Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Crawford Patkotak

Crawford Patkotak was interviewed on June 26, 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, Crawford talks about the ice conditions and whaling in Barrow during the 2009 spring season. In particular, he talks about his decision to not go whaling in spring 2009, the effect of current on ice conditions, and the importance of observation and studying to understand the sea ice environment.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-25-17

Project: Sea Ice Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Jun 26, 2009
Narrator(s): Crawford Patkotak
Interviewer(s): Matthew Druckenmiller
Transcriber: Joan O'Leary
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Coastal Marine Institute, North Pacific Research Board
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
Slideshow
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Sections

Deciding to not go whaling

Dealing with thin ice and dangerous conditions

Making satellite imagery and sea ice trail maps locally relevant and useful

Ice behavior north of Barrow versus south of Barrow and effect of current

Taking risk and dealing with quickly changing conditions

Discussing the currents and importance of monitoring the current when out on the ice

Importance of learning from and listening to elders

Benefits of traditional knowledge

Multi-year ice (Piqaluyak) and setting up a safe whaling camp

Observing and studying the ice all year long to understand it and be safe on it

Landing whales as late as June in years with thick ice cover

Fall whaling in an area where whales were feeding and getting help from motorboats

Importance of long-term monitoring and experience to create better understanding

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Transcript

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I’m in Fairbanks, but I've been up here for about two or three months each spring. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Working with Craig George and Lewis Brower and -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Joe Leavitt, so --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: I know them. Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So where were you guys hunting this year, which -- which trail?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: We actually didn’t go out this spring. We decided to stay on land. We didn’t go out on the ice this spring. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Family decision. We had lost our -- my nephew. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Oh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And the family was taking it pretty hard and so decided to take a break, man. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Are -- are you related to Michael Donovan?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, he -- he had told me about that. That's --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: -- sad. Sorry to hear about that.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, yeah, it was -- we were getting ready. We were actually going to go out and then it got close to the season and

between my wife, my son, my dad and my sister were really taking it pretty hard and we decided well maybe it's time to take a break. And there's always another season, you know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Sure. Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Especially after having successive years of, you know, continuing whaling takes a lot. Once you land a whale it takes a lot of time and energy and work to prepare for Nalukataq, so --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: We were enjoying our break. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I understand that. But I had -- I had questions that were specific to --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: This season?

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: This year, but I also have -- I have a lot of questions just of -- of how the ice behaves in general. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And I’m not sure, did you -- did you have any comments just on -- on this year how things developed and went throughout the year?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Well, that was kind of part of the reason for our decision was the poor ice conditions. You know, verything started to pile up as far as reasons not to go.

And the ice conditions was one of them. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Just the fact that we didn’t have much multi-year ice,

and having experienced a couple years ago when we landed two whales. The second whale was kind of late in the season.

It wasn’t as late as some years that I’ve -- we’ve been out there. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: But it got real dangerous just in trying to pull the whale up, hauling it, hauling all the maktak, you know, to the safe ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And we had about three or four people that fell through the dangerous ice right there at the site and on the trail.

I had one snowmachine that got dunked. We were able to save it, you know, but -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: It's not wanting to experience that again and we have a real young crew.

My dad just turned the crew over to me and my wife, and we have a lot of young men on the crew that are -- that don’t have much experience.

And so all of these factors went into play and we decided to take a break and -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And whatnot, but yeah, it was the conditions of the ice that -- that really played a big factor in that.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. One of the things that -- that we’re also interested in is, you know, as I said we have that radar and we have --

We do a lot with satellite imagery. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: But we’re -- we’re interested in learning how we can make these -- these types of information more -- more relevant to what the community is interested in or -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Or could use for safe hunting and safe travel.

And so my question is, you know, what -- what are the main things that you look for when you're making a decision about whether or not to -- to go out hunting in a specific area?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Well, depending on how the ice conditions are, we typically look for multi-year ice that we can safely truck out on for one thing,

but we also look for areas where there's some good size pressure ridges. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: That we know. Like some of this stuff that's hanging out and keeping the ice right now. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: That's been grounded to the ocean bed. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: To have as a safety area. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know. And then, of course, you want to try to find a spot where you can easily or safely pull up a whale to butcher. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know. In years back we -- we really tried to make sure that we have a source of glacier ice near by for drinking water purposes, you know, it’s -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: It's kind of hard to find nowadays, too. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: But one of the suggestions I would make as far -- and these maps are really helpful, you know, when we have our whaling captains meetings before we all actually get out on the ice and -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: We’ve already -- to some degree we've already been making trails and whatnot.

It's the -- maybe defining a little bit more, explaining the ice and how it looks on this -- on the maps. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know if you point it out. Its thickness -- estimated thickness and/or whether it's multi-year. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Thin ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Young ice. And having notes like -- like -- like these way points that you’re putting on. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: That would probably help.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. I mean that’s something that we maybe can do. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Sometimes. Cause other times it’s, you know, it’s even difficult for us to -- even though we -- we look at this type of image a lot it’s -- sometimes it's really questionable whether or not something is multi-year or -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: It's usually easy to pick out the ridges, but -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Right. Right.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: We’re still trying to figure out a good way to identify the multi-year ice because we haven’t been able to do it very well where we’ve been on the ice when we found a piece of multi-year ice and then we look at the image and it doesn’t look any different.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Right. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: It's often difficult. But -- but I think that’s a good suggestion. It's --

We could have a bit more information on what -- what actually is being seen.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. Yep. Either by pointing it out and writing it on each area or just have a legend.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Yeah. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know if that -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: No, I actually have --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: If it’s -- I guess if it's consistent as far as looking at some of this ice. I mean just from looking at this without having a real trained eye on these kind of images

I would think some of these dark areas was thin ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Some of the lighter areas are the thick ice where we have -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Pressure ridges, you know.

And maybe that’s, you know, maybe that's accurate, I don’t know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: No, well, it's -- it's accurate for certain times of the year. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: It -- for the most part this doesn’t depend on snow because these -- these waves that come from the satellite go through the snow.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: I see. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: But once the snow gets wet it changes, so --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Oh. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So actually having some kind of instructions on how to interpret this would actually be a very good thing to put on there. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: We could do that next year. It would help cause I often have to ask questions.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Right. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: To others who have more experience.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. And then you can also point out where the -- where the moving -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Ice starts. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know, versus the landfast ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: That would probably be helpful, too. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yep. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, another question I had is do you -- like what you learned from your elders growing up, is -- is the -- does the ice behave differently south of town than it does to the north of town when --

how it sets up and how it builds ridges throughout the year and breaks up in the spring?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah and no. It -- from what I’ve been told and from some of the elders that -- that I’ve had some experience with every year would be different.

And based on what's happening out here during the winter months. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: How much ice is piled up? How much pressure ridges are built?

How much multi-year ice there is and where? MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Looking at the conditions, you know, whether you have some good flat ice to where you can pull a whale up, able to butcher it, and then trying to figure out where you want to go.

We’ve -- we’ve been up north in front of Pigniq and/or closer to the Point at some times -- some times in front of town and some times we’d be out towards Hollywood or Monument. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And it all depended on how the ice conditions were.

But as far as the current and then the ice it is a little different. It tends to be a lot more stronger current up north. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Where you have the two main currents meeting just past the Point.

And that’s where you can see a lot more higher pressure ridges and/or more solid ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: In some of that area, but at the same time the risk of being out there towards the latter part of the season you’re going to start seeing a lot stronger currents -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: -- out there and so that’s the danger of that. That’s the risk that you're going to have to calculate in any given year. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: If you’re going to be out there.

Of course, you know, once you’re out there you’re always monitoring the current and what the ice is doing, what the wind is doing and

base your go/no go decision whether you’re going to continue to be out at the edge of the ice or not.

And whether you’re going to strike a whale or not. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Because if you know it's going to be -- if the current is going to get too strong in a certain way that you're not going to be able to tow the whale in, you’re not going to think about striking a whale.

Cause it is going to go to waste, you know, and the safety of the crew being first and foremost as a priority you wouldn’t want to endanger the lives of the crew

which lays heavy -- heavily on any captain. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Bringing the crew out there. And so it is more dangerous up north.

Stronger currents can change quicker. Whereas to the southwest side you don’t have that, but then again it depends on the formation of the ice,

how much pressure ridges you have and what the weather is doing, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And the time of the season. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know, so there's all these different factors that are always in motion. That are always at play. And timing is everything. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: There's no one simple answer for -- for it all, you know, it all -- it’s a moving target so to speak. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And timing is everything. That you have to really watch if you’re going to be out there. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And you know some folks risk -- risk it or miscalculate the timing of the current changing or the weather turning on you when you've already stuck a whale and you have to get it up on the ice as fast as you can --

get the butchering done as fast as you can and get the people out of there. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And like I was pointing out a couple years ago on the second whale we caught in the season,

we worked as fast and hard as we could to get it up, butcher it and get as much meat and maktak out of it and haul as much as we could to safety. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: The very next day after we got done hauling all that, the ice was gone.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And so that’s how -- that’s how quick it can start to happen if you’re not careful.

And there's been situations where my dad has told me of experiences where they’ve found themselves out there in dire straits where the ice come in and

they had already what they call Pamiuqtak when they get out on the boat and they paddle either way or out into the ocean and

ice closed in behind them and they're stuck on -- they have to go -- go to shore at ice where there's no trail. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And stuff like that -- taking a risk. Taking that risk and then taking too much of a risk I would say. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Is that the word you’re using when they're actually chasing a whale or any time they're paddling?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Well, when you Piuqtuq is just when you chase the whale. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Oh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know when you Piuqtuq you're taking off from the edge of the ice and you're going to go --

you're launching out and you're going after a whale that's going by. And Pamiuqtak is basically when they feel that it's a need to take off from the edge of the ice and again it depends on the

distance of the lead and which way the whales are running at that given period of time.

And a few years ago we had -- when we caught a whale in I think it was 2004 -- spring of 2004, we were out three miles from the edge of the ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Went out there paddling.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: You paddled out three miles?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, paddled out. And that’s what you call Pamiuqtak. It's your -- basically the word Pamiuqtak is

you're going after the whale. And Pamiuq means the tail of the whale. And so you're chasing whales, you know.

But we were out there and we were three miles from the edge and we ended up striking the whale. And we caught it, but it was -- we had to get to where the whales were running. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: They weren’t coming -- they weren’t coming to the edge of the ice like we were expecting them. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And just all day long for several days we were watching them going out about three miles off -- off the edge of the ice from -- from where we were. And we

decided okay, maybe this is what we're going to have to do before the season starts to get too late. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And do what we have to do so that's what we ended up doing was going out.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I didn’t realize that you guys went that far out, but that's --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, it's -- and again, you know, you -- you calculate your risk as far as whether you have a motorboat handy ready to go and launch at any time and the amount of men you have at camp whether you have -- you can leave -- you have to leave a few men to man that motorboat and be --

they'll have to be ready to launch at any time you need it for assistance and/or emergencies. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And so once we struck the whale out there in the open water, they were able to come and assist us with the moto boat, and -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So it all depends on -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: The situation and the men available at the camp and what you're really after. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And, you know, when you go out there your focus is on landing a whale to feed the people. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And how far are you going to go to make it happen.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know and then so we -- it --

it's different for everybody. Everybody sees it a little different than -- folks have different ways of approaching all of that.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. One thing you mentioned that I've heard people say over and over again, I still don’t think I completely understand it. You said that there's two currents up by the Point that -- when people say that -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: -- are they referring to the current in this direction and a current in this direction?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, basically, you know, it's been my experience and I’ve seen it. And true to the elders sayings about the two main currents past the Point. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You typically have a main current from the east and you have this other current that's -- that's going north from this -- from the Chukchi side. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And where they meet you can -- you can really tell right past the Point where you can really tell where it meets and it becomes like a meeting point. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And that tends to go out to the northwest.

And if you read some of the history books and some of the stories that people have told that’s -- that's exactly what happened when the -- when the old -- when one of the old whaling ships ended up getting trapped in the ice,

whether it was taken past Barrow from the Point once that -- once it hit that other current and they're -- they're all ice jammed and you take them out northwest.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. Out in here somewhere?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, yeah and when you’re -- when it's -- when you’re -- and it's in open water even without the ice around when you’re traveling, you can actually feel it on your boat when you cross that -- cross the currents. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And your boat will turn. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You can really tell, whether you’re coming or going.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Is that pretty much all year or is it just during hunting season?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know that's a good question.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Cause I've heard some people say that -- that -- that the current shifts in early May. And I haven’t quite figured that out. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. Yep.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Because, you know, one of the things is as much -- as much science that's done, people -- at least the science hasn’t studied the current so I -- I mean I -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Right.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I’m pretty sure that the people here know a lot more about currents than what's in the literature.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. Yeah. When you look at the map of Alaska and how it's situated between Alaska, Russia and through the Bering Straits.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And you see how when it's all covered with ice and it starts to open up and crack up --

the shifting of the currents, you’ll basically start to see the ice getting flushed out. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And it'll push back in. And it's different every year, you know, but -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: -- typically you'll see it, it'll push out and then push back in.

And then when you look at the map of Alaska you’ll see from Barrow all the way down Point Hope and south where that ice is getting flushed out to the south right through. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And -- and yeah it does change in May -- in late May -- later May. It'll start to change on you more often and quicker. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Where it can either turn around to where it starts to take the ice out and/or turn right back around and start pushing the ice back in.

One of the sayings that they always reminded us of and how they start to see a pattern in the weather when weather change. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Be expecting some kind of weather change whether it's your -- whether you’re looking out at the sky and the clouds and the sun and the moon, stars and/or the current of the ocean.

And they always say the ocean current leads in what's about to happen with the weather. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: That's pretty typical and that's what they pass on is that that’s why you watch the current of the ocean constantly when you’re out there. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: If it's going to take the lead. It's going to take the lead as far as what the wind direction is going to do. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: High pressure. Low pressure. It'll -- it'll start to move ahead of the weather.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. So when you’re out there, do you drop a sounding line or --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. Yeah. You always have to keep track of what the -- what the current is doing.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Do you guys do that just at the edge or do you cut holes to do that?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: People do it differently. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Typically we just go to the edge. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know, but if you’re -- if you’re going out there and you know and more and more -- more so nowadays where you run into a lot of thin ice.

Yeah, it would be -- make sense to just -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Cut a hole in the thin ice where it's easy to cut through and check out what the current's up to. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know and then a lot of the local seal hunters will -- will -- or they should be doing that. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, sure.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, but it's interesting, you know, it's -- it all depends on what's been passed on to you from either your elders or folks in the community. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: People wanting to share their experiences and teaching the younger folks what they’re -- what’s happening out there. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Always warning -- warning of danger or anything like that.

Like the one year where we -- early winter where -- where the ice had come in and was pretty frozen in and it kind of looked like it was going to stick. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know it was probably October. And already had ice already jammed up to the edge and --

and one day old man Roxy Oyagak got on the VHF and said, "Hey you guys, whoever's going out on the ocean be careful." MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: He said the ice just opened up. He said just -- just past the Ukkuqsi, right over here, what we call Ukkuqsi -- this -- where Mound 44 was.

I don’t know if you’re familiar -- just right -- yeah, just past the bingo hall over here.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Okay, yeah, I think I know where that is.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: He said the ice opened up here, right up to the edge of the beach. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Um.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Right to the beach. And he said he was about to go seal hunting and he almost fell in. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And it was a perfect 90 degree cut. Like a cut right out in the -- this -- the main ice was still sticking here in front of Barrow going north and probably three miles out.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. It was the currents that it took it out or --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, the wind and the current just had taken it out, but it made a perfectly 90 degree cut like, and -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: -- that portion of the ice went out while this part was already either frozen enough or some parts of it had already built the pressure ridge to be anchored on the seabed, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And -- and stuff like that -- that -- some of the hunters that are always willing to share their knowledge immediately and the danger that's out there and give you a warning. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know, so --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, talking with Joe Leavitt in particular cause when -- I've spoken with him a number of times, but he talks so much about the currents and how important they are and,

you know, it’s kind -- it's a little bit frustrating from my standpoint because we’re doing a lot of work, but we don’t have the instruments to really deal with the currents just yet. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So I -- you know, we miss a huge piece. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: To really understanding what’s going on.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, and you know as time goes by and you gather that traditional knowledge, you know, you’ll -- you’ll --

and at the same time you're gathering your scientific knowledge. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You’ll probably start to see them. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, yeah. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Blend.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, I mean just talking with you and others it -- it really, cause you know our -- our instruments is not -- we’re not collecting knowledge.

We're just collecting just information, you know. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: It doesn’t -- it doesn’t make much sense until we start to talk to people and they explain, you know. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Right.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Why this is important and why this is not important. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know, it's different every year that’s for sure. No two years are ever the same. It's -- it's always different.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Well, the one thing you mentioned is you look for the Piqaluyak.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Piqaluyak, yeah. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Piqaluyak. Is it in your recent experience have you seen a huge change in -- in --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Seemed like there's less. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Seemed like every year there's not as much as that there used to be. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: That’s kind of been my experience here in the past few years anyway, you know.

When we were growing up, seemed like we had a lot more of it all around. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: A lot more glacier ice that would be available. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Close by.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: When you guys are out there, if you put a camp out on the ice, would you -- would you try to put it on multi-year ice?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. You try to -- you try to set up camp where it's the safest, but at the same time you try to make it more convenient to where you’re going to do the hunt. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And not always just -- I mean you're not out there just to camp out, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: There's been some years where we had a bigger tent for when we have a huge crew. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And you want another tent set up and you’ll have that further back towards the land on safer multi-year ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And a lot of the times it would be what -- where we call the Naŋiaqtuġvik, where we’re going to retreat whenever the ice conditions gets dangerous out -- further out by the edge. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And so some years you know you can have a second tent and that’s the more longer term, but when you're getting out to the edge of the ice you're going to --

you’re out there to hunt the whale and sometimes you just put a wind blind -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And/or a smaller tent than at all times you’re ready to knock in down and pack it up and take off from there in a matter -- at a moment’s notice, you know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So yeah it -- although yeah you want to try to keep a camp in the safe multi-year ice, but you're out there and the purpose that you're out there is to hunt the whale.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And they're going to decide whether you're going to just put a wind blind or put a tent up.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. So it's a -- we were up here this year. I’ve went up here with -- with Roy Ahmaogak. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Because one of the things that we've been doing is taking samples of multi-year ice and trying to figure out how old it is. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And so we -- we found a lot up here. And it was interesting, as I said we can’t really identify in these images very well so sometimes you can if its a lot, but -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: You know we had -- up until that we had thought there was almost no multi-year ice around, but then we saw a bunch up here. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So one of the things that we're trying to figure out is a way to track how much is actually brought in along the coast.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Year after year.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. I guess a lot of that, yeah, depends on where it's coming from and where it ends up. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know landing close by or like when was it last --

not too long ago there where -- where a huge chunk of ice had broken off from the main ice pack closer to the Pole where -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: That ended up around here, close by here. And that one year we had a lot of multi-year ice that was -- that was close by.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Was that just 2006, a few years ago?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Might have been. I’m not sure.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: That was my first year -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Coming up here and I -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I, at that time wasn’t -- I didn’t have the experience to decide which was multi-year ice and what was not so I couldn’t tell my own. I think now I can tell, but -- CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: That year a lot of people had said that there was quite a bit of multi-year ice around. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Much different than what had been. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Right. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: In the recent years.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. Yeah. You know that current, man, it just starts to eat the ice from below so quick.

It’s at a faster rate than some of us realize. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know, even more so than what it's doing up on top. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know. That's the other thing that you got to really watch.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Well, that's one of -- that was related to one of my questions is --

is what have you been taught like are the key things to look for when the ice is changing from ice that may be safe to ice that is no longer safe?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Some of the things that -- that are real critical -- your observation of the ice and when you first go out in early season when you’re breaking trail. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Or whether you're out there, you know, before you even start breaking trail.

Observing how it looks not just at the surface but where -- where there's breaks. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And what -- what's -- what it looked like has happened. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Hum.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Cause that will tell you a lot, you know. Pressure ridges -- studying the pressure ridges. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Whether it's just a bunch of thin ice that piled up or if it's a bunch of multi-year thick ice that has piled up. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And right away you can tell whether it's been scraping the seabed. Where you're going to see a lot of bits of gravel with it. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Alright. And then the ice around that. The surrounding ice. And whether it was a part of the action when it took place when -- when the pressure ridges were formed -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: -- the ice around it will give a telltale -- you’ll be able to tell whether that ice was part of what pushed this together and/or if it's newer ice that just kind of glue itself to it.

You know, and so from your first observations then you keep an eye on that -- that area of ice throughout the season.

And you can tell right away where it's deteriorating in certain areas. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: If you have huge pressure ridges and right next to it you have what looks to be real smooth freshly formed or you know one or two year ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You're going to really watch that and see what's happening and whether it starts to melt faster and/or get darker. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And so based on that you're going to know what’s happening from underneath. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And that'll -- that'll give you a telltale of the stability of the ice that's around it. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And so throughout the season, right up until you decide to pull up you're going to keep an eye on that ice to monitor it. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know. And judging by what's happening with it and whether it's safe or not you're going to have to make a determination whether it's safe to continue traversing over that ice and/or --

There's been times where we’ve made a trail and ended up catching a whale, and even during the process of butchering and starting to haul we make a different trail. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: To haul it through a safer area when it's -- when it's required. If you feel that, even before that, and you have to really warn folks that are going to go out there because you're going to have folks trying to get to the whale.

And first and foremost you want a safe trail for them to go out there. But if it's really necessary and you want to get out there quick -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: -- and that's another risk that you're weighing, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Be able to get out there. And if the season is starting to get close to the end of the season or, you know, it all depends.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Is there a -- I’ve heard -- I was just talking to Nate Oleumaun and he was talking about that dark ice when it starts to melt below his area.

Is there a term that could be used to describe that?

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You mean in Inupiaq?

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. I was just -- it’s -- it’s not really related to my work, but I'm just interested in the words.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: I’m pretty sure there is. I’m pretty sure there is, you know, there's over the years growing up we would be out on the ice right up last -- I think the latest we've been out there I believe is June 16.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. Well, I guess that’s about the --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And I think -- I think the -- I think the latest we’ve landed a whale -- 1987, I think, and that was June 15. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: It was late in the season. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: But we had a lot of multi-year ice. And we were able to pull the -- it was quite a huge whale. It was a big 50 foot -- 50 plus foot whale.

But the ice conditions were good.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Did you have water along the beach like this though or --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: No. No. It was just melting a little bit right on the edge and that was about it. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: But as far as ice from, you know, the main Tuvaq. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: It was thick. It was multi-year thick ice, otherwise we wouldn’t have been out there.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And then several -- just a few years ago we had been out until about June 3, where the ice conditions were deteriorating real bad and then --

but there were several of us crews that had gone -- Several of us crews we weren’t seeing whales on this west side and so we decided to go around the Point and go to the east. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And that’s where we chased whales.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Above the Point or to the --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: We were like 20 miles east of the Point.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Wow!

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And different current on that side and we had -- I don’t think anybody landed a whale that season, but we sure chased a lot of them. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: And that’s where they were hanging out. There was whales hanging out to the east and we experienced that both in the spring and the summer time. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: I mean not summer -- fall -- fall time. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Fall season. That one year where we --

we were out here fall whaling three weeks we didn’t see whales. We seen a few grays, but they -- we were going back and forth between the Point and Monument and even further south from Monument.

And it was two weeks and after two weeks we decided we better go check further to the east, and sure enough there was whales hanging out at the -- around 20 miles. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: East of the Point.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So I mean you guys go out there with the outboard -- outboards? CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Okay.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, with motorboats we went out there, and they must've been feeding, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Where -- whales that probably were feeding out there, or -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: -- I don’t know. But that’s where they were hanging out and that's where we ended up harvesting a whale. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So it’s different every year. Different depending on the conditions of the ice and, you know, I would think the --

the what the whales feed on both in the spring and summer -- I mean spring and fall. But yeah, it’s --

from what little experience I have, you know, that's -- these are some of the things that I’ve observed and learned a little bit.

And then try to remember what some of the elders have -- have passed on.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Well, that’s helpful. I appreciate you taking your time to talk about it. It's -- I mean it’s -- for me it's much different just piecing together different conversations, but it's -- I’m learning a lot and it really does help. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Especially since I plan to be up here again, so --

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Each year I learn a little bit more.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So how much time do you spend here every year?

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, the last three years probably between two and three months. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Just mainly out at BASC . CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Right.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Working with BASC and a little bit with the Wildlife Department . CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Trying to -- You know, we're -- we're still kind of designing instruments and making -- trying to figure out the best way to make measurements that are useful.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: You could be out there all day making measurements that aren’t useful.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So, that’s kind of what we're working on.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah, yeah, you know, it’s -- it’s that monitoring and experiencing it over a course of years to really start to know more. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Versus taking a sample at a given period of time or given time and then any time of the year and --

wouldn’t really justify or really give any meat to what you’re -- what you're trying to determine, you know. UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Good night. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Good night. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: So it's just like those folks that come up -- that came up in the early days and stayed here for a year and went back and wrote a book about the Natives and like they already knew them all just from hanging out for one year. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: When they don’t even know what the heck happened fifty years before that and -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Yeah. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: You know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, every year's different. CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: With the ice and with people, too, I guess.

CRAWFORD PATKOTAK: Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah, it's interesting, man, it's ever changing world -- ever changing world.