Roy Ahmaogak was interviewed on July 13, 2008 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). Roy was also interviewed on June 24, 2009. In this interview, Roy talks about the ice conditions, trails, camp locations and whaling in Barrow during the 2008 spring season. He also talks about the 1997 ice break-off event in Barrow where many people had to be rescued from drifting ice, and the importance of listening to crew members who understand and observe the ice.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Sea Ice Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Jul 13, 2008
Narrator(s): Roy Ahmaogak
Interviewer(s): Matthew Druckenmiller
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Background about Matt Druckenmiller's research project
Trails to whaling camp used and shifting to different trails and locations
Ice breaking off close to shore
Reasons for crews locating to the north or to the south
Trail and travel routes and ice conditons
Rotting and slushy ice
A perfect spot for catching whales and dealing with uncertain ice conditions
Ice that brings the walrus in
Pulling back to safe ice
Ice break-off event of 1997 caused by high tide
More about multi-year ice
Ice conditions, wind and current during spring 2008 whaling season
Usefulness of trails maps and other products from sea ice research
More about 1997 break-off event
Hearing the crack of the ice
Importance of listening to people with traditional knowledge to save lives on the ice
Lessons learned from break-off event
Changes in the ice by season and learning to know the signs to watch for
Combining traditional knowledge and science
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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: This is an interview with Roy Ahmaogak in Barrow on July 13, 2008.
So, well, one thing I just wanted to show you which may explain why I’m asking some of these questions and why we want to do these interviews.
This is an example -- just an example of some of the data that we collected this year.
This is measuring ice thickness with a electromagnetic device which is basically very similar to a metal detector.
And this is -- in this segment here on the trail that ABC used, number 5, so. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Starting at the lead and going in about a mile, so somewhere along this area here. ROY AHMAOGAK: Alright.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And we had a really accurate GPS that gives us the surface of the ice and then our device detects the bottom of the ice. ROY AHMAOGAK: Uh-huh.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So we have data sets like this over nearly all of the trails. We didn’t make it to all of them, but almost all.
And so it enables us to see how the thickness varies.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And that’s from the shore to the ocean -- that’s --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, well, this here is the -- is the lead -- ROY AHMAOGAK: Okay.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: -- edge here and this is about a mile in. ROY AHMAOGAK: Oh, okay.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So if you look at the trail it's along this area here.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Oh, okay, yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And it’s -- one of the things that I think is interesting is when I show this to Arnold Brower, Sr., he said that there was a crack somewhere in here and that he thought that maybe this here was the crack.
And what this is -- this orange line, which you can’t see too well. ROY AHMAOGAK: Sea level.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Is actually the -- yeah, the sea level. ROY AHMAOGAK: Okay.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So the ice comes all the way up to the -- to sea level. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So -- so, we can see certain features in this.
And because we have this over a lot of these trails we want to get, you know, people who are on the ice, you know, their perspective on what conditions are like. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So -- so and I have a list of questions, but feel free to just talk about whatever you think's important.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So -- so which trails did your crew use this year and where?
ROY AHMAOGAK: At the beginning of our trail breaking we went where we were supposed to go down was past Monument.
This year and, you know, we waited -- we busted trail. We went down and we looked for places to try to get to the lead.
But, the lead being so far out we waited a few more days to see if it was going to break off closer to shore, which historically it does. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: For the last 12 years we've been going past Monument. The lead's been so close to shore. And for the first time in 12 years that did not occur.
This was the first year that -- we in the last 12 years we've been going down -- I mean before we used to go up past the hangar and hang up here for the last --
as long as I can remember we used to -- were just the north people. We were almost the either farthest north --
And after the ice kept coming in we just, ah, let’s go down south so we -- we started going south 12 years ago.
And we've been down south for the last 12 years. And this is the first year that it didn’t break off close to shore.
So we got tired of waiting and -- tired of waiting and everybody else was catching whales. And well, okay, let’s go back north. So we got permission to go to Arnold Sr.’s trail.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. So what date was it that you guys shifted up north?
ROY AHMAOGAK: If it was after the second whale, I think. I’m not sure what day that was. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Oh, okay.
ROY AHMAOGAK: It was after the second whale. In fact, we went and asked -- I personally went and asked Arnold, Sr. to go on his trail. And he granted us permission.
So we -- we went on his trail and we were just on the west of his camp. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: So that’s what we did. After we were frustrated this not opening up. For some reason it didn’t do that.
It always broke up close to shore down there. That’s why we kept going back there the last 12 years. Every year we’d go -- goes out.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: What do you think the reason was that that was breaking close to shore?
ROY AHMAOGAK: The reason it was breaking off or it didn’t break off?
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, both.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Well, strong currents, I believe, because we would see the current on the ice break off and it would go by so quick.
And the reason why we were always going down there is because that’s where the whale -- whales first hit was Monument and then head here.
We always wanted to be the western most crew, which we were for the last 12 years.
And we know that the current was always breaking off all the ice right here. And what we saw was -- it wasn’t really all that heavy from my perspective and we could look for flat spots and there was a few flat spots down here which we like.
And that’s the reason we ended up staying there until the second or -- the second whale was caught. Ah, these guys are catching whales, it's not going to break off so we ended up going to ABC’s trail. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And, you know, we stayed there for about a week and then the waves start breaking off most of the ice.
And we went on to number 2 after ABC abandoned their trail. Then they moved up on number 2.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So both crews moved up to number 2?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, well there was really three crews. George Ahmaogak, Lawrence Ahmaogak, and ABC. We all moved up between 2 and -- 1 and 2.
And that’s where if not all the crews that were out there they were situated between 1 and 2 this year.
And it was pretty solid what we looked at in this area, and that’s the majority of -- if not all the whales were caught this year that was pretty frustrating for almost two weeks from here to here.
It was just something that, you know, I thought it's going to be a regular year this year. And everybody going to want to go down south because we've been having pretty good success down here the last couple years and most of these crews that were up here moved down here.
All the crews that were north moved down here because you could see that these crews they were really the guys that were up here.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Last year?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. Well, the previous years before from what, you know, these guys that were always north they moved south, and now that we're all south we moved up north for some reason.
And you can probably figure that out from talking to some other people that yeah, we used to be north 10 years ago, but two years ago, you know, those kind of things and they say oh well they moved south.
And one particular crew or two really Harry Brower, Jr. and Eugene Brower. They used to be north people. Never missed. Last two years they've been moving south and they're going to head south, you know, just for some reason it's kind of switching around.
And what's going to happen is that next year and I won’t, you know, I won’t say for a fact, but like I said always going to go south are going -- well, I don’t know about this we’ll take a look. But we're going to always be south people and it's -- you know, we’ve got accustomed to and got comfortable with being at the south. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And these guys that are north people are slowly moving, and they’re moving south as well.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So just in general what makes someone or a crew one that traditionally goes to the north or to the south is it -- does every crew have different reasons or --?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Pretty much every crew has a different reason, you know. They get tired of the ice coming in from the north and closing up early and they have to pull ashore and then we’re down here and we got a lot of open water and we have no threat of the ice coming in.
Two days later, you know, then the ice -- We have two more extra days of whaling than these guys up north so --
What really happens is the ice goes like this and it kind of like does this, but we still have a lot of open water back here and that’s why we’re comfortable moving and staying at south.
These guys close up first and they're the ones that pull up and stay up -- stay up on shore all the time.
And we're down here having all the open water in the world. And that's why most people are doing that. They're moving from here. They're moving south because you don’t have the ice coming as quick.
And that's the reason why everybody's moving south is because you got more open water and ice doesn't come in as quick.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: You said this year that you didn’t think it was particularly heavy ice down here to the south, is that right?
ROY AHMAOGAK: We couldn’t tell between -- in this area because we couldn’t go further down, you know. We couldn’t tell how far -- how heavy this was. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And Richard being what he can read from the satellites, you know, all these other white things are the heavy thick ice and the brown one on the gray dark is the thin ice and stuff like that and he kind of went, ah, we better go a little bit further down.
So we kept going down further south, but, you know, we followed these flat spots which --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Do you guys actually build much of a trail or are you mainly just scouting the --
ROY AHMAOGAK: We -- we did both. We didn’t actually go down and build a trail. Go down and, you know, tried marking it and stuff like that and --
And we got tired of waiting we pull our sticks back and pull our markers back. And then move north.
Seen that Patkotak or Crawford Patkotak was down there also and he got tired of waiting, so he went and moved up to Jacob and them, so wherever Jacob’s trail is, you know. That’s probably right there.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Trail 7. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. So, well --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, I came down here at some point to map this trail because Lewis had spoken to you, I think. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: He said that you guys were down here and I --
I -- I went maybe a mile past Monument and didn’t see anything so I went back, but I thought I saw, you know, I -- my experience is very limited, but I -- just south of Naparuk I saw some pretty big ridges in here. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I don’t know if to you if they'd be considered that large, but --
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, there was, you know, we don’t usually travel on the ice. We travel from Barrow, go to the Freshwater Lake Road and go out into the Ice Road. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And then go to Monument on the pipeline trail and from there we go straight to the --
Unless we take the inland trail when we want to get the highway and go 60 miles an hour on the Rolagon trail and go from the end of the Gas Field house and then make it straight out to the beach. That's --
We never travel pretty much this one. It takes forever to go through the ice and stuff like that, but that's how we get from here to here was through the tundra and that’s --
that’s our, you know, our trail that goes from Barrow to the Monument was through the Rolagon trail.
And, you know, they always kept it plowed and smooth and you can go from Monument to Barrow in such a short time getting on that Rolagon trail, trail, so --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, when you guys moved up to the ABC trail, how did you find the conditions as the type of ice that it crossed?
ROY AHMAOGAK: It wasn’t any different than any other year, you know, just work hard to make a trail and put in your hard work to help fix up which we did.
We kind of helped them smooth it out and make it as level, but it wasn’t that any different than any other year.
Everybody got flat spots and they seemed to pick the spots with the big -- big ridges. Got to help make it smooth, so, you know.
I didn’t see anything that was unusual or different or other than, you know, just helping them fix up their trail, which, you know, everybody’s got to do if you want to get on or get on someone’s trail.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And the crews abandoned that trail for what reason when they went further to the north?
ROY AHMAOGAK: This trail?
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Number 5.
ROY AHMAOGAK: The only crews that were on -- on this trail was ABC and I don’t think anybody else was using it other than Savik crew and George Ahmaogak.
And for us moving from here to here was because the -- we had two days of real high winds and they were creating big waves and they started breaking off all this other stuff right here.
So that's the reason we moved from here to here is because the high winds and waves busted up all this right here and the current under -- under wash -- what do you call that -- it was eating up, making holes into the trail.
And we had high tide and it got real mushy and we didn’t want to stay down there. Excuse me?
UNIDENTIFED WOMAN: I have a favor to ask. I think people left without me. Can I borrow a phone, somebody's phone?
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, there's -- if you go in the library next door there's a phone in there or in the office across the hallway from the library.
UNIDENTIFED WOMAN: Sorry for disturbing --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: No problem.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And that's the reason we moved from ABC north was because of the -- the high tide came up and it created like mushy -- mushy snow, and you kept getting stuck and that made it unsafe and stuff like that.
And that's the reason we moved from there to there is because that the waves and the current had eaten up most of that ice that was out here.
You had what you call black holes, which was open water in the middle of the trail next to the trail and that's the reason we moved north.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And what's the reason that those holes weren’t found in the trails to the north?
ROY AHMAOGAK: I’m pretty sure that it was -- it -- it never probably froze over. It is just snow-covered water and we saw those over here in this flat area was just snow-covered water.
I mean just kept -- it didn’t free -- really freeze -- freeze over and that's why you don’t see -- see many people right here on this flat.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Between 5 and 7?
ROY AHMAOGAK: 5 and 7 is because there were a bunch of black holes in this area. And that's why nobody would venture between there is because bunch of black holes -- Snow-covered tops, that's what they call them.
They're just covered up with snow and it was safe to drive on and you wouldn’t know if -- if you were, you know, if you were driving and oh, it's pretty safe and we kept going,
and then until the high tide came up it exposed this puddles of water and stuff like that and you could see that it had melted kind of through and you could see the ocean.
And that's the reason we moved from 5 to 2, because we had a bunch of those black holes which -- which generally is open water. What actually we call them black holes.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Yeah. This is -- this is the satellite image. It's a little clear the trails on here, but that's early in the year that area you are talking about just must be all this stuff in here, huh?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: That real thin ice. Well did -- did this trail -- I don’t know who is that Gilbert Leavitt, did this trail actually ever get to the lead or did they abandon that, do you know?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Gilbert Leavitt -- they went and -- they went out to the --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: That trail did get out there?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, they did get out there. I mean they just -- they just stopped there. They just zoomed right down there and that's who our neighbors were was Gilbert Leavitt. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And they had a perfect spot on the -- on the point right there and we were envious of them and said those guys are going to catch a whale.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Did they?
ROY AHMAOGAK: No, but they had a perfect spot and they was the only crew that was the furthest out in the ocean. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Oh, okay.
ROY AHMAOGAK: They were the furthest out people. And we thought they would going to be the first ones to catch a whale. These guys were here. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: We thought for sure that these guys were going to -- I mean they had -- many opportunities to stay by the edge and nobody else was out.
These guys weren't out and these guys would have just -- had stayed out there and for some reason they didn’t. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Either they didn’t want to be out themselves or nobody was out -- or no one was out, you know. I don’t know what the reason was why they didn’t stay out there when everybody else was in, you know.
There were -- most of these crews down here were waiting for the fresh pile-up, what you call Muġaala. It’s that fresh ice that comes in and stays attached, but doesn’t break off when -- when the currents, you know, it's just fresh formed ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And that’s the reason most people were hesitating to go out there and make their cache because we had a fresh layer of just formed pushed ice from the ocean.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And they were waiting for that to --
ROY AHMAOGAK: They were waiting for that to go out and these guys were already -- firstly at the end, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: I don’t understand -- I didn’t understand why they didn’t -- while everybody else was waiting for all this to break off along the edge, you know.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: But did that stuff eventually break off?
ROY AHMAOGAK: It eventually broke off.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: They were catching the crew -- whales were -- most of the majority of the first five or six --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Trail number 8? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: That was Eugene Brower?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Eugene Brower, Jacob Adams. Those other people that were, you know, those guys. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Were catching whales. And the other guys that were catching whales were here -- Luther Leavitt, ABC, and Herman Ahsoak and they were generating two -- two and three. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Panigeo's were here. Herman Ahsoak. And they eventually moved south between 2 and 3. Yeah, 2 and 3, I’m sorry.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: So, for some reason I didn’t really understand that why they -- why aren’t you guys out there, you know.
We met them down there, and said, "How come you guys aren't down here?" "Oh, we’re waiting -- we’re waiting." "What are you guys waiting for man? Go take your boat down."
And evidently there was one of the captains had passed away, Marchie Nageak, and so they kinda didn’t want to go out whaling while -- they didn’t have the funeral yet and I can understand that.
They -- they had the best spot out of everybody out of my point of view. They had the best spot.
They had picked and made a perfect -- I would consider a prime spot.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Because they -- they’re at a point?
ROY AHMAOGAK: They're at a point and they're further out. I mean they can see -- they can see south. They can see north. They can see just about everything. Everything that was in view that day, this was the spot. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: I was envious of that spot. All that work, but they had the best spot. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Because it was at a point and it was heavy -- real heavy thick ice they had gotten on.
And for sure I thought they were going to catch a whale because they were at a perfect spot.
Every person -- every captain looks for a spot like that and that’s what these guys had, too. I don’t know if anybody else made notes about that, but this was a perfect spot to be at.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, I haven’t talked to Gilbert Leavitt.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. Those guys that are either outside of 'em will tell you that. They had a perfect spot. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Guys that were south, you know, they were waiting for this stuff to break off and it was just ice that just coming in --piled up and then stayed.
I mean you -- you only had 300 feet of it -- 200 feet in some spots -- not very much, you know.
But that stuff that formed there it's just like popcorn ice. Just piled up -- slush that's just come in and, you know, it's not heavy it's just like slush, but it froze over and --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: What’s the word for that?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Muġaala.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Muġaala.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Muġaala. So that's what it's -- It's just -- you have the lead --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Can you write that down?
ROY AHMAOGAK: I have no idea how to spell that. It's just that --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, your guess would be better than mine. At least I can --
ROY AHMAOGAK: Ma -- wal -- O-L --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I asked Louis how to spell this once, and he didn’t know either.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Oh, yeah. I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t -- I wouldn't even -- how it's called that Muġaala.
Slushy, young ice attached to -- attached to the Tuvaq. That's all it is.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: So then, you know, then we had the winds that tore this whole thing apart -- I mean clear past Gilbert’s and it took all that out. I mean Gilbert’s spot was no longer safe.
And all that came off and so everybody that was here moved up north. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: That’s what -- that’s where everybody moved to. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Well, some crews stayed down here. Oliver Leavitt and those guys, Jacob’s trail, Jonathan’s trail ,
but -- and the wind and the current does many things to ice and, you know, you think you’re on solid ice and once winds and the currents take control of you -- it changes everything. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. ROY AHMAOGAK: So.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And did you guys have any Piqaluyak this year?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Ah, the only heavy ice that we saw was at Gilbert Leavitt's, but there was no Piqaluyak that we saw. I mean it was just heavy thick ice, but I don’t know if that's what we standing on.
It looked like Piqaluyak, but there was no Piqaluyak that we saw. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: This year. And well, last year. In fact, last year this is the northernmost part where Aveoganna and them were. They were on Piqaluyak.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Last year?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, last year, but this year we didn’t see any Piqaluyak this year. Zero.
Everybody brought their own little just the water from, you know, UIC distilled water and that's how we got our water.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And this stuff that's out here now that got brought in that’s -- what do you call that?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Um.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: You -- you know what I’m talking about? That stuff that's just out there now that seemed to have been brought in recently.
I just noticed it when I -- when I arrived last week.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, well, you know, if -- if we were to go and -- go boat out right now and look for Piqaluyak, you ain’t going to find any, I mean.
There's just -- no matter how hard we look we’re not going to find any. I --
Even if it does show up, we’ll be surprised. I mean I would be surprised if we got Piqaluyak.
And that's the first thing we always look for.
We've been going out boating a couple times, you know, since the ice went out. The last part of June we went out boating for a day and we didn’t see any Piqaluyak down when we went as far as -- we were with a boat that went past Monument this year and that was the last part of June and it all came back in.
And I have to say this Piqaluyak, there's no more -- I -- we haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen any.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: What’s your -- what does this -- when this ice comes back in like in July and all this stuff out here, is that -- is that something that people like to see?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, they like to see that ice come back in. No matter how much you want the ice to go out because once this old ice comes off that breaks off then it goes out then it comes back in.
And that’s when -- we know that the walrus and, you know, walrus come in.
When the ice goes out and when it comes back in for some reason it brings in the walrus. It's because the ice is moving from the south to north and it brings in the walrus.
Once we see that ice goes out and then we know it's going to come back in that's when the walrus appear. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: It happens all the times. And once all the shore ice breaks off and it goes out, it brings in which we say the walrus and stuff.
And that’s how we know that once the ice goes out and it comes back in that’s when the walrus come. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: You know, they're just floating by and that’s how we know that there's going to be walrus out there.
I don’t know how, but for some reason there's all the ice going out and now the walrus are coming because,
you know, it just comes this way and once we see that ice we know that we're going out and catch walrus.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Have people been out there recently getting walrus or not yet?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Not yet. I haven’t heard of anybody has caught any yet. And if someone did, they would have, you know, sound the alarm. And nothing yet, so --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, did you guys have to -- when you were there -- had on -- ABC’s trail or when you were up here further, do you ever have to pull back because of unsafe conditions this year?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Other than when the high winds were at ABC trail is when we kind of pulled up waiting for the wind to die down.
That's the only time that we had to pull up this year was at ABC, because of high winds and rough water. And that’s the only time this year.
I mean we didn’t have any problems over here at number 2, between 2 and 3. There was no need for alarm on this area. But that’s the only time we had -- was to pull up was the two days of high winds back here. It’s the only time we pulled up.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And when you did that how -- was there a designated spot that you had back -- ?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, we got kind of close to shore. ABC had their's further out from the ocean, but historically we put our's closest to the beach as possible. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Because I think it was 1986 or I forgot -- I forgot what year it was -- ’90 -- ’97 -- I think it was ’98.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Oh, when that -- all those crews --
ROY AHMAOGAK: All those crews got drifted out. And we were further out here. And I warned our crew. I said, "Let’s pack our stuff. Let’s go."
And we had a confrontation, Richard and me. "No, we’re going to stay," Richard said that. We’re going to stay.
And because I was brought up -- taught by some of the oldest guys that knew the ice. They’re -- they weren’t captains. They weren’t co-captains, but they were the old guys that knew everything. They had knowledge. And those are the guys that taught me.
But the guys that got drifted out, which I call are the "boarding school captains," they went to boarding school down south. They went and got their education.
So they didn’t grow up as I did knowing stuff that they should have known when they were my -- when I was in elementary and junior high and high school. I was taught all that stuff, but these guys weren’t. These "boarding school captains."
I call them "boarding school captains," because they weren’t taught, you know, the springtime things and things to look out for.
And they’re the ones that got drifted out, which I call the "boarding school captains." Their crews they got all drifted out.
And me and Richard had a confrontation. I said, "Let’s go, Richard. We got to pack up our stuff. It’s getting bad out here." I didn’t tell him that there was cracked -- water in the cracks which is high tide, you know. It was just my own personal visual.
When I go down there I look for certain things like the high tide and there's water in the crack I know it's high tide.
And I said, "Let’s go, Richard. Let’s pack up and go." "Oh, we’re going to stay."
"Okay, anybody wants to go ashore, let’s go." I brought my two sons home with me and two other crew members.
Richard and two of our guys stayed. And we came ashore. An hour later that thing busted off. It just takes everybody.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Was that -- was that old ice that people were on?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, that was old ice that people were on. And it was something that my dad asked me why are you -- why did you guys come ashore? I said it's not getting safe out there.
So he got his jacket and his warm stuff and he went down. My dad went down to be with Richard on the -- as soon as my dad got down there it busted off.
All the whole ice just panic. Just --Something that no matter how much people are educated whether they’re in college or, you know, if they’ve had a high school diploma not until you get traditional knowledge about current and high tide and stuff like that,
you know, if only people would learn to listen than they would have probably saved all their stuff which we were glad nobody lost anything. Not a life was lost. None of their hunting gear was lost because of, you know, search and rescue.
You know I tried to tell Richard and I called on the radio. I called my dad’s place. I said, we’re packing up to go Tuluq go ashore.
And, you know, I called crews down -- down from us. I said, "You want to pack up and go" cause I -- I told Richard, I says, we’re going to go ashore. We're going to go and wait.
Oh, no, they’re catching whales out here. We’re going to stay. Anyway, that’s, you know, one thing that about tradition law it’s about ice and the ocean and small things that appear that nobody can see. And Richard didn’t know that.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: It was the high tide that --
ROY AHMAOGAK: It was high tide.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: -- that made you want to leave?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. It was because there was water in the cracks that I had seen that I didn’t notice before cause those kind of small things you have to watch out for. If there's a crack. There's no water.
But, I don't know when you see cracks and it's filling up with water then you know it's getting high tide and that’s -- it gets dangerous. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: There's a difference between water in the cracks at certain times of the spring. Like at the beginning of the spring it's glued in solid.
But and -- and towards late springs it’s -- it’s already lost its glue. But at the beginning of spring when it's real cold, March, that glue is stuck.
And, you know, and it starts getting warmer and warmer and it's lost its bond. And Richard always asked me there’s high tide look we better be careful. I said no, it’s still frozen. It's -- it's -- You know, it hasn’t lost its bond.
And he comes to realize that there's a difference between early spring and later spring.
You know, the late spring loses its glue and at the beginning of this spring he says there's water in the crack already.
No way, it's still cold yet. It hasn’t lost its adhesiveness.
And, you know, Richard's going to learn. He's gonna -- gonna learn the hard -- it only took him the hard way to learn, you know.
If someone tells you to do something simple that at least go and wait. It doesn’t hurt to wait and that’s what we tried doing this year down south was to wait.
And it never broke off down south. We were kind of disappointed in a sense, you know. We were kind of disappointed in -- down here past Monument. Historically, it always broke off down south.
Closest to the shore as possibly you can, possibly get. A quarter mile in some places and this year -- this year I have no conceivable notion why it didn’t phish. I don’t -- and I couldn’t even answer why. I don’t know.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. I have one question about -- it relates to that -- that break out back in ’97 cause I’ve -- I’ve heard people tell stories about that before and I -- I still don’t understand if --
I mean, I understand that Piqaluyak in the shorefast ice provides stability because it's big heavy ice, but do you want to be near it or on it when you’re whaling? Cause I have heard some people say that it's more brittle and it'll shift.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And it's like glass.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: But other times I’ve heard people say that if you get drifted out if you’re on multi-year ice that’s good because you can drink it.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And you don’t have to --
ROY AHMAOGAK: It's just that there's different sides of opinions on the Piqaluyak. And most people love Piqaluyak no matter if -- if you’re close to it or by it. If you can get to Piqaluyak, go to Piqaluyak. And most people do that.
And we would love -- if there was Piqaluyak, we would have liked to have stayed by the Piqaluyak. Cause those old people tell us that in the sun and everything else hits the Piqaluyak, it kind of does a glow on the water. It kind of gives a light.
I don’t know why they say that because it kind of reflects like a glow on the water. They always told us if you’re going to go -- go out whaling find Piqaluyak and stay by the Piqaluyak.
And that’s, you know, that’s -- we always like to have done was find Piqaluyak. And we didn't do that this year.
It would've been great if there was, you know, that multi-year ice and even if it is brittle you still have a lot of other places to go in that general vicinity.
Just because there's no Piqaluyak doesn’t mean that, you know, if there was then we would all have been by Piqaluyak.
You always have traffic. If you find Piqaluyak, you’ll always have traffic there no matter how much. And if there's a Piqaluyak smack right here at the Point, everybody would've been close to that area.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, then just to clarify on -- on down here around the edge by trails 2 and 3, this didn’t have any of this Muġaala? ROY AHMAOGAK: Muġaala? MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Muġaala.
ROY AHMAOGAK: No, that -- that didn’t have any of that this year. In fact, I don’t think there was any of that as far as you can see down south. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: But it's because maybe you had all that heavy ice coming in and taking it away or the currents, but that didn’t have that this year.
I mean it always, you know, they had some down here and these guys never went out till -- they were waiting for it to go out, you know. You can see that it’s -- this stuff right here you could see the line.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Yeah, you can -- .
ROY AHMAOGAK: It didn’t have that this year. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Hum.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Up here.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. And so the conditions at the edge up here to the north were pretty good?
ROY AHMAOGAK: They were pretty good and, in fact, pretty excellent.
These guys found a good spot. They're the ones that kept their mouth shut through this year, you know. Like they didn’t want anybody to know that they had a good spot. I don’t know, but they had some pretty good spots.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And the whales were passing by there, too?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. In fact, the last of the -- the end of the season that’s where -- if not all of the whales were caught between 2 and 3.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So was there anything this year unusual or important with the winds and the currents? I mean you mentioned that typically you expect the currents to -- to break off down here, but it didn’t this year.
Is there anything else with the currents that was important this year or the winds?
ROY AHMAOGAK: No. I’m trying to think back when we -- when we first started to break trail end of March, you know, we didn’t have any strong winds that I know that kept us from going out.
Other than that two days that we had up here. Those are the only two days of wind that -- that we had encountered.
And anything unusual? No, other than this part down here. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Being five, six miles out. It's depressing. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: It's depressing. It's just totally depressing. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Other than that, nothing unusual about the wind and currents. Other than that being the only problem we had was that.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, and I wanted to ask you a question too about this product. I mean, I said that our project is trying to -- well because, you know, right now I’m speaking with you and you're sharing a lot of stuff, so we want to try to provide something that's useful to the community.
And so do you have any suggestions on either how to improve this or change anything or even if it's something that's separate from this map? Then we could do --
ROY AHMAOGAK: This -- this -- in the concept at the beginning is useful. It helped the community in the sense that where people are located and, you know, they don’t have to get on the VHF to say well where is your trail by or they just -- they just get a copy of this and take home or look it up on the computer and they said okay they’re down here or they are up here. Then --
This is a useful concept. It is -- it’s -- it’s helped out the community and helped out individuals like us.
Visual -- visual aid, you know, satellite imagery. It's useful. It helps out in a way and we hope that it does continue.
I mean we can go to modus and beta ms and look up this whole Goggle Earth kind of thing on the computer. And to have someone dedicate their time to do every little detail of trail and stuff like that is -- it’s helpful. I mean it doesn’t any -- doesn’t show any negative impact.
There's nothing that, you know, nothing that hurt our whaling in a sense. It enhance -- it, you know, in a sense it works -- it works at the best possible way.
That it's a tool that both, you know, the community and the scientific community are working together and that’s the positive thing. There's nothing negative that I can say about this project.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Okay. ROY AHMAOGAK: Nothing, I mean. It's just something that if it does keep occurring and, you know, it's helpful.
There's nothing negative and nothing negative that is going to impact the community. It's not going to stop my whaling. It's not going to stop us from catching whales. In fact, it -- it’s a very useful project. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: It's something that -- they ran out of copies at Rescue Base on the third day, and I guess they had to make some more copies.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And is it -- is it useful? It's very useful. It's something that we’re hoping to look again springtime right before spring comes. I mean,
you know, right before everybody gets on their -- to go south to go out and pitch their tent. They're going to be looking at -- waiting for you to come out with us. That's what they're going to do.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I'll be up here next year. ROY AHMAOGAK: And --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And what about something like this?
This year I wanted to get this out as well because I thought it might be interesting, but it actually it takes -- I had to learn actually how to do this. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: It was a learning process for me this year, but next year I would like to try to get some of this information out as well.
I don’t know if this is something that people would be interested to see.
ROY AHMAOGAK: That’s -- I mean that’s useful even if it is in the scientific terms. If you can just show it into the, you know, the --
As a whaler I can’t -- I can't really tell you guys -- If I was to saw that, even if I just -- even if that wasn’t there. I couldn’t tell you what that was, but if that was to show that in simple -- simpler terms.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: A little bit clearer.
ROY AHMAOGAK: A little bit clearer. You can see thickness right here, you know, how thick this is. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And those kind of things. Just because you can say that it's, you know, how thick it is in feet, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Six feet, ten feet. Other than thickness of ice, you can say that. From here this is how -- how high the ice is from here to there and that’s how high and this one from below it is, you know, thicker.
In layman terms if you were to show it graphically that this shows you the thickness from the ocean just to a mile. Why can’t you go further over this way, you know?
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh, but I will. This is just kind of a example. Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: But in simpler layman’s terms. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: That I or someone else, you know, that can understand that, you know. This is just in the -- your -- your -- you know, your terms. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: You can read that just by showing it to somebody that's in the scientific community, I know that -- But it's more simpler, you know, something that we can like.
Without even having to ask questions so, you know, how thick it is -- how many feet.
If you didn't tell me where this was like I could say okay that’s the how thick it is in some places and some areas it's just like four feet, you know.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Okay. Well, that’s helpful.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. Yeah. Simpler terms than just -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And not to be in scientific, you know, in scientific terms.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Now, that makes sense.
I think we covered every -- all the points that I wanted to ask you about.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And going back to that break off. We would have been the only crew out of the whole ocean if Richard was to say okay let’s go.
You know, if we had just pulled off. If Richard had listened to me that day. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: If we had pulled up our stuff, we would have been the only crew that never got drifted out.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Oh so almost -- almost every crew, huh?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Almost every crew, except for the -- I think it was three other crews that had already caught whales that came ashore and gave up whaling because they had landed a whale already.
But there was quite a few -- 170, 160 some people something like that. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Got airlifted out. If we -- if Richard had said okay, fine, let’s go, we would have been the only crew -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: That day that would have never got rescued. But I didn’t want to argue and make a ruckus.
Fine, everybody that wants to stay, stay. Everybody that wants to go home, let’s go.
So we gassed up and I told him we'll be back here in the next day or so.
That’s the only time that Richard has ever questioned the intell -- of up here -- my -- my intelligence on the ice information.
And from that day on -- from that day after that he's got -- okay, Roy, what are we going to do next? You know, those kind of thing that -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: It was a wakeup call for him. He had a lot to learn in one day, then I have all my life out on the ice.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I can imagine that would be a huge learning experience.
ROY AHMAOGAK: When you put people’s lives in danger, when you have those kinds of situations, you know, when they got airlifted out from -- from out there 30 miles east when they got airlifted out back to Barrow.
I mean, I was so angry at Richard and our other guy Joe Okakak, you know. I said look what you, you know, it was just my frustration and I had to let it out because you do not -- you do not people’s lives in danger.
And, you know, we could have saved just about everybody if they had listened to what I had said that day. I said, "We’re going to go ashore. We’re packing up our stuff. We're going ashore right now because it's getting too dangerous out here."
And they didn’t heed that warning and I with my two sons and two other of my crew members we came ashore that day.
Everybody else was down there whaling. Everybody else was doing their normal thing.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And then your father went out?
ROY AHMAOGAK: And then my dad realized that there was only three of them down at the ice, so he went down. He didn’t want those guys to feel like they were left out.
And I told him, I said, I want to go back down and he says I got to wait for that current to slow down because I had seen a bunch of ice come out from under the ice --
loose ice was coming out and I said, oh, Richard, we got to go, look.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: You mean that stuff that kind of comes out. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And pops up?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. And I told Richard, holy smokes we better get going. Let’s pack and go. And Po Brower had just struck and landed. I don’t think they landed, but they were towing. They were towing a whale.
And that what was our little argument about it was that all whales going by, want to stay.
And that day, you know, we could have saved just about, if not everybody if they had heeded just -- one person’s call. Because I was taught by some of the most respected -- most -- people that have no say in a crew but they grew up on the ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Fred Okpeaha. He was Gilford -- Clifford’s uncle, Clifford Okpeaha. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: His uncles. They were all whalers all their lives. So they’re the ones that taught me about certain things and to look out. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And those kind of old people that -- you don’t have those guys around anymore. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Those guys with the full knowledge of the ocean, the ice. Those guys are long gone, but they passed on some of their knowledge, but not all of it. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And that knowledge they gave me when I was growing up saved myself and my sons and two of my crew members.
Cause I had heeded the warning signs. I visually looked at signs and, you know, sense of danger was there.
And the reason that to this day we've never got rescued other than Richard and two other guys -- three other guys in our crew. And the whole community was in fact was rescued.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I was just -- there was that -- I don’t know if you’ve ever seen that article that was written by Craig George about that.
ROY AHMAOGAK: I don’t know if I read that or not.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: But it -- Yeah, I mean it's pretty amazing. I guess it ended up being a good story that everybody was -- ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: What -- what’s your father’s name?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Lawrence Ahmaogak. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Lawrence.
ROY AHMAOGAK: You know, I mean I gave them -- Richard and our other crew member an earful that day once they got back to the house.
How dare you put peoples and lives in danger was my first words to come out of my mouth, you know.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: How long did it take them to get rescued?
ROY AHMAOGAK: It took them a while. They got drifted out about eight o’clock. They didn’t come home until like two thirty, two thirty in the morning. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Hum.
ROY AHMAOGAK: So they were out there on that floating ice for what seemed like forever. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: You know, they got drifted out by eight o’clock. They got drifted out. We had come ashore by seven o’clock.
I got my sons home. I didn’t want them to be out there. By seven we had come ashore. By eight o’clock, down there you can hear the crack as loud as you can possibly hear a crack.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Oh, you heard it?
ROY AHMAOGAK: People that were out there heard that crack. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Hum.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And people all down closer to shore heard the crack. I mean that’s how loud it was. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Really loud. It’s loud. I mean, those guys were at the edge of the ocean knew there was a humongous crack. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Hum.
ROY AHMAOGAK: That's what I alerted them at the beginning. So they got on the VHF, said no it's that big loud sound -- crack.
Sure enough everybody's drifting out. So once you hear the crack loud, it's loud. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: It's not like a silent thing, but it's loud enough for people to hear it four miles away. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. ROY AHMAOGAK: You know.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: A lot of energy just getting released, huh?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Four miles from the edge of the ocean. That’s how far from the edge of the ocean, four miles from the shore, plus an additional three-quarters of a mile from the shore. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: People on the ocean heard it just as loud as the people that are on the shore. That’s how loud it was.
And it’s loud, I mean, for them to get on the VHF saying what’s that big loud crack -- loud sound that they heard?
And so they went to go check and sure enough they were all drifting out. I mean it was quick. It was fast.
It was quick, you know, no possible way of them getting off the ice, even if they tried. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: It was just so fast. It was --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, it was only skin boats out there? ROY AHMAOGAK: Two or three skin boats, aluminum boats, snowmachines.
It's just that you can’t travel across moving ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: No.
ROY AHMAOGAK: There's no possible way you can cross over.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And that ice then drifted out and then over (inaudible)?
ROY AHMAOGAK: What we've come to understand was that it just -- from as far south close to Peard Bay was -- it just went like that.
I mean it didn’t show any of going like this, but it was just kind of like straight out. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And once that high tide busted that crack I mean it just would -- just took off.
I mean, if any of it was rubbing, there's no possible way you can safely cross because the danger of falling in. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And it was a hectic 24 hours to find out where our stuff was. How far it got drifted out.
Some of these people got to learn to understand that, you know, people that have knowledge of certain things and they come to realize they --
They’re learning and it's going to take somehow for them to learn, you know, whether it's by experience or something tragic like that. It was a tragic time -- time that year. It was pretty bad.
I mean, people scared whether or not anybody lost their lives, you know, those kinds of things. But they kind of worked together and pulled together and got everybody accounted for. And they all -- they all came home.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Well, it must have been a lot of people that learned a lot that day, huh?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. If we had -- if people had just learned to listen to one person, you know. They’re ringing the bell, they're sounding the alarm. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: But what I call the "boarding school captains." Oh, he doesn’t know what he's talking about. He doesn’t know what he's thinking. He don’t know what he's talking about.
But those kind of things you don’t learn to, you know, question even though they’re captains. You know, I’m just a crew member. I’m not a captain, but I got knowledge.
You know, I got knowledge. But it takes something like that. We could have been the only crew that came ashore -- could have been the only crew.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Who was the captain of this other crew now?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Lawrence.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Oh, your father?
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, my dad, so. So, it would've been something that day. Could've been like "let's go listen to those guys at Savik crew. They’re the ones that saved our butts last year. We might as well as listen to those crews." But there're some people that are -- are taking account of what they had heard that day. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: That someone spoke up about that. And some people realize that there's knowledge around that, you know, when they listen to it.
People like our crew they -- they take notice. They said yeah, Savik's crew's going ashore, we might as well go ashore, too. You know those kind of things -- small things.
They never forget. They, you know, they never forget about ’97.
And people are leery these days because they don’t want the same thing happen again. They don’t want that to happen again because the majority of those guys got drifted out.
They’re --they're being cautious as ever -- as ever as they were before, you know. They’re not gun hoe -- go down and stay down. You know they want to see and wait game on.
Same thing wind, currents, those kind of things. It's not like -- they’re cautious as ever now, you know, but everybody came home.
That’s one thing -- good thing about that day was that everybody came home and they never lost a life. That’s -- you can lose everything else. You can lose your skin boat, your whaling gun, darting guns, you can lose all those, but those can be replaced. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: But you do not replace lives and you do not replace knowledge. If those are lost, then you’re in deep trouble.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. All right, I appreciate you taking the time today to talk to me. It's -- this is the fourth interview I’ve done this week and I've learned a lot.
I mean really I’m not just saying that. It's -- I mean, I’m a student at UAF studying sea ice and I learn a lot more when I’m up here about sea ice than in the classroom back in UAF. I really appreciate it.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Richard and I were talking a bunch of other guys he -- you know, professors and stuff like that -- he went to college in Fairbanks. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: He got his degree from UAF, I think. But he was talking about those professors in Fairbanks that he talks about once in a while.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Well some of them I know are still there. I think Lew Shapiro.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Lew Shapiro, yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Was the one that Richard worked with a lot. He's still there. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: He's -- he's retired, but he still is there a little bit. And then I don’t know -- I don’t know if Hajo was there when Richard was there?
ROY AHMAOGAK: I don’t know.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Because they're about the same age and I think Hajo was -- came after Richard maybe. I’m not sure.
ROY AHMAOGAK: I remember one thing we were grateful that year was that never again -- never again will that ever happen to anybody else about getting drifted out. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: They're going -- they're not going to let it happen again.
Everybody's more in tune to certain warning signs. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: So, you know, it was kind of little red flags occur. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: That they report every so often that, you know, small things like that -- high tide, those kind of things. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: So never again. I don’t think that everybody -- anybody's going to get drifted out again. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: So, we’ve got more what you call intelligence from computers now. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: When we get a low pressure from south Kotzebue Sound, it comes blazing through here. And that's what occurred. Was that storm come from Kotzebue Sound had come blazing through, up past Point Hope, up past Point Lay, but it brought in all the water.
Flooded this whole area. And that's how we got that break-off that year was that storm from the south.
A low pressure had come blazing right through Kotzebue, Point Hope, Point Lay.
Get that -- all that water gushing up and that's how it had broken off. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: So, we have that right now that information at an instant. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Hook up the computer, Internet, take a look at the sea ice, the weather, those kind of things that we're getting accustomed to is particular as to the weather. Go to the computer.
It's the one thing that we’ve -- we kind of look out is for the storms that come up from Kotzebue, Point Hope. That floods this whole area.
And that's what happened that year was that storm had surged all the water through and took that ice away.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, you can see it in the cracks, but could you also notice it at the lead? Or is it hard to see?
ROY AHMAOGAK: More -- more at a sense between the lead and the shore. You get more of the water at shore than you do down here. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Because it --
ROY AHMAOGAK: Some people say that you can feel the ice go up and go down, but, you know, I’ve never -- at the edge. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Maybe we’re just not conscientious of how the ice is going like this -- like now.
It's more at the edge that you realize high tide. And further out you go is, you know, there's water in the cracks. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: And that’s where we look for -- for water in the cracks. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: When you’re driving to the edge -- when you’re driving on one of these trails you see a crack, you take a quick peek. Is there water -- no water?
You just keep going. That’s a split second information that you pick up real quick. No water -- just keep going. Just kind of small things. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: So and the time of the year. How late in the season or how early in the season is that glue in the crack is bonded still. It hasn’t been busted yet. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: So that’s one thing that the old guys were telling me. It's still frozen. It hasn’t separated yet. That glue hasn’t --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: But when do you consider -- what’s late in the season?
ROY AHMAOGAK: First part of May. First warm spell which we -- we call first warm spell when it starts getting warm. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: You don’t need the kerosene heaters on or those kind of things at night cause it's so cold you got to turn the kerosene lantern.
But the first warm spell which we call -- the first warm spell is when we know that okay it's starting to warm up now that -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Everything changes.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, that bond is about to get busted. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: That’s what we call, you know, those kind of red flags. A warm spell's coming up and it's getting warm, getting too warm. Those kind of things. Those simple little red flags.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: That makes a lot of sense. We, you know, we at our little site that we have out here off Niksiuraq, we look at the changes of sea level, but it's nice to hear actually why it's so important.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Only person we, you know, we always kind of encourage scientists to kind of like --
I mean, we can tell before you guys go and check your data I said oh there's high tide already. We know that it's high tide before you guys go check your thing just by -- just by going to the edge. Those kind of small things. It's small --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, well I -- I believe you -- cause today or not today -- this year we -- I was out with Joe Leavitt and he saw water close to the beach on the ice that wasn’t there in the morning.
He said the sea level went up and sure enough, you know, it did. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Before we ever realized it in our data.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. Those are what you call red flags that, you know, people that -- those are the observant people that are, you know, there's water along the edge or water in the cracks.
Those are what we kind of keep an eye out for is those red flags. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: So, yeah, those kind of things will show up before -- useful information it confirms, you know, what's already been seen. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: It’s helpful. All this stuff right here is pretty helpful.
And we kind of look at the satellite imagery like this to go find out okay let’s go look for somebody down south back here -- how much flat spot there is. How much pile up there is because we couldn’t go from here and there in between cause it's so jagged and stuff like that. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.
ROY AHMAOGAK: So, useful information. It's good.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I’m glad. I’m glad because it'll continue next year. Yeah, certainly none of this stuff was my idea, but I’m happy to be a part of it. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: It’s enjoyable and I’m learning a lot. But I don’t remember whose -- if it was Craig George or Harry Brower that decided to do this, but it's nice to be a part of it. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, thanks for answering all my questions.
ROY AHMAOGAK: All right man.
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Good to finally meet you. I’ve heard your name many times.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. Well, I got to get going. Nice to meet you. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: I hope to see you again and --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, I’m sure you will.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Don’t be afraid to track Lewis down if there's any other kind of information. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.
ROY AHMAOGAK: Even if it's minute or something that bothers you or something like that just -- do you recall or those kind of things that --
MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. One of the things that I want to do is --