Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Thomas Brower, III, Interview 2

Thomas "Tommy" Brower, III was interviewed on June 29, 2009 by Matthew Druckenmiller in Barrow, Alaska. This interview was part of Matthew's research for a Ph.D. in Snow, Ice and Permafrost Geophysics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. For his project, he mapped the trails built by whalers to their camps at the edge of the sea ice and talked with local residents about ice conditions, whale camps, and trail building. Results of his research can be found in his dissertation Alaska Shorefast Ice: Interfacing Geophysics With Local Sea Ice Knowledge and Use (2011). In this interview, Tommy talks about the ice conditions, trails, camp locations and whaling in Barrow during the 2009 spring season.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-25-19

Project: Sea Ice Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Jun 29, 2009
Narrator(s): Thomas Brower, III
Interviewer(s): Matthew Druckenmiller
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
North Pacific Research Board
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
Slideshow
There is no slideshow for this person.

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

Sections

Leaving the ice early in spring whaling season

Building trail to whaling camp

Choosing whaling camp location, and deterioration of ice on the trail

Warm water degrading ice from below

Ice break off and thin ice

Slush ice and open water, and taking risk

Start of season and breaking a trail that is smooth and wide for easy traveling

Effect of current on ice conditions

Lack of open water in spring whaling season

Deciding when ice is unsafe and dealing with strong current

Differences in conditions when went out whaling with his grandfather, and climate change

Effect of large number of whaling crews on the ice and choice of whaling camp location

Choosing whaling camp location

Multi-year ice (Piqaluyak)

Old bowhead whales

Changes in whaling practices due to changing ice conditions

Changes in ice conditions

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Transcript

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So you guys -- you said you were --

THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah, we were the furthest crew out in the west. The west side of Barrow. We were the furthest crew out.

Our captain is James Tukle , call him Quliaq and the co-captain is .

I was out for a month and I figured we'd have a good time out there, but it was very unusual spring.

And we had that early thaw and then it froze back and then thaw out again. The ice was just totally shot. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And I didn’t want -- we didn’t want to take a risk of losing any people or machines or equipment, so we left the ice early this year.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Which date was that? Do you recall?

THOMAS BROWER III: You mean this spring?

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, when you guys pulled off?

THOMAS BROWER III: Probably May -- May 24 is when we left. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. THOMAS BROWER III: When we came back ashore.

That’s the worse season -- worse season I've ever seen, you know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: When did you guys put this trail in?

THOMAS BROWER III: Not this one. This one here. We started with Harry Brower, Jr., Eugene Brower, and it was a number of crews.

We all four start picking this -- the main heavy trail right here.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And we helped them break trail out here and after that we stopped -- we broke away from the rest of the crews, started heading out that way.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Oh, okay.

THOMAS BROWER III: Because we didn’t want to see too big a crowd in the area. We wanted to keep more like a more spread out a little bit.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Hm mm. THOMAS BROWER III: So --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Was this trail safer earlier in the year when you guys --

THOMAS BROWER III: Oh, yeah. It took us. We was breaking the trail for five weeks. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And like I say we only stayed there two days and we left. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And we left after Eugene Brower, Harry Brower, Jr., after they pulled out.

Usually they pull out by a -- by their father’s in May. Probably the third or fourth week of May usually they pull out, and we try to stay out as far as long as we can, but our trail got really shot up and everything because there was holes on the ice.

And we just didn’t want to take a chance of losing life or equipment, so we just left early.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: We could have gone out anywhere else, but they always like to go out west, you know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Do you typically try to go down here?

THOMAS BROWER III: Yep. Uh-huh. Sometimes in the past I’ve gone -- we’ve gone further out from Monument, you know. I know we was close in between Napauraq and Monument somewhere around here.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. Why is it that you typically go down there? Is it --

THOMAS BROWER III: Well, it's sometimes it depends on the ice conditions because when we were breaking trail this year it was good ice,

but when that early thaw happened, you know, for a few days when it melted really quick. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: Out of ordinary. And that when our trail started going.

And we packed up all the holes on the trail -- cover up the holes with a bunch of ice in it. Come that weekend -- the weekend of 22nd to 24th, we hit forty degree weather and everything.

A little bit of rain, so we just left it. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: We didn’t want to take a chance, you know. But we busted how many snowmachines -- sleds and whatnot, because we didn’t want to beat up our equipment too hard.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: Became bare ice and it got a bunch of holes on the -- even off the side of our trail you could see holes. You could see bottomless holes.

We just didn’t want to have anything happen this spring. Unusual, but we just didn’t -- we all agreed, you know, that there's fall time.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: We wouldn't have -- probably have better stuff this fall time.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Did you find this ice down here to be well grounded?

THOMAS BROWER III: I wouldn’t say well grounded, but there was a few spots like these super high pressure ridges -- these away ones.

We felt they were kind of bottom grounded, but the current -- the ice was being eaten up from underneath from the current. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And the water was already warm. It was more like all our trail was eaten up from the bottom. From the current.

The water was warm this year. Too warm. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And I haven’t gone back to the area to see what the temperature can ice. I used to do this with UIC back when we used to have the ice monitors. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: But I believe I think five years ago it was four degrees higher than normal.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Four?

THOMAS BROWER III: Four degrees higher, our water temperature.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: And that's what makes it -- eats it from the bottom up really quick is from the current and that warm water.

Our ice is changing. Our ocean has changed a lot and it's going to change.

I wait for -- for the Natives to stop, you know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So did -- when you guys were out here did you expect this ice to break off?

THOMAS BROWER III: We wanted a section of it to break off real bad, about this area where we were following this -- the trail --

Where we had our trail, we wanted a section to break off because it was just thin ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And we were seeing some other snowmachiners go right through there. I said you guys are crazy driving -- riding on that ice.

Because which is fresh snow on top and underneath it's only a couple inches thick, and they were driving on it.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: And then one of them almost went through. I think that's when the Ahkivgak's one of them almost went through so they went with us for a little bit.

Like I said, we only stayed there two days, we pulled out.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Is this where they got their whale out here somewhere?

THOMAS BROWER III: That’s where they struck.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: They struck. THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah.

But they never pulled it up. They dragged -- they tried pull it up, it kept breaking through, and I don’t know where they went. But I never went back out there. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: I wasn’t about to go out there and help butcher a whale with my brand new $10,000 machine. I wasn’t going to risk it.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. It makes sense to me.

So what do you think -- did you guys have that slush ice moving against the edge like a lot of people I talked to who were hunting up here -- THOMAS BROWER III: Yep.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: -- to the north had that slush ice.

THOMAS BROWER III: We didn’t have no slush ice in our area like Harry Brower, Jr. and them. They did. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: They did.

THOMAS BROWER III: Slush ice. Because my brother-in-law, Jimmy would not -- he didn’t go out on the slush ice at all. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: That’s why we stuck to the solid ice there for a while. But know where the pressure ridges meet, you know,

it filled up with water and the current come underneath just ate it up really quick. Pretty unusual, huh?

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Did you guys have much open water out here?

THOMAS BROWER III: Oh, yeah, we did. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: You did.

THOMAS BROWER III: We had open water.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. More so than up north probably, huh?

THOMAS BROWER III: Oh, probably the same, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Okay.

THOMAS BROWER III: But even when it closed up in our area, it closed up most everything. When the water closed up, our area closed up. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: We just didn’t want to taking the risk. We're getting more cautious nowadays due to the way the ice is been receding and getting thinner every spring. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: But even though we try to go out there early this year -- we started breaking trail in April.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Is that late or is that -- THOMAS BROWER III: No.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: -- that's about -- usually -- usually when you start?

THOMAS BROWER III: Usually when we start -- we all started together with the Browers -- the other Brower crew.

Our trail was -- you probably -- you went on that didn’t you?

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, I was on that.

THOMAS BROWER III: Well, you see how hard -- pretty rough it was. So we made from over here -- from here to right about here that was about three weeks. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: Breaking that trail.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: That was a pretty smooth trail when you were finished.

THOMAS BROWER III: Well, we try to make it as smooth as we can with all the other crews combined together, you know.

You can have a more like a fast paced trail other than struggling if anything does happen. It's just the way I've -- we've been taught and grew up by our fathers and grandparents, you know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. To make it so you can get out quickly.

THOMAS BROWER III: Get out quickly, you know. And that's why we try to make it kind of wide, you know.

That way you can have two snowmachines going back and forth. If there is somebody get -- one of the crews did land a whale.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. So what do you think caused this year to be so bad?

THOMAS BROWER III: You know, I haven’t really observed the area -- the current -- this year for the past couple years if it was a cyclonic effect and di-cyclonic effect. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: See the Japan had the vast knowledge -- vast in the -- well the -- I went to one of their workshops a few years ago and I was amazed and -- My grandfather, you know, he taught me to be more observant as to what’s happening.

And then so I -- so there's a -- according to Japanese scientist in 40 years -- they believe there's a 40 year cycle. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: A cyclonic and di-cylonic effect. You know, it's always -- it's clockwise and anti -- clockwise and anti-clockwise. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: Currents shifting.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: So it could be that, but I'm not sure. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: I wish I had gone to one of the workshops -- informational workshops last year in Anchorage, but I couldn’t leave my job to go down there. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: To see what was actually the update of these two countries that were to have more scientists on the arctic ice than we do. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And then the United States, but the Russians been doing this for 50 years. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: And Japan's been doing it about, oh, 40 plus years.

I was amazed. So I wish the United States was more up to speed with these two countries, you know, on the monitoring the ice than they are.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: Cause the Russians, they too deploy -- when plane dropped markers. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: For radio transmitters where they could monitor the ice movement.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: Pretty amazing.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah we -- the US does have one project that has a lot of buoys. THOMAS BROWER III: Huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: But most of them are not -- are not around Barrow area.

THOMAS BROWER III: They take -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: They’re much further north. THOMAS BROWER III: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: But we actually deployed one buoy about sixty miles north of Barrow this year. We’re tracking it, but yeah the Russians are hard to compete with. They --

THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, they've been doing a lot of work.

THOMAS BROWER III: They've been doing a lot of work on their side and I think so.

I think United States has just trying to catch up to scientific world on the Arctic Ocean of what’s actually happening out here. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: How there's going to be a competition who owns what. You probably already heard about it a little bit, huh?

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, I -- it's in the paper all the time.

THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah. So it's going to be --expecting it in the next two years now on jurisdictional issues of the Arctic Ocean. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Hm mm. Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: It's going to be a hot topic and hot issue, you know.

Last year it was pretty nice, you know, compared to this year. Last year was real good, cause I stayed out longer on the edge of the ice last year than this year.

This year I was only on the edge of the water two days.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Did you guys just have a boat or do you have a camp out there, too?

THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah, we had a camp. We had a skin boat, a aluminum boat, but like I said we was by the water for only two days and we left.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, it sounds like it's more than most people took which is -- amazed it does sound like a tough year. THOMAS BROWER III: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: There's just a lot of west wind or southwest wind.

THOMAS BROWER III: It could be something, you know. But we didn’t have enough open water either, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: We had more closed water this spring than open water.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: You probably heard that quite a bit.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, well I observed -- I was here the whole season pretty much, but I was, you know, I was -- I spent a little time at the edge I was more -- THOMAS BROWER III: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: -- doing stuff.

THOMAS BROWER III: But actually we -- before we started -- headed out over here, you know, we drove out there past the Point to see if there's any good areas out here. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: To see if it's safer out there. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: But you know, when the area over here, you know, there was too many massive pressure ridges so we didn’t -- we didn’t go.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Up by the Point there was -- it was just too rough? THOMAS BROWER III: Past the point.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Past the Point? THOMAS BROWER III: Past the point.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. There was a lot of -- to me I went up here one -- one day with Roy Ahmaogak. THOMAS BROWER III: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And to take some samples of the old Piqaluyak, and there was quite a bit of that fresh ice up there. THOMAS BROWER III: Uh-huh. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I thought that's --

THOMAS BROWER III: Well, my -- our co-captain he's older than us, but he felt it was kinda unsafe cause he had experience when his father was alive when it was out here one year probably in the 80’s.

And he was camping out there and all of a sudden the whole ice up went by four feet. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And that was it. Never went back -- he never went back out there.

The way the ice was being (inaudible) is the current as you probably know from years of knowledge or stories that this year has the high -- the real high current. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And that’s what ate it up pretty fast down there one year.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Where the two currents meet you mean or -- THOMAS BROWER III: Uh-huh. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: I always call it slick shot -- sling shot effect, you know.

If you hear it sometime, when you go out bearded seal hunting, you can see that current here just straight north. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: Real bad, real bad. But a 15 horse motor, try and go home you would be more like a standstill.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. Is -- is that -- that why you don’t see people hunting up there because of that strong current?

THOMAS BROWER III: It's too strong, you know, cause you never know what’s going to come out from underneath that -- underneath there.

You never know. But maybe who knows one day it start cooling off again. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: It -- my history of work -- going out with my grandfather, the furthest out we ever gone is 22 miles from there -- from the coast side 22 miles. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: One way.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: That’s much different these days.

THOMAS BROWER III: Cause it was cold them days. It's not like now. Cold. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And we stayed out 'til probably in June, after Memorial weekend, it was so cold down there.

And we had a lot of snow. Not like this. Not like the snow we have now. They were super hard packed and . MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: But it got cold there -- spring time it coming closer and closer. Too close.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. So you think that’s mainly just the difference in ice thickness and the temperature?

THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah, climate, you know. I’m just hoping that it's just gonna -- like a hundred year cycle, you know, hoping that it's start cooling off here. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: That we'll -- that we'll -- Time will tell, that’s for sure.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: That’s true, yeah. It’s tough to predict. I mean there're a lot of scientists think they can predict it, but I don’t think so.

It’s too complicated to predict. THOMAS BROWER III: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Just have to wait and see.

THOMAS BROWER III: Well, and, you know, things can change if we have a number of volcano eruptions throughout the United -- throughout the world.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: .

THOMAS BROWER III: With that cover. Create an umbrella. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: That, you know, make it cold. We call it the -- they claim industrial development nations or United States regardless, you know.

It’s like that volcano we had down south of Alaska.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Redoubt.

THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah. And there's -- that's just one of many. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: But if they explode all at once, create umbrella all over a good portion of the world. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Cool things down.

THOMAS BROWER III: Cool things down. You never know. Things will happen.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: We noticed south of Fairbanks -- THOMAS BROWER III: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: -- in the mountains, that ash from the volcano has made the snow melt quicker.

THOMAS BROWER III: Yep. Everything's black.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, yeah, it's --

THOMAS BROWER III: It absorbs heat.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: We saw the -- I was amazed at how far that ash travels.

THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah, I was reading in the newspaper today on that. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Oh, really.

THOMAS BROWER III: It's in Anchorage newspaper. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: I was reading my Anchorage adn.com. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: There was an article on that.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I didn’t see that.

THOMAS BROWER III: If that happens more water is in that area, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: Melt all that snow. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: On mountain tops.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Let's see what else was I -- I was trying to ask a lot of hunters the same questions.

Well, one thing that I wanted to -- cause, you know, we’re collecting a lot of information up here and down here and do you -- are there ways that the ice is typically different to the south than off of NARL -- ?

THOMAS BROWER III: No, it's just based on number of whaling crews over here. Where it is over here. There weren’t too many over here, but there’s a bunch over here. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: All -- Listening to them on a two-way radio some were more than 50 feet apart -- whaling crews. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: That's too much competition. We like to go out there more spread out -- less competition.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. But is there anything that you -- that you generally find if you -- if you come down to the south year after year, different than up here or -- ?

THOMAS BROWER III: No, I wouldn’t say anything different. It just -- we just like more elbow room. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: One year -- I think two years ago we was up -- we was over here. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And we're not even -- some of the camps we were not even 50 feet apart. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: You just need more room, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: More room the better, you know, even to barely -- you can take -- with a skin boat you can oar it out further towards -- go after the whale. It's the fifty feet apart -- competition. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: First strike and when that happens when there's too --

From the way I was taught by my grandfather if the crews are too close, they won’t care where they hit the bowhead whale. They attempt to strike it, that’s it.

You let somebody else kill it for -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: The way we’re taught in the crew I’m with -- been going out with. Chase it, attempt to kill it and leave the first shot -- not just for a glorious strike but to attempt to kill the bowhead with one shot.

But when you’re too close, a lot of people -- from my observation they don’t care where they hit it, just as long as their bomb and their first float. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: We call it on close to the tail or just anywhere on the body where they're going to kill it, but hurt it. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And the way my co-captain and I we grew up, you know, my brother-in-law, is got to make it that one shot. One shot, make that count. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: That’s why you need more elbow room. There's no competition to go after it -- strike it right where you want it. Kill it with that first bomb. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, that’s --

THOMAS BROWER III: And I’ve seen -- I’ve seen it happen, you know. And that's from observations, you know, they're so close together they just shove out without going anyway they want. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And they hurt it, you know. That's what I call that's not a practice a custom but is that humane killing.

They just make that whale suffer.

Me and my co-captain, you know, he's a couple years older than I am, try to make that with one ball. First shot. Make that bowhead suffer -- suffer less. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: I hate seeing bowhead whales suffer. Just like they did that too 18 bombs -- that’s not humane killing.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Eighteen bombs of -- for what?

THOMAS BROWER III: Eighteen bombs. One whale.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: This year? THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. Was that -- THOMAS BROWER III: Probably --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Ahkivgak's whale?

THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah. That's not humane killing. That make the whale suffer.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: A crew actually has -- they actually bring 18 bombs?

THOMAS BROWER III: No, not just them. There was other crews.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Other crews trying to get it. THOMAS BROWER III: Other crews kill it. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: It was already too far wounded and on the run.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So did they chase that whale or -- ?

THOMAS BROWER III: I don’t know. I was already home. I was actually listening on the VHF. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: So -- so that’s not the -- that's not what I call a humane killing at all. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: I don’t call that humane because that makes the bowhead suffer.

That's asking for trouble on the long run because that whale can turn around and get back at you. If you hit that whale on the wrong spot and --

Our grandfather never taught me that way, you know. If you can’t hit it on a -- where you want to hit it the first time, let it pass by.

Not just the glory of just striking it and let somebody else try to kill it for you. I wasn’t taught that way. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: But nowadays, no. Just based on observation, no.

A lot of these young guys -- young captains they think they have knowledge but they don’t. They can talk all they want, but when they go out there I don’t see it.

I don’t see that old traditional knowledge, no. Time and wait and wait for it. You struck on the right spot, you know.

I even see that in fall time, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: They go chasing, you know. I’ve seen whaling crews hit, you know, back on the tail just so they can have that mark.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: That won't -- that whale is their whale?

THOMAS BROWER III: And then -- yep. That whale is their whale, because we call that who kills it.

I don’t call that humane killing. Make that bowhead suffer.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, I guess that's not a thing.

THOMAS BROWER III: If I did that thing like that my grandfather was alive, he'd whoop my ass.

You don’t strike a bowhead like that.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Or any animal?

THOMAS BROWER III: Yep, or any animal. You got to make that first shot count.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, that makes perfect sense to me.

THOMAS BROWER III: Uh-huh. Just like I see these young kids nowadays and they go caribou hunting. Shoot them in the guts. And that's definitely first shot kill, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: Animals suffer. I seen a wolf like that before. First kill I got, you know, shot in the guts. Boy, my uncle whoop my ass. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: They told me my father was alive he’d grab that rifle and go practice somewhere else, but not on the animal.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Yeah. I had the same type of teaching hunting deer in Pennsylvania. THOMAS BROWER III: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: My dad made me be an expert shot before I could ever go hunting. THOMAS BROWER III: Uh-huh. Yep.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: When you’re trying to choose a place along the edge to hunt the whale, what type of place are you looking for?

THOMAS BROWER III: We try to go to the most solid ice where we can pull it up. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: Solid ice, but yet far enough where we’re not compacted together -- the crews too close together. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: But kind of spread out, you know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Do you look for -- for bays or do you try to go to points on the --

THOMAS BROWER III: Points and the solid ice. And that leaves some pressure ridges where you can have to go up and look out -- look out, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: Look out posts. Got that from experience and knowledge working from my grandfather, you know.

That if you find a place where there's pressure ridges, you know, there's always the bugs -- plankton or not krill -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Hm mm.

THOMAS BROWER III: Or what the whales eat. Is always churning. That’s what the whales like. Where there's a current that's constantly turning where the krill is concentrating. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: That's the way whales go through.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, that makes sense.

THOMAS BROWER III: Most attractive area for the bowhead, that's what I call it. Attractive area where there's what the whales eat.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Did you guys see any old ice -- fresh ice, Piqaluyak, down here?

THOMAS BROWER III: No, we didn’t have any Piqaluyak or anything in that area. Everything -- we brought our own ice and water from Barrow.

I know there -- people were talking about probably in front over here they were saying there was Piqaluyak over here, but --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, one of the things that we're trying to do is kind of see how patterns of that old multi-year ice.

How it's brought in from year to year, but it seems as though this year there is very little.

THOMAS BROWER III: Very little. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Out here. There is quite a bit up north. I’m not sure when it came in, but --

THOMAS BROWER III: But time will tell, see.

The ice is turning but maybe might come back around whatnot, who knows. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: It depends on whether we gain the current. They're the ones that is controlling all that Piqaluyak. But I wouldn’t say it's global warning. It's just the way Mother Nature is. We can’t control Mother Nature. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: I wish we could, but we can’t.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. It would be exciting if we can.

THOMAS BROWER III: But, we'll see what happens here in the next few years. I'm hoping it won’t change. Change for better for a while, but like I said time will tell. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: Could be -- could be the over the next 50 years. Ice free.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh, but do you think, you know, a lot of what I’ve heard people talk about is the ice melting from below and how that forces them to stop hunting.

Do you think people will start hunting earlier?

THOMAS BROWER III: I don’t know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I mean I guess the whales come at a certain time, so you can’t go too early, but --

THOMAS BROWER III: I wish they would tag some of these real old hundred plus year old bowheads and sixty plus -- sixty foot plus bowhead.

Cause one year in 1973 I believe or ’74 when my grandfather had Twin Otters up here for Cape Smythe Air Service. Actually going out here in February and we seen blows out in the ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: The big bowheads break through the ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: But what we’re seeing according to the migration band is the young ones. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And the older ones, but what about the hundred plus years old? Are they hanging out out there?

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Far out.

THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah, far out. We don’t know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: I wish they would do that. Tag only real super big bowheads to see if they actually hang around out there or are they going now migration pattern.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: You think maybe those old whales -- THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: -- know enough to avoid Barrow?

THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah. They are. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: They say the -- my grandfather always say don’t ever underestimate the bowheads.

I might be smart, but it's smarter. That's why they get to live to be a hundred plus years old. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: But they know the ocean, and they're just like us with the problems they have.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. I wonder if those old whales remember encountering hunters in this area. THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Seriously. It's logical that they could. THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Just try to avoid them.

THOMAS BROWER III: But the big bowhead, they can go through three foot thick ice. That's why they're called bowheads. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: That's where their -- their blow is real tough. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: Go through anything.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, yeah, I think -- That was helpful. It's -- As I say, we may have ice thickness data for all this, but it's difficult to relate that to, you know, to what’s important to the community. THOMAS BROWER III: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Type of ice conditions people are encountering.

THOMAS BROWER III: So I think we're -- I know I'm going to start shifting a little bit. The more the ice is receding -- get thinner, I’m going to concentrate on more time in fall weather. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: Who knows it might shift towards that way. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: But I always say time will tell, because if things get better, you know cooler.

And I would say it was more likely to blow up there and get -- cover the atmosphere.

But it can also take -- go -- turn around affect like you say to mountain tops, all that ash start melting the snow early.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: It could happen here, too.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. You never know. THOMAS BROWER III: Never know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Interesting world.

THOMAS BROWER III: Uh-huh. See that's one of the things I never thought I would -- never believe the old folks that in the '50's that when they start seeing the ice changing. Between then to now. You know, that they had found it. They didn't know.

I didn’t believe them at first that things would change this bad. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: And, but they just advise to be observant. Observe more and here it is now. I didn’t believe it. Now look at where we are at. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: Ice is receding. Ice is getting thinner. And we used to have a lot of Piqaluyak in the springtime come ashore and we’d --

But Piqaluyak can also be scary too because it's more brittle. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: It shatters more easily when you get hit.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Well, if you’re out there -- When you put your camps out on the ice, do you try to camp near Piqaluyak or on it or -- ?

THOMAS BROWER III: I didn’t say -- I wouldn’t say on it, but close to it where more solid ice -- where more salt ice -- the more salty the ice is, it got more strength. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: It deflects. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: Cause that Piqaluyak is like glass. You hit it, it shatters.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. Yeah, so let’s say you just want to camp near it.

THOMAS BROWER III: Camp near it or you could camp on it for a little bit. But when the ice is start coming in -- just the bigger ice, you need to get out of there.

Get out of that Piqaluyak. Go where there's safer -- safer -- closer to the shore. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: But never stay on Piqaluyak when the ice -- that big chunk ice is coming. It'll shatter like ice -- glass.

I seen it happen once before. I didn’t believe it. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. Mm.

THOMAS BROWER III: But this was when my grandfather was alive, you know. It was on Piqaluyak, big solid Piqaluyak.

And solid -- good solid piece of jumbled ice come in and he said let’s get out of here. Oh, this ice is bigger than that one.

No. After that no -- pull up closer to the shore, so out there me and mama watching. We saw that Piqaluyak just shatter. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: Okay, you know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. What did you -- when -- those years when you saw a lot of Piqaluyak here, did that -- did that -- did those floes ground? Like are those big old ridges or are those more pans?

THOMAS BROWER III: I wouldn’t -- you know, I never really -- just only that one incident with my grandfather I watch how big that one Piqaluyak was. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: But after that and after I saw it shatter that I really don’t care what the size of it is.

If the ice is coming in, get away -- get away from the --there, before it hits. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: Maybe I need to be more observant on that one as time goes by.

See, depending on how big they are or how small they are, if they still shatters like glass.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, I was wondering if -- if -- when you have more of that ice around is the landfast ice less likely to break out? Is it more secure?

THOMAS BROWER III: More -- more -- becomes more sturdier when it's like cause you got a lot of ice around there. It's more like mixing cement, you know. You got a little bit of rock there and there. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: It becomes stronger, you know. The same thing with Mother Nature.

We used to see a lot more pressure ridges like these pressure ridges were, you know. They were all the way those are -- nice solid pressure ridges. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: There's a white -- the white portion. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: Those are pressure ridges. You probably saw that yourself.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, yeah. I saw these ridges. Is it typical to have these ridges off of Napauraq? These big --

THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah. Uh-huh. At the edge of the main, where the bluff is. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: That's where the bottom founded ice pressure ridges.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. And I've noticed -- this is kind of odd this year to see a ridge that's kind of aligned this way. THOMAS BROWER III: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And I didn’t know if that's --

THOMAS BROWER III: That was an add -- where this area it was more like added on when we had that northwest wind it kind of -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

THOMAS BROWER III: -- shoved it that way.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Okay, yeah. So this is the old edge and this came in. Yeah.

THOMAS BROWER III: Yeah. That's why we were at Panigeo's 9.