Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Roy Ahmaogak, Interview 2

Roy Ahmaogak was interviewed on June 24, 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). Roy was also interviewed on July 13, 2008. In this interview, Roy talks about the ice conditions, trails, camp locations and whaling in Barrow during the 2009 spring season.

 

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-25-14

Project: Sea Ice Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Jun 24, 2009
Narrator(s): Roy Ahmaogak
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

Choosing location for trail across the sea ice

Choosing whale camp location

Young slush ice, closed lead, and a difficult whaling season

Building trail and types of ice encountered

Poor ice conditions limited whaling and spending more time pulled back at safe camp (Naŋiaqtuġvik)

Difficulty of pulling up and butchering a whale on thin ice, and adapting to new butchering methods

Change in presence of multi-year ice (Piqaluyak)

Advantage of having multi-year ice

Determining safe ice and unsafe ice, melting, presence of snow, warming temperatures and effect of wind and current

Effect of west wind and currents

Inupiaq value of how behavior effects the ice and whaling

Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.

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

Transcript

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So I was just going to go through a list of questions, cause I wanted to ask everyone the same -- same questions. But -- and some of these maybe I already know the answer to because of speaking with you earlier, but --

So which trail -- so which trail did you guys use this year and where did you hunt?

ROY AHMAOGAK: We hunted pretty much straight out of Browerville, which is Trail No. 6.

Which extends kind of north of Browerville, straight down kind of from where we started so --

We kind of conjoined with Herman’s trail so we had to work together to get further down.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And what time of year did you start -- earlier than that?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Oh, man, we started at the end -- end of March beginning of April. We kind of started early.

That’s -- because it's been nice out. The weather's been really nice out this spring.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And you guys stayed in that -- in that same area? ROY AHMAOGAK: We stayed -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: All year?

ROY AHMAOGAK: In the same area all year. We never moved or we never really go anywhere else.

We kind of stayed where we were. Kind of happy with our trail.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So what was the main reason for -- for placing the trail in that location?

ROY AHMAOGAK: It's because there was heavy ice around the general area where it was completely solid. Really high Ivuniq's were almost two stories high.

We kind of felt comfortable around there because -- because of that reason was that they had both sides of us were really high Ivuniq's, which weren’t too far so we knew that was grounded. That's why we stayed in that area this year.

And that’s why we felt comfortable staying there. And to this day it still hasn’t gone out yet.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, yeah. And another question I wanted to ask about where people placed their trails is relates to what the ice is like at the edge?

Cause I know I’ve heard some people say that they -- that they shoot for some places where there's an embayment in the ice or maybe there's kind of a little peninsula that sticks out.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. One of those -- one of those things that most people kind of look for that -- that sticks out, but most people I know that they’re looking for kind of like heavy solid pull up the whale that kind of icel. And that had several areas where we were out there, you know, it was kind of like enough to pull up whales where we thought it wasn’t going to break up so we stayed there.

It was because there was a couple of heavy thick, you know, thick ice there on the Tuvaġruaq. That's one reason why we kind of stayed there because other than it being grounded, we kind of felt safe right there. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: I mean there was places all along from down there closer to shore where we kept our gear which was Naŋiaqtuġvik, where we store our stuff away from the edge to safe ground.

We call it Naŋiaqtuġvik, which is where we felt comfortable away from the edge.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And that is the place where you put your --

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, that’s Naŋiaqtuġvik

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Cause I was actually going to ask you a question about it. Can you give us -- or like the closest guess on spelling that word? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Cause I had -- I'd noticed a lot of -- you can write it. Just --

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, it’s N-A-Y-N -- you can probably almost -- I’m just trying to spell it in -- so you can probably say. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: That’s -- that’s how they don’t spell it, but that's how you can probably pronounce it. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Say it.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Naŋiaqtuġvik. Naŋiaqtuġvik. It’s a place where you store or place of, you know, whaling stuff. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: On safer ground.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And that's the place where a lot of people are camped. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And they're waiting for the lead to open?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. Waiting for the lead to open. That’s what Naŋiaqtuġvik, which is where we were storing our stuff, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: They were all -- There was how many stuff -- other peoples’ stuff were too also on the same area where we left our stuff, because we felt so comfortable there, because it was grounded right there. It wasn’t going to move.

It still hasn’t moved yet, you know. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: That’s why we -- we kind of felt comfortable around -- around straight out from Browerville. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Because of the high -- when it's, you know, you can probably still see it from here, but

that’s the reason why we kind of stayed around that general area. Everybody else was too far out or, you know, it wasn’t really high Ivuniq's down south.

And that's the reason why we kind of stayed around.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh. When people are trying to build a trail towards a specific place I’ve heard some people refer to the behavior of how a whale swims along the lead.

And do you -- do you think -- or have you observed that there's a specific behavior that people try to take advantage of. Like for example a whale that -- that will come in just in embayments and just hang out?

Do you think they’re trying to take advantage of that or not?

ROY AHMAOGAK: It’s a benefit when people find those kinds of things, I think. They kind of keep like, you know, trying -- let’s say trying to guard that area where they have those little Kaŋikłuk, they call it which is a little kind of bay thing. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And people want to try and always kind of stay in that area. It's kind of like a benefit -- like the chances increase of catching more and striking a whale at one of those little bays.

It’s an added benefit, yeah. And -- and have to see if there was some down there. There was a couple of them little kind of bay things down there and just -- it's just the multi-year.

Ice was -- wasn’t further out, but young ice was all crushed up this year, and it was just so miserable this year. It just -- the young ice was all, I don’t know what you call it, brash ice that’s -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Fresh. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: We had that all spring and it just miserable conditions for, you know, trying to -- even trying to pull up whales this spring. It's just --

everybody was doing that this spring. They were pulling up the whales on the brash -- young crushed ice which is -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: It wasn’t really good this year.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Is that the stuff that you and I saw when -- when -- the lead is closed, but you had ice that was going north and it just -- it wasn’t -- it wasn’t eroding the edge of the ice cause it's just so -- it was just slush?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Is that the same stuff? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Is that -- is that typical? Cause I hadn’t actually seen that so -- as close, except for this year.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Well, usually when it does come it kind of breaks off and goes right back out.

But this year we had -- I’m assuming we had no currents. We didn’t have favorable winds, so we kind of stayed in.

And that’s the reason why we had all that young brash ice this year, because we waited and waited and waited for the currents to change and the wind to pick up, and that never occurred.

And that’s we had the young brash ice this year is because non-favorable conditions -- current and wind. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And we had those combined, you know, that young brash ice would have broke off kind of early in spring. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. That didn’t occur. It was a waiting -- a waiting game all this year. It was nothing else but a waiting game.

We probably had a total of five or six days of open water, and that was it. And those couple days of open water kind of like landed all the whales.

In a week. Less than a week’s span.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, and then that was like May 16. ROY AHMAOGAK: May 16. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: May 16. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, I think I -- the day I left was May 16th and that was the day or I guess it was the night -- the night prior to the day of May 16th. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: When ABC crew caught their whale.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And that’s, you know, it was nothing but a wait -- wait and see -- wait for the open water.

Wait and see what's going to happen and that's what it was this year.

2009 was a wait and wait and wait, and we've never had that for a long time. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And its kind of like -- I guess we got to endure the, you know, be patient, those kind of things so -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And what --

ROY AHMAOGAK: Most people that signed up for whaling this year, they waited and waited and waited and they never went down. They just never put their stuff out this year.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. a lot of captains just didn’t ever go out?

ROY AHMAOGAK: There was a couple that, you know, they had their stuff ready on the -- on the -- as soon as they found out it was going to open up they -- they had their stuff ready. They just never went down to the beach to go out. They just had their stuff all packed. Their skin boats on the sled. They had everything ready to go. A couple of guys.

They just never went out. They just -- because it was -- no open water. It just -- it was too late in the season. Some of the older guys -- older captains, oh, it's already May 10, May 12, you know, the big whales are here so --

And that’s why I think they kind of like, you know,well no sense in going out because it's so late and it was just the most luckiest crew this year was to catch a small one, which is ABC.

You, you know, you hardly ever rarely catch a 27 footer. It's so late in the season.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: I'm glad they caught a -- caught a small one this year.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: When you have conditions like you had this year when the lead is closed for a long time, do people think that the whales are still going through or do the whales get blocked up?

ROY AHMAOGAK: They know and they've -- they've known this for a long time that the whales no matter even if it is closed that the whales go further -- further out no matter how far you go out. I mean you can go and go 30 miles straight out and

put yourself out there in the ocean and wait. And you’ll see whales go by. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: It's just -- it's just a known -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: A long way.

ROY AHMAOGAK: It’s a known fact that just because the ice is closed the whales are going to not run, but, you know, the whales no matter how or what they will get through no matter if it is closed.

I mean they’ll find a way. I mean that’s -- we’ve known that for a long time that the -- even if the first whales are still traveling they're going to go, you know, as far as they can go out --

head east and even if it's -- I mean there are -- you could go as far as you can go down and you'll still see whales going by.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: But what's the word that you used to describe that -- that brash -- that chewed up slush ice?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Iiguaq.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Iiguaq.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. It's that fresh new stuff that just came in and froze along the edge and it's not really solid.

It's all compact like that. It's all broken pieces that are compacted together. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And it's Iiguaq, they call it.

It attaches itself to the shorefast ice and it's really unstable and it's kind of mushy and those kind of things. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And it’s Iiguaq, so --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: You've already partially answered this, but what type of ice did your trail go across, such as major cracks or major ridges?

ROY AHMAOGAK: On our trail this year it was first half a mile was almost like flat ice. Then we come to smaller ridges and then closer towards open water iIt's just heavy thick ice which is kind of --

we had to work a couple of days to break the big Ivuniq's. It was kind of first half of mile was flat and the next ruble and the next part of that was kind of like heavy thick.

Couple of days of work of chopping trail. It was -- I’d say our trail wasn’t too bad this year.

It makes us work a little harder to get to where we wanted to go this year. It was, you know, it wasn’t too bad this year. The way we saw the ice this year it wasn’t too bad.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: How long did it take to build that trail?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Oh, some people say it took a week, but, you know, hard work for two hours here and two hours there. It was a couple days work. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: So, so -- no more than four days of straight hard work we would have gone and did our trail from here down to the edge. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And when people work together they can get it done sooner which most people did. They kind of worked together and they were already along the edge of the ocean already, so --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, were there any areas -- you mentioned that it was a well-grounded trail with those big ridges out there.

Did you guys have your trail go out onto the extension ice?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, we did that this year because everybody else was kind of like wait and see, but we took the chances of going further out from our trail on our GPS coordinates.

It took us from our edge of our trail a mile and a half north from our -- our last known edge here. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: It was a mile and a half from due north of our position, so yes, we had to take chances to go out on the young ice and we did that.

We went out and we spent two days on the edge of the water. And we saw whales going by, and we had our tent and all our gear all set up for two days this year.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Was that in April or May?

ROY AHMAOGAK: May, first part of May. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Okay.

ROY AHMAOGAK: We -- we, in fact, had spent out two days at the edge this year because we -- we decided to oh it’s not moving. We might as well go down there and check. So we did. We went down and checked and we went as far as the ice could let us from our last known reading here we took, and we went a mile and a half straight north

And that's where we spent two days along the edge. And we could have -- we could have struck a whale that morning, and the winds started picking up real quick from the west and it kind of was closing up kind of quick so we packed up our stuff and went back to Naŋiaqtuġvik and kind of waited again, so --

Like I was saying there's -- there was crews this year that waited for the ice to go out and it never did go out for some people so they decided well it’s too late in the season and then they never went out.

I mean they had their -- all their gear ready to go at a moments notice and, you know, there was people out there this year that were spending most of their time in the tent this spring.

The monotony of staying inside the tent I don’t know how people can stand that. Spend all their time in the tent which is I guess it's sign of patience. I don’t know.

I couldn’t spend a couple days out there sleeping in the tent and waiting for them.

I like to come ashore and check on the weather and those kind of things. The simple pleasures of getting on the phone real quick and -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And those kind of things, but there're some people out there that will camp out on the ice for weeks on end. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: I don’t know how they do that, but --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Is there a similar name -- not --not similar, but is there a name for the camp at the edge of the ice or --

ROY AHMAOGAK: There's not really a name for that other than they're Nipaaqing. It's calling they're at the edge of the water and they're looking out for whales.

It's called Nipaaqing. It's just you got your tent and your boat all along the edges of the water.

It's called when they're looking out and looking. It is called Nipaaq. Looking and looking.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So that could be any time whether you're camped there or not? Or do they just use it when they’re camped?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Where the word Nipaaq comes out that we know that they’re along -- they’re along the edge of the ocean.

They’re Nipaaqing, that means they're along the edge of the ocean looking. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: That’s no matter if you choose any other terminology if I was to bring my skin boat and, you know, my tent down to the edge of the water and I’m looking out for whales it's what I’m doing I’m looking out and Nipaaqing. That’s what the term is is that they’re ready to, you know, launch their boat and stuff like that.

That’s the word that we use for camping along the edge of the ocean with our gear and we’re looking. We’re looking for whales. It's called Nipaaq, so I don’t know of any other words other than --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, do you know that the -- the whales that were caught did people have trouble hauling the whales up because of the ice at the edge of the ice?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yes and no. The first one was so small it was just a matter of making the -- a moat to pull up the whale wider. It's probably about 15 feet wide.

They had to, you know, flatten out the ice and make it 15 feet wide so they can pull a whale up because you got to work on both sides of the whale to cut it up and, you know, hauling meat and maktak away.

But the first one there was not really any problems other than, you know, it being small and easy to pull up and the next three just so huge that you couldn’t pull up any of the whales along the brash young ice.

It was just -- every time they'd pull it up a little bit they’d fall through. Pull it up a little bit then fall through. Then pull it up a little bit more and fall through and it just no possible way. It was a no win situation where you can't pull up the whole whale. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: It just -- lucky they even got most of the whale -- two of the whales, you know, Johnny Leavitt’s. I don’t think they got the whole whale out of the water.

I don’t think they brought everything back. Arey crew they might have brought everything back, but I’m not sure. I mean it was kind of one of those big ones where it was probably fifty some -- some footer -- sixty footer.

And they didn’t bring everything back because they were on such young -- young ice -- brash ice. It was just every time they pulled it up it would fall through. It probably took them a day and a half of just trying to pull it up.

So yes and no. Yes, there is problems with young fresh brash ice which is that you can’t pull up a whale on any of those kind of things, but the first one was it was so small, you know, it was so light it just -- it,

you know, it did hold and it did hold the whale on top of the ice.

After those big ones, no, there's no possible way you can pull up a big whale on any of that kind of ice.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So did they have to butcher it partially in the water?

ROY AHMAOGAK: They had to put -- they had to do that. They had to pull some of the maktak off, some of the meat and then try again. Pull up a little bit more and then take some more off and then pull it up a little bit more and then --

And the smart people are the ones that cut off the head first and then pull up the whale, and then after they’re done with that pull up the head and -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Wainwright does that. They catch the big ones. They cut off the head first thing.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Do they anchor the head somehow?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, yeah, they have that thing tied up. That’s what they do. They had the whale out of -- from the edge of the water they brought it to the edge.

In two hours they had it up onto the ice. Same kind of ice conditions as here. It's just that the smarter people take the head off first in the water. They -- I mean they chop the head off real quick. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And then they pull up the body first. Next thing they do they already have the head already ready to set up and they had pulled it out -- out of the water and within two hours.

And this is in Wainwright. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: So.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: The head's what about a third of the body?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Pretty close to a third of a body. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And they -- and they had probably a 63, 64 footer. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And I wish we would have at least, you know, taken the head off first down here then pull up the body then we would have saved practically everything.

But some people are, you know, they’ve got their own thinking and they got their own methods and those kind of things and can’t really tell what, you know, tell a person what to do. You can suggest, but most people that work together get things done so quickly.

You know, Wainwright people I’m so amazed and I’m just baffled why Barrow people don’t do that, which we don’t. We know -- we don’t think ahead and say pull, you know, cut the head off first. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: But as to your question, is there -- is there a problem with the young brash ice? Yes, in some aspect, yeah. It was -- it's been a problem with this young brash ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: It’s not safe to be out on. You can’t really pull anything out of the water on those kind of situations like that.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, if it is solid ice, it's not that younger unconsolidated stuff. If it's solid ice, how thick does it need to be to hold a whale if it's 60 feet?

ROY AHMAOGAK: We’ve had, you know, whales that were 42 foot that can -- that can come out onto solid ice and, you know, this probably the first time in a long time we’ve caught 60 footer whales in a long time in Barrow. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. The smallest ones were 45, you know, nothing over 55. Well, it's probably been 10 years since we got those kind of big ones. But 60 footers, no, we haven’t caught those for a long time. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: They had the chance and they took the opportunity of striking the first whale they saw and they did that.

They saw a whale and well let’s get this one. It don’t matter the size and how big it is or those kinds of things.

It does matter on, you know, if it was multi-year thick heavy ice we would have had no problems. We probably would have had all three of the big whales up on the ice if we had solid ice like that -- the heavy thick multi-year ice.

I think we would have probably saved every -- every part of the whale if we had that multi -- we would have had no problems pulling it out of the water onto the ice. It would have been --

everybody would have went down -- because everybody would have went down to go help, but knowing that they're having a hard time trying to pull it out of the ice -- out of the water onto the young ice, fall through and then pull it up, fall through, and it was kind of like, you know,

they're not going to pull it out of the water because it's going to take forever and by that time the whale meat was already getting bad and those kind of things.

Is there a difference in the multi-year ice? Yes, there is, you know. If we had the thick multi, you know, 20 feet thick, we would have saved every part of the whale this year. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: On the ones that they caught, you know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. Well and --

ROY AHMAOGAK: And some saved the last whale that was struck and couldn’t pull up was probably close to 70 footer. I’m not sure, but --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Oh they did -- they did strike a whale that they couldn’t get this year?

ROY AHMAOGAK: They brought parts of it up. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: On the edge. Cut most of it out in the water and they -- it was Ahkivgak crew. They were down there by Hollywood. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: They couldn’t pull it out of the water. They got closer to Barrow.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: They were out here somewhere or -- ROY AHMAOGAK: They were --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I guess not -- that’s pretty far.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Probably 8 and 9, so --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, one of those.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, 9. These guys were here. They struck a whale. They brought it over to No. 7, Jacob Adams’ trail, PK13.

They brought two of the whales here. Johnny Leavitt’s and Ahkivgak's They brought those over here. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Because they were out boating out here. Anyway, they brought both the whales here. They got done with Johnny’s and they decided because they couldn’t come out -- onto the ice they pulled it over to let’s see No. 4.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And they to this day might still be attached to the ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Straight out from here. It might --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Is that David Leavitt’s?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. They -- they -- they tied the whale to the shorefast ice over here at No. 4. So as soon as this part goes out, I think we’re going to go out. I’ll check over here to check to see if the whale is still attached to the ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And we may end up bringing back the, you know, the head and the rest of the maktak.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: It would still be good?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, but not the meat. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Oh, just the --

ROY AHMAOGAK: Just the outer -- just the outer part. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: So, that’s what we’re hoping. If it's still attached there, we’ll bring it back to shore and, you know, pull it up and -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Take the rest of the maktak off and so, you know, those guys -- those guys that struck the whale they had to bring him over -- further over this way because favorable ice conditions which was, you know,

between here and town which is kind of thicker ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: So, they -- yeah, they did tie it to the shorefast ice over here at No. 4, so we're hoping that it's still there.

I mean, we haven’t been able to go out and check yet, but the chances of it being there since it hasn’t gone out yet -- the chances are pretty good. So --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: And you mentioned the multi-year ice. I think we had this conversation in May when I was here just about how much multi-year ice is out there.

How would you describe just the amount of multi-year ice, was -- is it -- is it --

Compared to like maybe the last five years but then also compared to 30 years ago is it -- is it a common recent year the amount that's -- that was out there this year?

ROY AHMAOGAK: If you -- if you would have asked me this 10 years ago I would have said it hasn’t changed. There's still multi-year ice here and there and down, you know, up the coast and down the coast.

If you would have asked me that 10 years ago I would have never, you know, said there's always going to be multi-year ice. But this year and last year and the year before that we've rarely -- rarely, you know, had multi years.

There were some two years ago that was straight out from Nuvuk. And nobody knew that other than guys that went up to go check up there. There was a couple pieces there.

So to your question was there more or less -- significant less from 20, 30 years ago almost down to zero, zilch, you know.

But having to go out there and go past Nuvuk this year with you and having to find, you know, miles and miles of multi-year ice was, you know, I thought I would never ever see the two story Piqaluyak. I thought I would never, but this year we did, you know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So would you think is it -- was that surprising or do you think it's typically like that up there?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Surprising in some sense. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: You know, I was happy to see that there was two story -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: -- Piqaluyak, you know.

I thought that I would never ever see that again. I thought I would never, to honestly tell you, I thought I would never ever see those kind of ice like that again. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And it was surprising. It just -- it was kind of a shock. And I showed these pictures to those guys at rescue base and they said no way.

You can't -- There's no ice like that. I said, look, here’s pictures. And they were surprised.

And some of them expressed that they're going to take a drive out that way because that stuff out there is grounded. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Right down to the bottom because when the ice rolled over, it kind of exposed the bottom of the gravel and mud on one side so we know that it's going to be out there for a while. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: So.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, cause I -- I think I told you if you look at the satellite imagery it doesn’t -- it doesn’t show anything.

Well, It might show it in some way, but even if it shows it, we need to know how to interpret the imaging and right now it's -- if you look at these images, you can’t -- you can’t look here --

ROY AHMAOGAK: You can’t distinguish it.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: No, it's too difficult. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: No one has really done it successfully with these type of images and so you can’t really go back and look at how the multi-year ice has changed over the years. I mean you really almost have to rely on what people see on the ground.

ROY AHMAOGAK: See and feel, yeah. Yeah, everything is so blended in it's just -- you can’t really, you know, they’re almost --

You can’t really tell unless you go out there and see which we did and it was just so surprising that, you know, we found so much out there. It's just unbelievable.

And those guys at rescue base were saying no. This ain’t --- this ain’t Piqaluyak. I said yeah look.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: So that CD I burnt did work?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, that did work.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I was wondering cause my computer's acting funny.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, it did work so I wanted to thank you for that CD so --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah, that was -- that was enjoyable for me to actually see all that multi-year ice just to get used to it -- identifying it because I’ve seen very little in the previous years that it's --

I think you need a lot of experience to be able to pick it out so that was a really good learning experience for me.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And even on the Nageak's trail where we found those multi-year ice kind of like not really flat but those kind of -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: -- rounded edges of ice. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: So, yes, it has -- have to say it was, you know, 10 years ago, 20 years ago I would have said no it's not going to be. This ice will be around here forever.

And if I would have said that 10, 15 years ago I would have thought someone was crazy that this ice would be gone.

Now it's almost nonexistent other than freezing over in the wintertime, you know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Did you think that multi-year ice, just the stuff that was out here, near where people were hunting, did that add any advantage?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Other than having to use that for drinking purposes it was just some advantage.

People use that as the only multi-year ice there and we went out and got some ice for drinking purposes and those kind of things.

And it benefit some to some extent.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: It wasn’t enough to really solidify?

ROY AHMAOGAK: It wasn’t enough to, you know, other than -- nothing, you know, it wasn’t --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I guess I was just wondering is it the amount that we saw out there off town, did it make the shore ice any more stable?

ROY AHMAOGAK: I wouldn’t say that it made the shorefast stable because it was inside the Ivuniq's. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: It was inside Ivuniq's already. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: It was already inside closer to shore and the Ivuniq's were further out.

So I have to say it was on that and fit in keeping things got it -- no, it wasn’t really that. It was already stuff beyond it towards the ocean that had already been grounded, so --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

Well, I kind of already talked about this, but I wanted to ask where was your -- your Naŋiaqtuġvik -- probably said that wrong, but your --your camp -- your safe camp -- cause I don’t think --

ROY AHMAOGAK: Naŋiaqtuġvik? MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I don't think I had ever seen it. Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Naŋiaqtuġvik was -- it wasn’t too far from our edge of -- probably about in between the Ivuniq's. It wasn’t too far. It was just probably within a thousand feet from our edge to the Naŋiaqtuġvik.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Okay. So it was close to where the trail on the map stops? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Or somewhere in there.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. It was kind of close. It was -- it wasn’t too far. I mean that’s -- that’s how thick and stable that thing was.

It was just probably within a thousand feet from our edge. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: So it wasn’t too far. It was just so close. Just like kind of walking distance really. So --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. And so then your crew -- did you guys -- that day that you pulled your equipment off did you guys go out again?

ROY AHMAOGAK: No, we didn’t go back out again. It was just the temperatures was so, you know, warm that it kind of melted everything else so quick and it was just like a -- holy smokes, we’re already in springtime. There’s no more snow, you know, no more snow in town.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And everything just started melting so quickly. It kind of flooded the edge of the beach so it didn’t --

there was no sense in going back down because there was so much water along the edge of the beach. Just so muddy and water.

So we didn’t go back out that day. We brought our stuff back in. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: It was --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Which was like May 15?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, right around there, May 15. It was just so -- so warm and so hot that we had so much water around town here that, you know, it just -- we had more water than we had ice that was showing -- just -- it was really bad.

But further north by NARL north, it just no water along the edge. It just completely just -- you wouldn’t see -- you couldn’t see any water out there. It was just for some reason just in front of town here. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: You know, it's just water and everything else, but further north from NARL to Nuvuk it's just -- people were still out camping and hunting, you know, doing their snowmachining out there, so --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: What are -- this is one of my more general questions, so what are the things that you start to look for to see when the ice is deteriorating or becoming unsafe?

Like what stages does the ice go through that leads up to when it's time to get off the ice?

ROY AHMAOGAK: When it's time to get off, first we see the melting of the snow which exposes cracks and those kind of things, you know.

You know, once the snow starts melting it kind of releases the glue. When the snow melts and when the cracks are exposed, it melts and it creates water and then opens up -- boom --

when the glue is separating, which we call -- when a crack is formed, you know, we’ve got a little spacing between. It freezes. That ice in the middle freezes.

And that’s the glue that holds, you know, both sides of the ice. The shorefast ice and here's the fresh ice or really multi-year ice really if -- if it freezes over it glues itself.

So once we start to see that stages of where it's really started to melt quick and it's starting to get water in the cracks and it melts that ice and the glue is broken. And that's where we have our senses of ah it's not safe to start being out here. You kind of get that uneasy feeling because, you know, that melt water is melting everything else in between the snow.

Snow is melting and starts exposing cracks and those kind of things and --

And later in the season, you don’t have any more snow to really drive your snowmachines other than bumpy -- bumpy ice, you know, the ice are starting to expose the rough trails.

You can’t really, you know, snow is what we really kind of really count on for making our trail smooth. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: It doesn’t -- it doesn’t expose the rough parts and it's easier to drive on. Once that snow is gone then the bumpy parts start showing up. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And, you know, once -- once the water starts melting the snow starts melting then it -- it exposes the cracks and the glue is broken and there's nothing that's holding that ice together.

And, you know, those kind of things are -- I wouldn’t say that if it's -- it it is -- was it hard. It was hard this year, you know, just -- we had so much warm weather so quick in such a short time that it kind of melted everything else real quick. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: It got hot out for -- how many days it just melted everything else. It was just like a -- melt everything so quick. It was just water everywhere -- just kind of bad for whaling, but -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: When it gets too warm out. We had west winds and south winds all spring. It kind of brought up warm weather and melted everything else. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh. ROY AHMAOGAK: So.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah. The bottoms of these -- of the grounded ridges they’re still obviously grounded cause all that ice is staying in there. Is that -- is that something that always is kind of the final thing that holds the ice in?

But I guess do -- do -- when you're actually out on the ice during whaling, did you ever have to worry about those keels -- the bottom of those ridges getting detached or is that something that always happens later that you don’t worry about it?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Oh yeah. Once we know that it's starting to really melt and thaw out real quick, we know that the ice is starting to get lower and lower. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Structurally it gets smaller and smaller so we know the bottom of that is --

once it starts melting than we know it's going to lift up. And because when we know the south winds and the currents are coming up, we know it's bringing all that warm weather up and it's melting under the ice, you know.

Under water where that ice is grounded, it kind of melts everything else away -- melts it up real quick. And we know that once it pops and it goes out and that’s one of the things that we always kind of be observant. There was -- we get the south currents coming up and we know that's bringing warm water and that kind of increases the melt on the shorefast ice, so -- MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: That’s one thing we know -- we've noticed is that when the currents come from west to east, we know that it's bringing in the warm currents and it melts the ice quicker.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Is that the dominant current in the spring?

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, springtime -- in the late in the season, but the dominant currents are, you know, east to west which is norm. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: But in the late season it shifts over. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Late season which is May -- May 15, May 16 those kind of areas where we've seen it in the early part of May where the currents are just blazing through or early spring.

I mean, yeah, early spring. We see icebergs going by full blast further out. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And we know that the currents are going that way, so --

Yeah, we notice when the currents are changing. We see it. You know, ice goes floating by real quick. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And that's one of the things we observe is, you know, the currents and those kind of things, you know.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I think that’s all my questions. I really appreciate these, you know, these moments to talk to you cause I -- I’m really learning a lot.

Being out on the ice you learn a lot, but actually after I’m done I get to think about things and then ask more specific questions. ROY AHMAOGAK: Uh-huh.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: It really helps to understand how things fit together cause it's really easy to write a scientific report that sounds right to somebody who doesn’t know about sea ice, but in reality it's not correct.

So I mean these conversations really help to ensure that what we write is actually correct.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: I don’t know if there's anything else that you thought that was important about this season that we didn’t talk about.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Other than it was one of the most kind of heartbreaking things about this year was that, you know, we weren’t given the opportunity to practice traditional whaling this year because of the ice.

It just -- it's because this past 12 months Barrow and its people have been kind of feuding and bickering at each other all this last winter and that's the reason why we think the ice didn’t go out this year early and it stayed closed because

we as, you know, Alaska Native people think that, you know, it's because that reason is that Barrow and its people were bickering too much -- fighting each other, you know, those kind of things.

And that's the reason why we didn’t have any open water this year because of the, you know, fighting amongst ourselves, you know.

We cannot -- we cannot keep this up because if we're -- if we would've start -- keep bickering and fighting each other then we know that when we're not going to have a good season.

And that has kind of showed Barrow people you have to stop that and people got on the VHF this spring and said that's the reason why we’re not catching whales is because of this kind of mentality -- this kind of attitude and this kind of bickering, you know,

just because of that's reason we believe it's because of that.

That Barrow wasn’t successful in anything this year -- springtime and that’s the reason why we barely got enough -- you know, enough this spring.

And that's going to make us think the coming year that we have to watch our tongue. We have to watch what we say to people and those kind of things. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Fighting amongst ourselves is not beneficial. It's not beneficial to us -- not beneficial to culturally, you know.

We’re supposed to be humble and not fight and those kind of things. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And this is going to teach us -- it's going to teach Barrow you cannot keep fighting amongst ourselves.

And that's the reason we didn’t have a good year this year and we're kind of lucky to have two blanket tosses this year. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: That’s -- that's what's going to make, you know, less fighting and less bickering this year. Feuding amongst people and fighting against, you know, everybody else.

That’s the reason we think, Alaska people that, you know, Barrow's been feuding and fighting too much all year and that's why we didn’t get any open water. And that’s all I got.

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: All right. To m,e it makes sense that it is more than just about winds and currents. It is about other things, too.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: You know, it's those kind of little things that amount to something big. It's just small things that could have been prevented, you know. People speak up say don’t do that. You can’t be speaking like that. You cannot be talking someone down. You can’t be mightier than thou kind of mentality and those kind of things.

And once the mountain starts growing it starts becoming a big hill from a small mole hill to a big hill and it creates, you know, uneasy feelings about what’s our spring going to be like. Those kind of things, you know.

It'll teach Barrow, you know, people like us a simple little watch your tongue -- watch your, you know, how you treat other people, so --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, hopefully -- hopefully the story will change for next year.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Hopefully. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: You know it kinda makes you feel, you know, we got to do better next year. We got to do something.

You know, I’m pretty sure that fall time comes around everybody's going to be kind of like, you know, be on your guard -- be on your, you know, watch your tongue and watch how you treat people and be nice to people those kind of things. MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Uh-huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: So --

MATTHEW DRUCKENMILLER: Well, thanks again. I'm gonna turn this thing off.