This is the continuation of an interview with Lewis Brower on February 26, 2016 by Karen Brewster at his house in Barrow, Alaska. In this second part of a two part interview, Lewis talks about drifting out on the ice, the impotance of communication, ice safety, the effect of the current on ice conditions, and ice movement. He also discusses adapting to seasonal changes in conditions, and learning about ice, ice safety, and whaling from his father, Arnold Brower, Sr.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Sea Ice Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Feb 26, 2016
Narrator(s): Lewis Brower
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Sue Beck
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Drifting out on the ice, and importance of having a compass
Importance of communication and staying calm
Ice formation, and thin ice versus thick ice
Moving pack ice hitting the ice at the edge of the open lead, and resulting safety concerns
Learning and teaching about types of ice and ice safety, and generational transfer of knowledge
Seal hunting, and getting caught in the moving ice
Retrieving his stranded boat
Effect of the current on the moving ice
Adapting to seasonal changes in hunting conditions
Ice safety, and having to leave the ice for safety reasons
Communication between whaling crews on the ice
Learning from his father, Arnold Brower, Sr.
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KAREN BREWSTER: Well, you were talking about being caught out on the ice and drifting out and that that’s happened to you?
LEWIS BROWER: That happened to our whaling crew more than once, I can remember.
When my dad was alive he actually was with us on one occasion, and with the guidance that he -- with his voice, we were really focused in.
We didn’t have time to be scared. We just knew exactly what we needed to take care of.
And we were pretty fortunate at the time, that the timing for us that this occurred, the ice had come in as we were going out.
This was our first day out going hunting. We were going out and we didn’t realize it at the time, that the ice floe had come in and hit north of us, and when it had done that, all the fault lines behind us broke off.
And so we were floating on a piece of ice that was about one mile wide by about three miles long, and we didn’t have -- we didn’t have no idea that we were floating.
The way that the floe edge had occurred -- if this is the three miles and this is the one mile, we traveled here.
As we were traveling, the ice broke off and we were coming up to the edge, and we were just very fortunate that the ice moved in the direction that we were going on there.
So by the time we got to the lead edge, it had completely -- If this is the landfast ice where we were coming from and that’s the piece of ice that broke off.
We were very fortunate in traveling in that direction that the ice came and did a swirl just like this.
KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, it came back around?
LEWIS BROWER: It came all the way around. And by the time -- we were just about to the very edge, and we didn’t even know that we were floating out there.
And what caught our attention was when we got to the very edge, it brought us to right in front of another camp.
And they’re, like, "Hey! Hurry up. The ice is going to keep -- " So we just kept right on traveling and right back onto the ice.
And that ice took off and never came back. But we all came in and re-situated and found another spot at that time on there.
And so that was -- that was one where my dad had told us on there, "When you -- when this -- when you're -- whenever you get out to the lead edge, you always remember to put your compass out, and place it and set it and make sure nobody moves it on there."
But you have to tell everybody what it’s for on there.
And so at that time, we had gone back. My dad had done that. He got the compass and he placed it on the ice and he told everybody, "What's it at? What are the arrows pointing to?"
And we all told him that it’s directly on NORTH. "Okay. Do not touch it. Do not play around it. This is your life-saving device. If you know if somebody move it, you have to tell ‘em that you moved it. You have to reset it."
And so he goes on to continue -- "If nobody’s -- "If you set that compass and nobody moves it and it moves, you’re on a ice that just broke off.
And it’s going to move in a direction -- in the way that whatever the current is going to bring it, it’s going to move it. And that’s your indicator that you have to be -- you have to get ready. Because you could be floating away on there."
And so that’s occurred to us, too, while we’ve been out there. We notice that it’s moved.
We send a scouter to go check how far do we have to go on there, and then when they came back they’re like -- we got about a quarter mile of ice, but there’s -- we’re floating away.
And so we got ourselves packed at that time, and then we got our Lund boat, which we always go out with all the time. We got that prepared first.
Then we loaded that -- the boat up with all our gear and then brought that gear to the shorefast ice. Back and forth, which took quite a few --
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, you went -- you went over the crack -- or the water, yeah?
LEWIS BROWER: Yeah. Well, by the time we were all set, we were about a quarter mile away from the shorefast ice to where we were at.
And so when that occurred, we packed in a certain way so that we can load up the boat. And the boat had to travel back and forth in the ocean and back and forth a couple times.
And I remember that we -- we even loaded up the snowmachines when we were done. We loaded up the snowmachines as the last loads went through.
We had five snowmachines that we had to bring back, so those all came across on the boat, also.
And so we were -- At that time, we were very fortunate that that -- that we had what we have in order to come back. Otherwise, we would’ve had to call Search and Rescue to put out a rescue effort for us.
KAREN BREWSTER: Do you remember what year that was?
LEWIS BROWER: I don’t. That’s been such a long time. That had to be in the late ‘80s.
KAREN BREWSTER: Your dad was still alive? LEWIS BROWER: Oh, yeah. My dad was still alive. KAREN BREWSTER: He was still captain?
LEWIS BROWER: Oh, he was -- He was still very active at that time on there. So he was going back and forth with us at that time.
KAREN BREWSTER: You answered my question when you said that one you were on came around and connected again.
‘Cause I wondered if that happened. It could happen?
LEWIS BROWER: Yeah. That was a pretty -- pretty lucky event on there. It could have been very different for us on there.
We may have had to done the same thing, but end results -- I’ve been in several -- several of them, too, and the biggest thing that’s -- that reminds me with everybody is direct communication.
You have to give ‘em direct orders so that even the scaredest person has something to do. They have something to focus on.
And that’s what you have to -- that’s what you have to make sure that that occurs.
Because it only takes one person to start the panic on there. But if you control the panic, you control your efforts to get yourself back to safety.
That’s a real, real big key when that occurs.
And so hopefully, knock on wood, hopefully, we won’t have that occur this year. I mean, we have a lot of unstable ice out there.
We have a pressure ridge that’s -- that’s visible on there, and we have a lot of open water right now.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I noticed just the other day you can see the open water.
LEWIS BROWER: Yeah. And so, where I’m -- I'm not going to say it. There’s no prediction, but I know that the ice is gonna come back in. It’s gonna create another pressure ridge.
And it’s going to give us an alternate direction on where we’re gonna go break trails.
So I know that's something where everybody’s hoping that they don’t have to look forward to on doing so, but, you know, it’s bound to occur because that’s how nature works up here. We’ve seen it over and over again.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I was wondering with open water this late, if the ice does come in or start re-forming, it’s not going to be very thick is it? LEWIS BROWER: No.
KAREN BREWSTER: Is it going to be something you can go out on?
LEWIS BROWER: Well, it’s the -- the sikuliaq that forms now, it-- it -- it helps in different ways. KAREN BREWSTER: It’s not very cold either.
LEWIS BROWER: No. So that -- that stuff helps in different ways on there.
The -- the best way that it helps is it -- at the time that the main pack ice that’s floating free, when it -- At the moment that it comes back in, all that sikuliaq acts like a glue. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.
LEWIS BROWER: So when it presses against each other, it’s got so much pressure, it’s almost like a instant bond on there. So --
And the longer that it stays there, the -- the weather that we have only helps it freeze. We’re so cold.
We’re not above -- we’re not at our melting point yet. So anything that you put outside will freeze.
It might take a little bit longer, but it’s going to freeze solid on there. And so it -- and it also helps --
It also is a negative impact, especially if you’re hunting and you’re active and the whales are flowing.
Because it renders you almost useless in your hunt, because you can’t hunt in the sikuliaq. It makes -- it makes too much noise when you’re trying to get through it.
So most of us will know to break off a certain portion and -- manually, and that’s how that’s what we’ll use for our hunt.
'Cause we want to hunt in the open water as quickly as we could. And the more silent we are, the more deadlier we are on our hunt on there.
I think for any hunt. The more silent you are, the more deadlier you are.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I’m sure. When we were talking about the ice coming in and hitting at the edge, does it make a difference if that ice that's coming in is thick, heavy ice versus thin? Like nowadays, it’s thinner ice?
LEWIS BROWER: It’s -- it is what it is. People pray for heavy, thick -- thick ice on there and people pray for it to be real flat, and we are just placed in the --
Like I said earlier, we are just placed in the most active sea ice conditions that there is anywhere in the world.
So whether it’s flat, whether it’s the roughest year you’re gonna ever see, we’re just going to deal with it when we get there.
KAREN BREWSTER: I was thinking if you’re at the lead edge and you see this ice coming toward you, and it’s -- in the old days it could be real thick, heavy ice. LEWIS BROWER: Right.
KAREN BREWSTER: Was that more dangerous than now that ice coming in might be thinner?
LEWIS BROWER: I’m trying to think of the easiest way to put that in. There’s no real difference in that scenario.
Ice is heavy no matter if it’s five feet thick, thirty feet thick. It’s the sheer mass of the size you’re talking about, the three quarters -- maybe seven-eighths of the entire Arctic Ocean that’s moving out there.
And I can’t tell you the sheer weight that that poses right there. But in the size that’s moving -- has to be bigger than the state of Alaska. In any one point.
Or I shouldn’t say -- Alaska’s really big, so maybe -- maybe the state of California.
KAREN BREWSTER: So if all that pack ice starts coming in, it’s more a question of how fast it hits?
LEWIS BROWER: How fast it’s coming, and when it’s coming in we -- the attention is from the time that it’s visible 'til the time that you could really see it -- the entire mass.
What was the time? How long did that take?
If that took an hour, you got about an hour, maybe two, before it hits you.
If it took fifteen minutes, you know you got about fifteen more minutes to get out of the way on there. That’s what I see.
That’s how I would time it. But it’s the timing on there.
Sometimes you’ll see it and it’ll just be constantly going north. And then maybe eight, ten hours later it’ll be going south.
And it’s just constantly -- If it’s constant and it’s out there, that’s okay. But if it’s moving and it’s -- it now starts to come and becomes very visible, you know, I’m going to be paying attention. And that’s -- that becomes a safety margin.
KAREN BREWSTER: If -- if you’re camped on the edge and you're on good solid thick ice?
LEWIS BROWER: There, I might -- if I’m on that and I know that I don’t have many faults behind me to where I can go home? If I don’t have -- if everything is good and it’s solid all the way to where I’m at, I might chance it to come and go hit.
But I don’t do that very often. And I don’t keep myself prepared all the time, so if it hits and it’s coming in, I at least pack all my gear to make sure that if anything occurs I’m ready to move.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Because I was wondering if nowadays you might be at the lead edge on thin ice or newly formed lead, that’s gonna crumple faster if it gets hit. LEWIS BROWER: Oh, yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Does that work that way?
LEWIS BROWER: That makes sense on there. And so, when -- when -- when you’re on first-year ice, some of it is reliable enough on there, but it’s reliable up to the point that you know all your trail. You know.
And everybody that makes their trail knows that they have at least one, maybe two fault lines.
Fault lines are thin ice that you could -- that makes it easy for you to get from the shorefast ice to the leading edge on there.
But at the same time, you know, they use that to get back real quick.
If it disappears, if it crumbles or it removes itself, then you’re -- that’s where you have to break trail to help yourself get back home. So.
KAREN BREWSTER: You had mentioned that a lot of people know how to identify sikuliaq. They know what it looks like. LEWIS BROWER: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Are there other types of ice you can describe that maybe people don’t know as easily? That they should? LEWIS BROWER: Well, you know what? KAREN BREWSTER: I know it’s hard --
LEWIS BROWER: We’re taught so well. My family is taught very well.
My niece, my nephews, my cousins that hunt with me, they only are able to do that when they come and go and know -- learn that as they come and go hunt.
They won’t learn it right here in an interview. They might see it and they might -- they might say a few words of it.
But if they’ve never -- if they’ve experienced it once or twice and they see the effects of it, they need -- they now have to understand how to use it to benefit themselves.
What happens to it if it melts off? From the bottom, from the current? What happens when it becomes the dark-colored ice on there?
What happens when you see the water on it? That’s the things that they’re going to have to experience. I mean, you -- the way that we learned it is through the experience.
We never learn it by reading it. We never learn it by -- by just talking about it. We see it. We come and go fix it.
Or we go around it. Or -- or we’ll come in and invite everybody like a social gathering. We’ll invite everybody to come in and have a dinner and let’s -- let’s talk about what we’re -- what we’ve done or what we’re doing. And what did we see on there.
And I -- we -- my dad does that or my dad did that. We’ve done it a couple times on there and so -- and so those are lessons learned, communications, and it’s done in a -- in a setting where you make everybody comfortable.
And the best part about it is the communication comes from everybody. It doesn’t just come from one person. It doesn’t just come from me.
It might come from my brother. It might come from my nephew. It might come from my own grandson, if and when he gets out there.
It’s everything combined together, and then we come in and either identify what do we need to do to correct it. Or we decide that we’re going to try something different.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I understand your point that to talk about the ice, you -- you -- like, if you want to teach somebody about what piqaluyak is, you need to show them what it looks like. LEWIS BROWER: Oh, yeah!
KAREN BREWSTER: That’s what you’re saying? LEWIS BROWER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Okay.
LEWIS BROWER: Yeah. We -- we do that and we try to teach -- teach our younger hunters when they’re with us on there. We teach them try to identify that.
And the biggest success stories are the ones that come back, "Oh, that was salty." You know, "Okay, so that’s not piqaluyak." Yeah, that one still kinda tastes like salt but it’s -- you know. And so the salt is receding on there.
So at some point in time when its warmer, the top may be just salty, so it might be usable on there.
KAREN BREWSTER: Or when you’re out breaking trail you stop and show them. This is what we’re looking for?
LEWIS BROWER: Yeah. We’ll let ‘em -- we talked about -- we talk about that with the crews and with the crewmembers when we’re out there.
So everybody gets an understanding real quick, you know, what it looks like.
I think one of our -- one of our things that we don’t see very much anymore because of our modern lifestyles now is that we don’t go out and go get fresh ice from the lakes anymore. Not in my family.
But as I was growing up, that was one of our favorite chores. You know, my dad would come over and says, “We need four sled loads of ice.”
That was the best part, you know. We got to use the snowmachine. Yes!
We got to go try to figure out how -- what he would explain and “Go get me some fresh ice.”
And so the thing that he would let us know when we went to go get fresh ice would be, "You need to go to this lake. When you get to the lake, you need to go find a crack in the ice. Take a look at the crack. It’s got a -- you should be able to see the distance of that crack from the top to the bottom.
If it’s more than -- if it’s more than a foot wide, you’re okay. You’re okay to chop that and get some ice from there."
And then he’d also mention, when you get ice you want to make sure that the ice is clear -- it’s not cloudy.
And so we’d be out there trying to figure out -- so we’d be trying to figure out on the lake -- "Okay, where’s the clear ice that he’s talking about? This is all cloudy." You couldn’t see the bottom.
And then we’d have to go traveling on the ice until, "Oh, here’s some clear patches and here’s a crack right through it. So -- so this is what he’s talking about. Okay, I got it."
So when we’d come back home, he would look at the ice. When we first started --
I should say, when we first started going out, he’d look at the ice condition. Is it clear enough? There’s no clouds? Is -- Is it big enough? Are these good?”
You know, sometimes he’d say, “This is not what we’re looking for, so don’t get ice from this -- Wherever you got this, leave it. Go look for more ice.”
So we’d have to go out and go find more ice out on the lake. So when we did that, you know, we’d have lessons learned from going on there.
KAREN BREWSTER: I know Harvey’s getting antsy, so maybe one last question, because we talked about it before we were on tape.
You were talking about seal hunting and how that’s changed and how many people are going out. That hunting on the ice is not just whaling.
LEWIS BROWER: Right. Hunting out there has many different forms. People go out there to go hunt seals, and here in Barrow that number’s really dwindled quite a bit, you know.
My dad was one of those guys that always loved to go out there and go look at the ice and go hunt on it and bring back the seals. He loved to eat it.
However, I’m not on that verge of wanting to go eat seal as much as he does on there, so my platform that I hunt for seals is in the summer when I can use my boats.
And it’s not -- is there -- that's -- that's a particular hunt that you gotta really use your wits about when you’re hunting out there, because you’re -- you're dealing with a moving environment.
And when that seal hunt occurs, you still can get caught on the ice. I’ve done --
I’ve gotten caught with my boat out on the sea ice before, and that’ll turn a grown man into a little kid. I’ve seen it occur and, you know, it’s not -- not anything that you want to experience too many times on there.
And over there when -- When this one occurred for myself, the conditions that I can recall, the current was about at five to seven knots, and I had a small window for hunting in the open water.
But because of the current going seven knots, that disappeared. So I only had a small half-mile wide of open ice between two pieces of landfast ice.
And so I was using that as my little platform to go out and come back in. At the time that I got caught on this, I had stayed out a little bit too much and the ice was coming in.
At the same time, I didn’t realize about two miles up north it had hit the shorefast ice and it broke it.
And my door, which was a quarter-mile wide or half-mile wide open, started closing on me, and I was trying to get out of there and I didn’t make it. I got caught.
Before -- it closed up on me and I couldn’t come back in. I was about -- I think I was about a mile out from the shore when that -- when that had occurred.
KAREN BREWSTER: And what kind of a boat were you in?
LEWIS BROWER: I was using a 22-foot aluminum whaleboat on there, so it was a good-sized boat.
And I had with me another boat, and he had an18-foot Lund on there, and so at the moment that we realized that this is as far as we’re going to get with the conditions that we have, and the conditions were worsening every second.
And I decided just real quick to tie up all my rope that I had. I tied them together and I cut my anchor line off, and I extended my anchor line by 500 feet.
And then I put my anchor way out into the shorefast ice, which I thought was shorefast ice at the time on there.
And so at that moment, as soon as I did that, I turned around, ran back, and we decided because the guy had -- the other boat was a lot smaller, we all grabbed on and we’re gonna pull your boat all the way across to the other side so that we can go home.
I’ve totally given up on my boat because it’s too heavy. I can’t -- and so -- and so I -- So we did this. We’re set up -- (Harvey. Relax!).
So we’re set up and we’re ready to move with the small 18-foot boat, and so we started going.
We got no more than a hundred feet with the boat, and the ice that we’re on splits in half and just comes straight up fifty feet in front of us.
And we’re standing still and all going, "Oh my God! What do we do next?" You know, panic started striking into some of us, and all I was thinking of was, you know what, safety first.
We’re not dead yet. We’re not going to die if we -- as long as we’re keeping ourselves one step ahead on there.
So the guy calls on the radio, "We need help." And we got a Search and Rescue chopper within -- within forty-five minutes that came over.
We were kind of lucky that they all had already prepared to go pick up somebody else. And our lives were more in jeopardy than somebody else, so they came and helped us out.
They picked us up, and they were gonna -- the first thing the pilot -- I could remember the pilot says, “Where do you want to go?”
And I told him, “I want to go right here to the beach.” And he says, “Okay, I can do that.”
So he flies us right to the beach, and as I’m -- as we’re going there to go land, I have the same radio communications as the boats, and my first words are, “Can you give me a ride back to my boat?”
And the chopper operator’s, like, “What?” And so, you know, he had done his job. He had picked us up, brought us to safety, and he went home.
He went to go take care of somebody else. We're walking to the beach and we’re like getting on the first available boat that comes, and they’re like, "What do you want to do?”
I want to go watch what’s going on with my gear on there. And so he said, "Okay." So we went over, and we came over and boated around until I could see my boat and his boat.
And we’re trying to think of what we could do to go save what gear that we have, because it’s still valuable on there to the point where it sinks or it’s completely damaged.
At the same -- At that moment, what had occurred was about fifteen boats came to try to come and go help there -- or they want to just come and go watch.
And first thing that popped to my head is every boat has the same amount of rope, if not more than I got on my boat.
So I asked them all, “Can I borrow all your boats?” I mean, “Can I borrow all your ropes, please? All the big rope. Anything more than a half-inch?”
“Sure! What do you want to do?” "I’m gonna go make a lifeline to my boat.
So, I was lucky enough that I -- there was enough rope to tie my -- from my boat all the way across to where these other guys were in the water.
And so as soon as I tied up all the string together, I told ‘em to take off. Go. We tied it to the biggest boat that we could find on there, and so he took off.
And the first initial try, the -- I guess one of the guys had some old manila rope that he had from years and years, so he had relied on that. And that’s the first thing that snapped.
So we took that off and gave it back to him, and then we tied everything else back together.
And to my surprise, the boat started moving and kept on moving until the guy stopped.
KAREN BREWSTER: So they pulled it over the ice? LEWIS BROWER: He pulled it over about -- this had to be -- he had to be maybe from where we’re at to the gas station.
KAREN BREWSTER: A half-mile?
LEWIS BROWER: About a half -- quarter, maybe little less than a half mile.
And so there we were watching the boat coming over, and we’re, like, "Oh my goodness, it’s working."
And then a couple guys told me, “Whatever gave you that idea?” And I said, “Well, we can pull a whale up with a rope. Why can’t we just pull my boat over with a rope?”
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. So you went from one open water spot to another?
LEWIS BROWER: Yeah. Over a bunch of pressure ridge on there. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.
LEWIS BROWER: So that was -- that was something -- KAREN BREWSTER: Exciting. LEWIS BROWER: That was something else.
And I remember when I got back home, my dad came over. “Sit down. Talk to me. Tell me what -- what happened. Tell me, what did you do?” (Harvey, that’s enough).
My dad was curious as to what -- what I was thinking and what made me do the things that I decided to do at that moment.
And I told him I wasn’t afraid. I was -- all I wanted to do was make sure nobody's hurt, first of all, and then after I know that everybody was okay, I just wanted to see if I could retrieve what I can from that -- from where it was at.
And I was just very lucky that I was able to. And he said, “That’s right. You were just real lucky.”
Not very many people survive situations like that on there. Because it was -- it was a place that nobody really should be encountering at any time. KAREN BREWSTER: So, it's --
LEWIS BROWER: But I wasn’t the only boat. We weren’t the only boats.
Just north of us about a mile there was five other boats that were hunting and they had done the same things, and they were all smaller boats.
All the Lund boats, so they were able to pull theirs over the pressure ridge by hand.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So it’s just -- that was sum -- What, like June, July ugruk hunting?
LEWIS BROWER: Yes. That -- This one just happened to be in early July, and that’s when most of our hunting starts.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And so that’s -- the pans of ice start breaking up and moving around?
LEWIS BROWER: Oh, yeah!
KAREN BREWSTER: And the current or something just moved it all real quick?
LEWIS BROWER: So everything else is melting. I mean -- and you gotta see the ice is -- would be doing exactly what it’s doing right now, but in just warmer weather.
On there. And so the ice that’s here now is much more stable and at keeping together ‘cause of the temperature. The ice back then --
Where in July, where it’s really warmed up a lot and it’s in the melting mode -- is separating. Anything that’s gonna break is separating apart.
KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And something happened that it was bringing it together instead of separating it?
LEWIS BROWER: Well, it was -- it was the current that was really dictating what the ice was gonna do.
And the ice -- the current was just moving in -- in the direction that it was. It was going north. From south to north on there.
And it was at a -- it was at an extremely high rate at that time. Five to six knots. That’s -- that’s a lot of ice moving.
KAREN BREWSTER: I know when you guys are out whaling, you’re always checking the current.
When you’re out seal hunting, do you normally check the current?
LEWIS BROWER: Not as much as when we’re seal hunting (says seal here, but wonder if he meant whale).
And it just depends on what the ice -- how the ice looks and how the ice is following the current on there.
And seal hunting, it’s always all about where the ice is -- which way the ice is moving.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And you can probably see it better in July -- LEWIS BROWER: Oh, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- how it’s moving than in whaling time.
LEWIS BROWER: Yeah. Plus, we’re using our boats more in that weather because we launch them right off the beach on there.
And that -- that makes a big difference as to hunt -- hunting over here.
KAREN BREWSTER: And I know when I lived in Barrow, I remember, July, it would start to break up, and from the shore you’d have some open water and then the broken ice and then the main ice.
And you’d hunt in that in-between area. LEWIS BROWER: Oh, yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Can you still do that? Is that still happening?
LEWIS BROWER: That’s the only way that it happens on there.
And when it’s -- it’s later in August then September that the ice is not coming back these -- in today’s dates on there.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you still -- in July you still have enough time before it all moves out that you can still hunt around the ice?
LEWIS BROWER: Yep. Yep. So, yeah.
So that’s why I was saying that our platforms are changing and we have to adapt to our platform that -- if we want to continue.
And that's -- that’s what we’ve always done.
And I’m sure my dad had to change his platform from the time that his dad started showing him.
And I’m seeing that same platform change between now and when Harvey starts to go hunt.
KAREN BREWSTER: So your ugruk season, is it shorter? You have to get out there quick before the ice goes away?
LEWIS BROWER: It’s -- yes. Yes and no. It’s -- ugruk season is just when you can get out there.
The earlier is preferable, but not always. Sometimes you get ‘em later on in the season and --
Plus our season is much longer, too, so even though that there’s no ice, the animals are still out there.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you’ll go hunt ugruk in open water without ice?
LEWIS BROWER: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.
LEWIS BROWER: And I’ve done that a couple times on there. And it’s just how do you adapt on there, so that’s all we do.
Is just change our -- adapt with the change.
KAREN BREWSTER: So there’s no preference to do -- is it -- ?
LEWIS BROWER: Mmm, you know, it’s easier I should say with the ice. You have something to work with, being that it doesn’t sink, so --
And, you know, most of us have hunted that way since childhood.
I wouldn’t say all the community, but the ones that go out hunting. And, believe me, that’s a wide range of Barrow.
KAREN BREWSTER: And also for ice -- walrus, people still -- ?
LEWIS BROWER: Walrus still the same. You know, it’s -- it's -- KAREN BREWSTER: They're still out --
LEWIS BROWER: They’re still out there. They hunt. I mean, I go out.
I haven’t gone out there last year, so I know I missed out on certain types of food that I’m used to. So if I had the chance, I’d do it again.
KAREN BREWSTER: Can you hunt walrus in open water? LEWIS BROWER: Oh, yeah. Yep.
KAREN BREWSTER: I always associate it with that broken ice.
LEWIS BROWER: Well, you know, where we’re at, we -- In -- in open water you’re gonna -- obviously, you’re gonna drag it to the beach. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, yeah.
LEWIS BROWER: And when you get it to the beach, depending on where you’re at, if you’re doing it right in front of town, people that want some will offer to help on there, and they’ll help you butcher it if they want some.
And so that’s always the best part, sharing.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, because in the old days, they’d pull the walrus up on an ice floe, right? And butcher it out there?
LEWIS BROWER: Yeah. Oh, yeah. That’s the preferred way. Might keep it clean -- KAREN BREWSTER: Or kill them already on the ice, huh?
LEWIS BROWER: Yeah. Get ‘em while they’re sleeping. Get ‘em when --
The way I like is get ‘em -- get them when they’re full on there. They’re sleeping and they don’t want nobody bothering.
(Harvey! Enough. That’s plastic. Come here.) Yeah, so, you know, -- when they’re --
The way I see it is if the animal is full, I’ve gotten two birds with one stone. Because he’s -- I know that he eats a lot of clams, mussels, invertebrates that are on the bottom on there.
And if he’s real full, I’ll take the stomach and either take the entire contents or just -- or dump it into the ice and then take all of what’s edible in there.
And, believe me, everything that’s in that -- that you can see, is edible on there. So --
KAREN BREWSTER: Wow! Aarigaa. Thank you. I know Harvey’s telling us it’s time to finish, I think.
LEWIS BROWER: Yeah, I think so, too.
KAREN BREWSTER: I could talk to you all day. You’ve got lots of great stories.
But I think we’ll stop for today. Is there anything else you want to finish up with?
LEWIS BROWER: Well, I was just gonna mention, you know, I’ve been working with the guys from Boulder, Colorado, on hopefully making a poster for sea-ice safety.
And I know I got a couple of interviews with a couple of whaling captains on there, so I hope that you’re able to take a look at that and see if it’s recordable in the Jukebox.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, yeah, that would be great.
LEWIS BROWER: Because that’s -- that’s something that I always think of in the back of my mind when we’re out there.
When you’re successful and you’ve caughten a whale and you’re trying to pull that whale up, the hardest thing to tell everybody is, "We gotta go. We can’t take this animal home. Safety is first."
And how do you tell somebody who wants to butcher a whale, "Leave it. Our life depends on us leaving right now."
And that’s -- that’s what some of this has to -- somebody has to be able to say that.
It’s been done before, and sometimes Mother Nature takes -- takes its course and will take whatever it'll take. If it -- Including an entire whale.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I can see that would be painful. That’s food for everybody.
LEWIS BROWER: Yeah. That’s food for everybody, but you can’t eat it if you don’t listen to the safety of being out there.
If you don’t respect Mother Nature here, it doesn’t say I’m sorry.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, and with this thinning ice and lots more moving ice, do you feel like it’s more dangerous out there?
LEWIS BROWER: It is much, much more dangerous today than it ever was on there.
Multi-year ice is hardly seen. First-year ice melts completely away.
The platform that we have is much, much shorter. And you have to accept that.
You can’t -- you’re not going to be able to change it. You can’t go out there and freeze what doesn’t want to be frozen.
And what’s gonna thaw out there -- you just hope that everything that’s been taught to you is put into play at the time that safety is required.
KAREN BREWSTER: Has there been a time when your crew was -- has looked out there and thought, "Oh, it’s too dangerous. We’re not going to go out this year."?
LEWIS BROWER: That’s a good question. I gotta think about that.
I don’t think the -- that any of that has ever come into play.
It’s -- but there are occasions where sometimes second-guessing might come in and say, "Are we really in a safe spot?" You know.
And with everything that I’ve been taught has always been put to the test on there.
And it’s not a test to be winning or losing. It’s the test to survive.
KAREN BREWSTER: And -- But it sounds like there maybe have been times you’re out there and you want to keep whaling, there’s still whales going by, but you decide, "We need to come home."
Has that happened?
LEWIS BROWER: There’s a lot of times that happened. And safety’s always number one on there.
Whales go pass by and unsafe conditions occur, we’ve never left safety out of any of our hunt.
I think if we did, we wouldn’t have survived very long on there.
And that’s -- you know, we’re -- we're a community that likes to really give, and safety is one of those that we hand out.
I think that we hand out more on the ice than anywhere else, because of our marine radios.
If there’s anything that’s occurring, we’ll announce it on the radio and everybody’s hearing about it.
And so questions come back and forth. "What’s happening? You know. Describe that. What’s going on?"
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I wonder how they did it in your dad’s time? They didn’t have marine radio.
LEWIS BROWER: Oh, that’s -- That’s something that’s always been in the back of my head, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Did he talk about it?
LEWIS BROWER: How did they do it? How did they do it versus how did we do it.
He did -- he’s talked and he’s taught a lot of that on there. And I’m very blessed.
I think our community is very blessed, not just myself. I’m very blessed that my dad knew -- he talked about what he knew.
He’d teach everything that he knew, and safety was never left out.
KAREN BREWSTER: He was very generous with his knowledge.
LEWIS BROWER: He was very generous. He can talk probably two lifetimes. And I -- and I would still listen.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I wanted to ask you if you can describe what kind of teacher your dad was for you.
'Cause you’ve mentioned him a lot.
LEWIS BROWER: He was a very positive role model that I think I try to follow.
Teaching, hunting, being successful, and always coming home on there. That was the key, always comin’ back.
KAREN BREWSTER: It sounds like, yeah, he shared a lot with you boys and your family. Was he stern, strict, or he was -- ?
LEWIS BROWER: He’d give you lessons learned. That was the best part, I think.
He -- he have -- he have his ideas. He’d give you them, and he’d allow you to do what you want on there.
If you’re gonna go get a caribou,“There it is. I think if you use this gun, and you go over here, and you wait for him right there, you’ll have a good caribou soup tonight.”
Of course, we’d get the gun, we’d go over there. As we’re going over there, “I think I can get him from right here.” Or “I think I got a better shot right here.”
And so he’d allow us to rethink everything that he said. And so, you know, I think it’s always in our nature -- in my nature -- to make and find the right shortcut.
But that’s also lessons learned on itself. Because every wrong cut that I’ve made, I’ve known to go back exactly to what he’s been taught -- teaching.
And so any shortcut that I find is a bless -- I guess, a blessing.
KAREN BREWSTER: And then would your dad -- if you tried something and it didn’t work, would your dad talk to you?
LEWIS BROWER: He’d come and make stories of it, and he’d talk about, you know, not every single time.
If you were successful, he didn’t have nothing to say. I mean, he would, but that’s the point, was being successful on there.
KAREN BREWSTER: But to help learn from what didn’t work and -- ?
LEWIS BROWER: Yes. And always to move forward, you know.
And then in our -- in our environment that He’s created for us here, there’s no start and there’s no end.
Of course, when we die that’s the end. But -- KAREN BREWSTER: No.
LEWIS BROWER: Well, in this world. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.
LEWIS BROWER: Okay, so with that, you know, he -- I think he was the best role model that I could have ever had.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you said you were what ten, eleven, twelve when you first went out on the ice? LEWIS BROWER: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: Was that with your dad? He took you?
LEWIS BROWER: Yeah. Yep. And my brothers, too.
Me and my brother were eleven months apart, so he got a year ahead of I did. Maybe a year and a half on there, but I definitely went shortly after.
KAREN BREWSTER: You also have lots of older brothers?
LEWIS BROWER: Oh, yeah. I have five brothers.
KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Okay! Are we finished? LEWIS BROWER: Say, “Thank you!”
KAREN BREWSTER: Quyanaqpak. Aarigaa, Lewis. Quyanqpak. LEWIS BROWER: Okay. Yeah.