beyond count.
FRANK AKPIK: Yeah, okay, now we will talk about these since the time you relocated. First is, in the falltime was the ice pushed to the shore to the gravel bars, were large icebergs were pushed up the beach in the fall, some thick ice sheets, how far were they pushed up the gravel bars?. AMOS AGNASAGGA: To the islands. FRANK AKPIK: Oh, to the islands. AMOS AGNASAGGA: Ice. How far did it push that ice to the shore? LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: When west winds came it would push that ice on shore. Some years when the ice formed early it was pushed ashore. Before the ice formed and it was cold already, southwesterly winds would cause the ocean to surge high and flood, pushing slush ice far ashore.
FRANK AKPIK: Would it cause the ice to pile it past the coastline?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes. We experienced that when we were camping at Kali . We had to escape from the village, because there was a tide surge caused by the wind in the fall time causing Kali to flood.
FRANK AKPIK: What happened to Kali? LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Everyone had to flee the village when these guys were young.
AMOS AGNASAGGA TO RON METZNER: We had to evacuate the village one time.
RON METZNER: Was this when he was in Kali? What year was that? Time of year that it happened?
AMOS AGNASAGGA TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Was that in the 1940s? LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: I cannot remember the year today. I was trying to remember by recalling which of my children was born that time. My third child was born around then.
AMOS AGNASAGGA: 1944, maybe '45, aye? Young Edgar probably remembers. LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Edgar was a young boy then. Young Edgar was almost lost as he was caught by the surge wave, but he escaped it.
RON METZNER TO AMOS AGNASAGGA: What time of year was that?
AMOS AGNASAGGA TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Was it in November? Aye? Around November?
FRANK AKPIK TO RON METZNER: In 1947, they evacuate the village. They moved into a --
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Maybe the end of August? Might be later.
AMOS AGNASAGGA: It was in October?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: I think it was in September.
AMOS AGNASAGGA: In September?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Because there was an early freeze on the bay. The ocean surged followed by high winds flooding the islands.
AMOS AGNASAGGA: That was before it start snowing. It was September. Later part of September.
RON METZNER TO AMOS AGNASAGGA: The ice came in in September?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: No, no. High water. RON METZNER: High water.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: One house closest to the sea washed out. We escaped into an ice cellar for two days. The ice cellar sure was a small place to move into. It sure was small alright.
AMOS AGNASAGGA TO RON METZNER: They had to stay in an ice cellar. Some of us had to stay in an ice --
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Soon as we could, we used dog team and sled from Kali and moved to the mainland.
FRANK AKPIK: They stay in the ice cellar, little cabin.
RON METZNER: The water couldn't get in? FRANK AKPIK: The water -- high water --
AMOS AGNASAGGA: That's a high spot right there.
FRANK AKPIK TO RON METZNER: A high spot. A little shelter for the ice cellar. They stayed in there overnight.
RON METZNER TO FRANK AKPIK: What kind of a storm was this that caused so much problem?
AMOS AGNASAGGA TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Was it a west wind?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: It was a northwesterly wind (uses the term for north wind: Kanagnaq). To us, north wind is referred to as Kanagnaaq. FRANK AKPIK: He is probably referring to the northwest wind. AMOS AGNASAGGA: That's east wind.
RON METZNER TO AMOS AGNASAGGA: For how long? Did it turn to northwest?
AMOS AGNASAGGA TO RON METZNER: It turned south.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Ikaŋnaq, some use that term to mean west wind.
AMOS AGNASAGGA TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: From the south?
FRANK AKPIK: I think he meant northwest. That is how I hear him use that term.
AMOS AGNASAGGA: We always get low water when it blows from southwest wind
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: It was more like a northwest wind. It is said that people at Point Hope also fled their homes from the Ikaŋnaq storm surge for high ground. When the west wind causes a storm surge and the land is frozen it cases a mirage. But when it is not frozen it does not cause mirages.
In this case, the westerly storm stripped all beach wood from the islands along the entire coast.
AMOS AGNASAGGA TO RON METZNER: He said they were out of driftwood for a long time. Beach. And after that there was no wood anymore because the water was so high.
RON METZNER TO FRANK AKPIK: How high was the water from where they were? How high on the -- ?
FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: How high did it flood that time?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Huh?
FRANK AKPIK: How high do you think the water got that time?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Well, it was as high as the walls because it tore out the far wall from one house. The water covered most of the island except where we were.
FRANK AKPIK: So it really flooded high. Maybe 30 feet.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: It covered almost all of the islands, filling the lagoon entirely. There were racks on the land side, but they were also underwater.
FRANK AKPIK: It must have been at least 30 feet high or more. Maybe 30-40 feet high or close to that.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Right after the flood, even while they were going hungry, people of Kali wanted to resettle on the mainland where there is higher ground. They wanted to move to the mainland to begin anew.
FRANK AKPIK TO RON METZNER: He really did not say how much. Like say, maybe 30-40 feet of high water. That tight!
High water at that time. High water washed away all the driftwood. Going 50 below, no more (wood).
AMOS AGNASAGGA: It was about high as this ceiling right here.
FRANK AKPIK: These batteries all the time brand new. Okay!
FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: He wants to know exactly what year the flood happened? Around year '42?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: He was saying after he has three kids, so it should be around '43.
FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: He is going to re-record the flood event. LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: The flood? FRANK AKPIK: Yes. That time the driftwood was all washed away by the big flood. LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: All the wood?
FRANK AKPIK: Yes. Quite a long time ago, maybe '42? '43?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: In the '40’s. It happened around 1940 during the time there was only the original reindeer herd. Before caribou came back.
FRANK AKPIK: Maybe it happened around 1941.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Back then we had the original reindeer herd and there were no caribou then.
FRANK AKPIK: Before the caribou came back. LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes, before they returned.
FRANK AKPIK: Then you only had the reindeer herd before the caribou came.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes. Reindeer were many all the way to Barrow. One could tell the difference pretty easily as reindeer have short legs as compared to caribou. And caribou who range in the hills have longer legs.
FRANK AKPIK: So in those days there were no caribou in this area?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes, there were no caribou. When one really wanted caribou you go to the Brooks Range when they have been seen. One may get one up there.
When a caribou is caught one can see a big difference between the two. Caribou are very large.
FRANK AKPIK: Did you go up to the Brooks Range to get caribou? LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: It was when there was trapping season going on.
One day Katagaaluk (large bull caribou) was caught up there in a trap for foxes. When he first trapped a caribou, there were four of us who went see it. We were amazed by the size! It could easily toss us about.
FRANK AKPIK: Because it was so huge?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes. Because it was so big. Two of us guys grabbed it by the horns and two grabbed it on the hind legs. And it ran with all four of us hanging on.
FRANK AKPIK: There was four of you?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes, four of us trying to knock it down.
FRANK AKPIK: So you were holding it by the horns and the hind legs? LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes. We had a difficult time trying to knock it down.
FRANK AKPIK: When you got hungry for real caribou, did you go up to the foothills to hunt caribou?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: That bull took us a ways before Jack had a chance to put it down stabbing it on the neck.
FRANK AKPIK: When you were close by the coal mine, did you go hunt caribou when you wanted to have caribou?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: When that caribou was caught in a trap that was the first time we ever saw caribou around here. The women did not tell their difference at first.
FRANK AKPIK: Because they had short legs?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: In those days, wolves were preying on the herd and they were growing in number. The wolf population was growing fast. The wolves were a danger because they became so many. As an example, when we were driving dogs to the mine, wolves would follow growing in number from everywhere and made us wary on the trail, even during the day time.
FRANK AKPIK: Yeah. Going back to ice during the big flood.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Those who were caught in the flood?
FRANK AKPIK: Yes.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: During the flood, I found myself alone on the island after I took my wife to the mainland. I went back trying to salvage our stuff. I did not fear for myself as I was so intent on saving our stuff, but I got afraid when our home started falling apart from icebergs. Seeing there was nothing more I could do, I returned to join the others.
FRANK AKPIK: Now those icebergs -- Did the sea bring them over the island? LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: The large bergs were pushed between the islands. There is Kali here, and it was pushing them over the low lands into the lagoon through those lower lands the ice pushed ashore to the mainland.
FRANK AKPIK: The sea ice was being pushed over the islands?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: The thinner ice was being pushed over the low areas on to the mainland, but not too far. When the water rose on the mainland, the ice moved inland as well. It did not go for long. Maybe just one night as we were without shelter, probably for two days. FRANK AKPIK: Two days. FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Probably for two days?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Huh?
FRANK AKPIK: Maybe for two days?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: We were without shelter for a while because of the ice movement.
FRANK AKPIK: Now the ice that was pushed over the islands.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: There was no pack ice then. If there was pack ice it would not have flooded to the extent that it flooded. Before thin ice formed over the ocean, the land had frozen already, people would move away from the coast.
FRANK AKPIK: So the icebergs that were pushed ashore, were they there all year on the land?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: They did not go far on land, but were pushed ashore by the strong current. At the same time, all the driftwood, and there was lots of it, were washed away all the way into Peard Bay. All the driftwood was all washed up in the bay.
FRANK AKPIK: Now the icebergs that were washed up here. Did they stay all summer? They never melted away? Or since they were not washed all the way ashore, did the currents take them?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: During the winter there was also a flood, but just over the coastal ice. But it never moved those icebergs. While I was trapping for foxes along the coast, I would remember the event as I traveled among the ice on my way home.
FRANK AKPIK TO RON METZNER: Maybe we’ll break for a while huh? RON METZNER: That will be okay.
FRANK AKPIK: Does the sea ice break off and drift away? LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: The sea ice? FRANK AKPIK: Yes.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Only when there is a west wind, the ice will pile high upon each other mostly.
FRANK AKPIK: So it just really piles up high? LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Sometimes the sea ice will be pushed ashore some distance.
FRANK AKPIK: Does it push the sea ice on to the mainland?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: The sea ice will normally go over the islands, but will stop along the mainland beach. Then when daylight returns, the ice does not pile like in the fall. It becomes anchored freezing to the bottom from Icy Cape far down southward. The sea ice is stable most of the winter, because it is frozen to the bottom.
FRANK AKPIK: Probably all the way to Cape Lisburne? LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: All the way to Uivvaq (Cape Lisburne). But when there is a west wind, it will break apart, sometimes close to our shore. However, it does not pile up much close by. But way down by the open lead where the current is swift, it will create a shear wall. But it will not be attached to the bottom of the sea. Now in the spring, when the rivers start to flow, it will flood over the ice.
FRANK AKPIK: But the people would be fine. It sounds like Barrow area where this happens as well.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: There is an abundance of seals. Fat seals of all sizes sunning themselves on old ice.
FRANK AKPIK: After the ice piles begin to move is there multi-year ice floating by? Up in Barrow multi-year ice begins to move in February or March.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Large ice flows begin to come ashore bringing with them polar bears.
Sometimes many polar bears arrive with the pack ice. Sometimes an overabundance of polar bears come ashore. Polar bears are too much work.
FRANK AKPIK: Trying to work on them can be hard work.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: They were also very cheap to sell in those days. We did not have much use for them, but later we realized that they make for good boots. FRANK AKPIK: Make boots out of them. So polar bear boots would have sold well back then.
RON METZNER TO FRANK AKPIK: Are the leads close to shore south of here? In say, winter?
FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Does the sea ice break off close to shore? LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: What?
FRANK AKPIK: Does the sea ice break off close to shore in the winter?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: I don’t understand.
FRANK AKPIK: Does the sea ice break off close to shore in the winter?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: That normally does not happen here. Once the ice piles high further out, our coast hardly ever loses sea ice. FRANK AKPIK: Oh. LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Only when it melts does the sea ice start to break up when the rivers flow.
FRANK AKPIK: So does the shorefast ice break off in the winter? How far off the coast does it break off?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: When the west wind is blowing it changes the ice edge conditions sometimes breaking off large sections.
FRANK AKPIK: About how far out does the ice break off?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Only when there is a strong west wind it will break off some of the shorefast ice edge way out there.
FRANK AKPIK: Five miles? LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Sometimes it is not very far offshore.
FRANK AKPIK: Two miles?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: When there is a steady northerly wind, it adds more ice by freezing the ocean so it is smooth to the leads.
The ice used to be pretty thick in the old days, but these days the ice is thinner.
FRANK AKPIK: So how far out does this ice break off close by?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: The hunters never venture out to the sea ice anymore because it is dangerous now. But in December seal hunters will venture to the open lead close by. They use nets to catch seals in the open lead.
FRANK AKPIK: Catching seals?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Netting seals. A father and son used to go seal hunting with a small boat when the lead is close. But I never took the opportunity to net seal myself.
FRANK AKPIK: Maybe the lead was about two miles out?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: They would go set seal nets when the open lead was about two miles out in November.
FRANK AKPIK: Therefore, two miles was about the closest the lead?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes, somewhere around there. On December 31st, one day, I went and set fox traps and did not make it home. I was losing my way due to a thick white-out. I tried to find my way home, searching a way home all night. I found a place to stop at a pressure ridge and rested 'til daylight. The people of Kali were really searching for me.
FRANK AKPIK: So you chanced to sleep on the ice?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: So I had a chance to sleep on the ice. In a white-out on the sea ice, one can easily become lost because it all looks the same. It is hard to find your way in a deep white-out.
FRANK AKPIK: Like getting lost.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes. After I returned to Kali, I met a relative Johnny Evak.
FRANK AKPIK: From Kotzebue? Was he from Kotzebue, that Evak?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: He was from Kotzebue, yes, He was the brother of that one --
FRANK AKPIK: Taalak’s son. He was the brother of Sam Taalak, I believe.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes, he was. He was from Kotzebue. I was supposed to be talking about a different subject, but got sidetracked somehow.
FRANK AKPIK TO RON METZNER: He's here. Think too much . He's here.
RON METZNER TO FRANK AKPIK: Okay. -- the ice. Did he talk about the kinds of currents associated with the winds?
FRANK AKPIK: No.
RON METZNER: That's a good question. Would you just ask him the question I asked about the leads opening south of here.
Could you ask him what kind of wind caused those leads or currents? FRANK AKPIK: Yeah, okay.
RON METZNER: And when is it -- when -- when -- like if you're out hunting when would it be safe to be out there when he the lead opens?
FRANK AKPIK: Yeah, okay. He asks if one is going hunting on the sea ice, what kind of wind one must be aware of to prevent dangerous conditions.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: If one is hunting in the sea, one can see the mountains from here (Kali). When I am out on the sea, I look to the mountains. If the clouds are long and going over the mountains and disappear, I am told to immediately start heading home.
FRANK AKPIK: Which direction is the wind from?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: The wind will pick up rapidly and become a storm from the southwest. That is the way it is.
FRANK AKPIK: Is it an east wind or a west wind?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: It will be some kind of a strong wind that is coming your way. It will cause the ocean to surge rapidly and break up the shorefast ice. Sometimes one can get caught in the breaking ice.
FRANK AKPIK: And which way will the current be moving?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: The current will be coming inward toward your back. When the winds are blowing on the land, and sometimes the wind is blowing perpendicular to the land just a short distance away. When I am tired of staying home, I head out to the ice on the spur of the moment. When the days get long, I head out to the ice taking three dogs. While Kali folks are staying inside at Kali. When you go on the ice about three miles out, you will reach the area with no wind. It will be calm as can be when one reaches the open lead.
FRANK AKPIK: Of the winds, which is the safest to be on the sea ice?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: The ocean hardly has any wind. Just a little breeze or two here and there. When you look toward the land, it is like looking at a wall, very hazy. And when one heads back home, you go into the hazy winds when you reach land.
FRANK AKPIK: About currents, which way do currents move?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Currents are something I stayed away from. I observed them from a distance. The current is strong and flows fast.
FRANK AKPIK: From which direction would the currents move?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Currents are flowing from the north. I am told to head for land.
FRANK AKPIK: When the current flows from the north?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: When the wind is coming from the west, one can stay on the ice. It is safe. If there are no large icebergs, it is relatively safe. Even if there are waves in the sea.
FRANK AKPIK: When there is a westerly wind? So it is quite safe with westerly winds? LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes, and one can catch a load of game pretty fast.
FRANK AKPIK: But the east winds are dangerous?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes. Whenever there are east winds the sea becomes dangerous. Even in spring, when the rivers start flowing it is still safe to be on the ice. During that time the men are hunting from boats. Now when the wind gets too strong, everyone goes ashore. Just like other coastal communities. When the wind starts getting too strong it is well to head home.
AMOS AGNASAGGA TO RON METZNER: May I look at your dictionary? RON METZNER: Sure.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Nowadays, we do not have the right type of clothing to be on the ice. We had caribou skin boots and winter caribou clothing and had a one gallon kerosene stove for heat.
FRANK AKPIK: So you could stay out longer?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: With one gallon of fuel we could stay on the ice for one week without going ashore. Using a kerosene stove. It did not use much fuel. We brought two gallons. FRANK AKPIK: RON METZNER: Okay, that was for here?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK TO AMOS AGNASAGGA: Are you getting ready to go elsewhere?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: No, we are going straight to Barrow when we are finished here. LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: There is going to be a movie at 7pm this evening.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: When the wind is blowing I do not go to the movie. AMOS AGNASAGGA: Yes. Because it is cold! LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes, too cold. AMOS AGNASAGGA: We are going to go when you folks are done. LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: When we are done? AMOS AGNASAGGA: Yes.
FRANK AKPIK: Anything else you want to know?
RON METZNER TO FRANK AKPIK: Okay. Now, I was asked -- I was asked by some people to get -- if we had time, to ask some optional whale questions. If he wants to answer them. If he doesn't, that's okay, too.
AMOS AGNASAGGA TO RON METZNER: They used to have whaling crews around here. Long time ago. RON METZNER: Did they? AMOS AGNASAGGA: I think it might have been, somewhere, I don't know. RON METZNER: Okay. Okay. AMOS AGNASAGGA: They don't have any more.
RON METZNER TO FRANK AKPIK: Okay. Why don’t you start with number nine?
Were there any whaling crews around here, and what year?
FRANK AKPIK: They must have hunted whales around here in the past?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: When I first arrived here Tony gained whaling equipment. He went to Qayaiqsiġvik (Icy Cape) to hunt whale and was successful.
FRANK AKPIK: In the fall? LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Huh? FRANK AKPIK: In the fall?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: In the spring. From here they went to Icy Cape to hunt whale and caught whales. FRANK AKPIK: He would catch whales often. LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Yes, but those who went from here to hunt were not so successful and did not catch whale. In the meantime, Tony caught a large whale that time.
Also, Aiviġruaq caught a small plump whale off the coast here. Now they caught two whales here in front of Point Lay.
AMOS AGNASAGGA: What about old man Tuuraq?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: The old man Tuuraq did not go whaling in those days. AMOS AGNASAGGA: Oh.
FRANK AKPIK: So they did not hunt whale here from the village? They went to Icy Cape to hunt whales?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: No, they also caught two whales in front of the village. There were two whales caught right here. But the Joules would go hunt whales from Icy Cape.
FRANK AKPIK: I wonder when? What year?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: In 1940.
FRANK AKPIK: Sometime around 1940?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: When Jakruaq left, people quit hunting whales around here.
We tried to start whaling again, but we never saw any whales and tried again another year but never saw any whales either. We do not see any whales around here during spring.
FRANK AKPIK: So they did not do much whaling here. There were some whales caught here, but you have seen only two whales caught here. Just two whales. Maybe the open lead was just three miles out. LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: The open lead was close that time. FRANK AKPIK: Oh. LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Using Satkialuk’s whaling equipment, Tony Joule's would catch whales. And Aiviġruaq used his father’s whaling equipment to catch whales. I don’t know what happened to them.
AMOS AGNASAGGA: The guy you’re talking about caught whale around here.
RON METZNER: Which guy?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: Alvie.
RON METZNER: Is he a good whaler? AMOS AGNASAGGA: He caught a whale around here. RON METZNER: In 1940?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: Yeah. That guy still lives in -- RON METZNER: Still lives -- He's in Kotzebue now. What’s his name again?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: Alvie Shagaluk.
RON METZNER: Chagaluk. How do you spell that?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: S H A L O K, I guess. Both him and his wife do, in Kotzebue.
RON METZNER: Were they from around here or they were from -- ?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: They just moved -- just about 1957, maybe. RON METZNER: I see.
FRANK AKPIK TO RON METZNER: Did you ever seen whales with calves around here? How about this here, about the calf, newborn calves of whales?
RON METZNER: Okay. Uh. Have you ever -- have you ever seen whales with new -- newborn whales traveling with older whales?
Or have you ever seen giving birth? Maybe down at Point Hope?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: There's a lot of grey whales around here sometimes. Lots. Just --
RON METZNER: Young ones, too? Or just older ones? AMOS AGNASAGGA: Killer whales, because this is warmer water.
RON METZNER: Killer whales, also? I see. What time of year? AMOS AGNASAGGA: Summertime. August.
RON METZNER: How long are they here? When do they go away?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: Just during the warm spell.
RON METZNER: So they leave in September?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: Earlier than that. Just grey whales, I'm talking about.
RON METZNER: Just grey whales? And you said killer whales, though.
AMOS AGNASAGGA: August.
RON METZNER: They're different time?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: Same time during the warm spell.
RON METZNER TO FRANK AKPIK: Maybe you can ask him about newborn whales when he was at Point Hope?
FRANK AKPIK: There should be a lot of whales. They come by like Barrow, I guess. A lot of them.
AMOS AGNASAGGA: Yeah, they would -- they would travel through here to get to Barrow. The same as around Barrow.
That's their migration path.
RON METZNER: Right. Right. How -- Okay. I just wondered if he could make some comments about Point Hope. The whales he's seen and where. And maybe how young they looked.
Any newborn or just older or -- ? That was one of my questions.
FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK:
AMOS AGNASAGGA: A lot of whales near Point Hope.
RON METZNER: Lots of young ones?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: Lots of young ones.
RON METZNER: Do they ever see them in the fall, or just in the -- just in the spring?
FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK:
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: Huh?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: That -- that tower is gone, too, in Icy Cape. It used to be way up inland.
RON METZNER: What tower?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: Well, there used to be a tower in Icy Cape. RON METZNER: Uh huh.
AMOS AGNASAGGA: And it's gone now.
RON METZNER: They would be -- they've moved or the storms took it or -- ?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: They're completely cut off. Been eaten by the high water.
RON METZNER: High water?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: At that that's eroded there. RON METZNER: Uh huh. Which --
AMOS AGNASAGGA: At Icy Cape.
RON METZNER: Uh huh. Which land's eroded? In from the coast or --?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: The point.
RON METZNER: The point?
FRANK AKPIK: Well, I know -- I didn't know this thing before. Point Hope got a long point before. It's gone now.
RON METZNER: Uh huh. When did that happen?
FRANK AKPIK: A long time ago. Maybe many years ago.
RON METZNER: When -- when?
FRANK AKPIK: Before he was born.
RON METZNER: It's from his father?
FRANK AKPIK: He heard through this story this point a long time ago. It's been there and washed away.
AMOS AGNASAGGA: He said that while that point was there, they used to do fall whaling.
RON METZNER: They used to whale?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: White whales in the falltime. When it was there.
RON METZNER: White whales?
FRANK AKPIK: Like up here in Barrow.
RON METZNER: Like in Barrow? Did -- does -- was it in his father's time that the point was wiped out? Or before then?
Did he -- ? This is a story he heard from his father?
FRANK AKPIK: That was a long time ago. This story from this -- A long time ago.
RON METZNER: Maybe his father's time? His grandfather's time?
FRANK AKPIK: He said the story is from his grandfather. RON METZNER: His grandfather's time.
FRANK AKPIK: A long time.
AMOS AGNASAGGA: Yeah, they've been going -- they've been getting a lot of --
FRANK AKPIK: I think we pretty much covered on this piece of paper here.
RON METZNER: Okay. That's good.
AMOS AGNASAGGA: I'm glad.
RON METZNER: Put two and a half hours.
AMOS AGNASAGGA: I got 12 o'clock.
RON METZNER: There's well -- Maybe we better --
Oh, has the weather changed? Are the storms not as -- or -- I've heard some old timers say things about the storms being a little different now.
What does he think the weather and the storms ? Are they the same as they've always been or are they worse now or not so bad now?
FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK:
AMOS AGNASAGGA: You guys want me to go ahead and start the machine, or --
AMOS AGNASAGGA: You guys want to see Edgar in the morning?
RON METZNER: Maybe in the morning?
AMOS AGNASAGGA: It won't take us long, because he's
RON METZNER: I hope that's okay.
FRANK AKPIK: The weather's getting bad.
RON METZNER: Now, it's bad?
FRANK AKPIK: Yeah, and it's bad now then all these years --
AMOS AGNASAGGA: He said, since he was a kid, it's getting worse.
RON METZNER: When -- like since 1912 it's worse? Or since, you know, like since when?
Like '70, 1970? Or 1960? Or --
FRANK AKPIK TO LEO ATTUNGOWRUK:
FRANK AKPIK: Yes, 19 what?
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: 1913.
FRANK AKPIK: Yes, 1913.
LEO ATTUNGOWRUK: 1970