Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Wesley Aiken, Part 1

Wesley Uġiaqtaq Aiken was interviewed on June 3, 2017 by Karen Brewster and Craig George at his home in Utqiaġvik, Alaska (formerly known as Barrow). In this first part of a two part interview, Wesley talks about learning to hunt and understand ice conditions. He discusses hunting seals, in particular how to set a net at their breathing holes on the ice. He also talks about changes in the thickness of the ice and how this has affected the development of pressure ridges. He tells some stories about people getting caught out on drifting ice, as well as shares his personal experience with getting caught in fast moving and piling ice and losing all his whaling equipment in 1957.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-25-42_PT.1

Project: Sea Ice Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Jun 3, 2017
Narrator(s): Wesley "Uġiaqtaq" Aiken
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster, Craig George
Transcriber: Denali Whiting
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

Personal and family background

Learning to hunt

Seal hunting

Ice conditions when seal hunting in the spring

Safe ice conditions and protecting oneself from danger

Describing how to set a net to catch seals at their breathing holes

Moving to Barrow, and learning to go whaling

Effect of the wind, and development of pressure ridges

Story about Numnik and his wife catching a whale by themselves in June

Changes in the whale population, and in the timing of freeze-up

Changes in the pressure ridges, ice thickness, and coastal erosion

Changes in the timing of break-up

Drifting out on the ice

Getting caught in fast moving and piling ice (ivu)

Survival of dogteams when caught in piling ice

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Transcript

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, today is June 3rd, 2017, and this is Karen Brewster and here with Wesley Aiken at his home in Barrow, Alaska. And also joined by Craig George. And we’re gonna talk about sea ice. About the siku.

Can you first tell me, Wesley, when you were born? WESLEY AIKEN: Okay, I was born here in Barrow 1926. January 25. That was -- that’s when I was born. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. WESLEY AIKEN: 1/25/26. Now I’m 91 years old.

KAREN BREWSTER: That’s great. And so you grew up here? Did you grow up in Barrow as a boy? WESLEY AIKEN: I was growing and until I was twelve years old east of Barrow about 200 miles. Isuq (sp?) and Qalluvik.

KAREN BREWSTER: What were your's -- What was your family doing? Was there reindeer herding? WESLEY AIKEN: I was -- the reindeer was there. I was -- wanted to be a hunter and they trained me for hunting. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

WESLEY AIKEN: From my grandma, grandpa. And I learned how to hunt little ones, big ones. If -- like -- caribou or seals and everything. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: To survive for -- for the winter. And when the winter come, everything is all covered, like driftwood, and you -- we gotta dig ‘em down and get some wood for heat or cooking.

There was only sod houses. They build big as this room, maybe. Some of them. CRAIG GEORGE: Hm. WESLEY AIKEN: You know, there's no lumber. They gotta haul it from -- in the summer to that place where they can build lot of sod house.

So it’s warm when it’s covered with the sod and covered it all up. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. WESLEY AIKEN: Even the top. KAREN BREWSTER: Yup. WESLEY AIKEN: So --

KAREN BREWSTER: So, what were your parents' names? WESLEY AIKEN: My parents were named Johnny Aiken and Lucy Aiken. My dad was -- My grandma’s son, he was born on 1890s. It’s here somewhere. It’s up here, I think. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm.

WESLEY AIKEN: So one of those they call sivuqłiq (sailor), those sailors from whalers, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh --

WESLEY AIKEN: When -- when the whalers start coming up here catching a big whale, the wanted whale bone. CRAIG GEORGE: Suqqaq. WESLEY AIKEN: They call it suqqaq. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that baleen.

WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. They like to say -- This used to be maybe -- they took off maybe three foot out of this one with a saw so I -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. WESLEY AIKEN: It’s still around thirteen foot, I think, or something. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm.

WESLEY AIKEN: You know, they wanted those big ones. Those old whalers up here. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm. WESLEY AIKEN: That comes up in the summer.

KAREN BREWSTER: So that was your grandfather or your father who was -- WESLEY AIKEN: My grandpa. KAREN BREWSTER: Your grandfather, okay.

WESLEY AIKEN: He was one of those. He got married to my -- our grandma. First when -- maybe she was probably a teenager. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, she’s over here. Right there. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh yeah.

WESLEY AIKEN: Him, they got oldest up here. I like my grandma. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. And -- KAREN BREWSTER: So --

WESLEY AIKEN: Then when Mr. Aiken got sick or something, he went back after -- after my dad was maybe he was born. After born and go back down to states somewhere. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. WESLEY AIKEN: And never did come back.

KAREN BREWSTER: So, Wesley, how old were you when you first went out seal hunting? WESLEY AIKEN: Oh, I must be around six or seven. That’s when I can help my -- third husband of my grandma knows how to hunt seals and caribou. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm. WESLEY AIKEN: And the fish. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm. WESLEY AIKEN: Up inland.

KAREN BREWSTER: What was his name? WESLEY AIKEN: He was Jacob Anaġi. KAREN BREWSTER: Anaġi. CRAIG GEORGE: (inaudible) KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: That -- that’s his name. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Anaġi. WESLEY AIKEN: Jacob Anaġi. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, that -- they -- they put first name on those guys, even my grandma is Ruth. KAREN BREWSTER: Ruth? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, they didn’t have any last name. I mean -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: Last name was Iñupiaq. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: What -- what was your grandmother’s Iñupiaq name? WESLEY AIKEN: Iqilłasuk (sp?)

KAREN BREWSTER: So when Anaġi took you out seal hunting, where did you go? Out -- WESLEY AIKEN: Out to the ice. KAREN BREWSTER: But from -- from Barrow or from east? WESLEY AIKEN: No, when I was out there. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

WESLEY AIKEN: And then -- that’s in the winter. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: Comes in. Sometimes when the ice pushing in, they make a wide crack to the old ice and then that crack is about that thick.

KAREN BREWSTER: Is that a couple feet? WESLEY AIKEN: Maybe couple feet and a half thick. That’s when the seals make a breathing hole in those thin ice. They go up to all -- close to shoreline sometimes. When they found those, it’s just like a siġļuaq. Ice cellar. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm-hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: When you take care of it, you can get one or two out of that net. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, you hunt -- you put a net in? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Down in the crack? WESLEY AIKEN: Right in that breathing hole. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, in the breathing hole.

WESLEY AIKEN: It’s just square one, a net for seal. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. WESLEY AIKEN: That’s how we get them year round sometimes. CRAIG GEORGE: Hmm.

KAREN BREWSTER: So how do you find the holes? What do you look for? WESLEY AIKEN: Oh, you get -- if you have a dog, they smell it. Or you can just walk through that new folding up crack, you'll find one not -- You can put that net on that breathing hole. There’s -- they used to be -- they find a breathing hole easy.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And those are for natchiq? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

WESLEY AIKEN: And then in the spring, when the main -- May -- month of May, they started to came up on top of the ice for sleep. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Sunbathing. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah.

And I was watching -- watch the dogs when Jonah (Leavitt) got married to my auntie, Bertha Aaluk, and he want me to take me out so I can watch those dogs while he was sneaking that natchiq or qakvi (sp?) on top of the ice.

And he told me to watch ‘em and don’t let ‘em go until you heard me shot. Shot the seal. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm. WESLEY AIKEN: When he’s close sometimes or with those dogs, I -- I just let them go and go right to the -- where the seal was.

And yeah, that’s how we hunt them all day. And when we got about eight, nine seals on top of the sled. I mean, we get a load, start home. That’s how we catch them in the spring.

KAREN BREWSTER: How -- how far out? How far out would you have to go? WESLEY AIKEN: Oh, it depends on the -- the -- closer to the -- you know, close to the -- they’re all over sometimes. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. WESLEY AIKEN: When the -- when that ice got cracks, you know --

CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. Especially in June. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, ‘til -- ‘til June.

KAREN BREWSTER: You’d go out 'til June, huh? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. Because it never goes out until July. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

So what was the ice like, was it flat or rough? WESLEY AIKEN: Some of it rough, some of it flat. And it’s all flat sometimes covered with mud and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. WESLEY AIKEN: You know.

KAREN BREWSTER: Covered with mud? WESLEY AIKEN: I don’t know. Sometimes it’s all flat. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. WESLEY AIKEN: Covered with mud. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, it must be rough water and get on top of the mud. KAREN BREWSTER: Maybe from ivu when it comes up? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: -- the ice KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

So did Anaġi teach you how to know the ice was safe? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, we always know when the ice was rotten there, you know, seal comes up to -- to the ice on top in June. When it’s warm, they come up all over. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: The ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: But it’s okay for you to go walk on it? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, some of it. You gotta watch ‘em. That’s why you gotta have your little -- KAREN BREWSTER: Unaaq? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, unaaq. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And if -- WESLEY AIKEN: To -- to see if even the newly formed sikuliaq -- CRAIG GEORGE: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: You got to check that. Some -- some of it's always thin. But you can fell right in there if you don’t have that one. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. WESLEY AIKEN: So --

KAREN BREWSTER: Did you ever fall in? WESLEY AIKEN: Once in a while maybe up to here. KAREN BREWSTER: Your knees. WESLEY AIKEN: You know, when I don’t watch out. You gotta have that unaaq. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: You use it to keep yourself from -- WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- falling in? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. That’s why they -- they took that unaaq all the time when they walk out there for safety. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: That’s how I learn these -- out there and up inland. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. WESLEY AIKEN: Dangerous out there, too. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: Summa.

When you get to the river, where it's flowing and when there’s saġvaq (to drift with the current) that thin ice always in the current -- where it’s current are strong in the river. KAREN BREWSTER: In the rivers, yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: A lot of people just go right to that thin ice and -- CRAIG GEORGE: Imaaq (fall in the water).

WESLEY AIKEN: Sometime with the dogs. Sometime make -- they try to walk, some of them got lost and slipped down under the ice and never did find them. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. WESLEY AIKEN: That’s how I hear from old guys. They told me to carry a knife. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

WESLEY AIKEN: In my -- you know, so if I get stuck out right -- get up on the ice, there’s no -- when it’s flat, you can’t get up with your own hands. You got to have a knife to get up on top of the ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: Or -- or you have to have long finger nails like a natchiq. Right? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

WESLEY AIKEN: A natchiq just -- when it dig a breathing hole, they can dig maybe three -- two, three feet of ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Really? CRAIG GEORGE: It’s amazing. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. WESLEY AIKEN: From under. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

WESLEY AIKEN: I don’t know how long it took ‘em, but they always try to make a breathing hole. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm.

CRAIG GEORGE: Can I ask a question about how they kuvraq (net, catch something with a net)? KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, go ahead. CRAIG GEORGE: Wesley, when you put the kuvraq down to catch the natchiq, does it go down under the ice? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, with bullet or -- right through that breathing hole and -- CRAIG GEORGE: Oh, okay.

WESLEY AIKEN: And put four holes up here to pull the thing a little -- some string. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm. WESLEY AIKEN: To make it down this way right under that breathing hole. Breathing hole is in the middle. Like in -- KAREN BREWSTER: Here. Uvva. CRAIG GEORGE: There you go.

WESLEY AIKEN: (Drawing a diagram on paper) It always round. They dig it always round. About maybe little over two feet. And we put the strings not too -- not too big a hole. Right here and right here.

They call it ina -- igaliq -- igaliq (seal net placed horizontally under a seal’s breathing hole). That's kuvraq's name. That’s how we do it. And an igaliq is about that way. CRAIG GEORGE: Wow.

WESLEY AIKEN: Each one -- each corner it's pull those about -- about kuvraq is about that away from -- from the bottom. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm.

WESLEY AIKEN: And that seal comes up to that breathing hole. Natchiq got kuvraq in there. Never did -- never came out. Kuvraq is about five and a half inch. CRAIG GEORGE: Mesh.

WESLEY AIKEN: And then when it’s spread out it’s -- you know, it’s square like that. It’ll get stuck in there and the leg catch, you know.

Their little taliġuq (fore flipper) and quqpin (sp?), it never -- it never got out -- out of that kuvraq. And that’s how we catch ‘em in the kuvraq.

KAREN BREWSTER: So it comes up from the bottom? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: It gets caught?

WESLEY AIKEN: From the bottom. When they go breathing, they gotta go breathe, you know, to that hole. And then they get tangled in that kuvraq, yeah. Some of them get dead. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. Never did reach out the breathing hole. That’s how they catch ‘em.

CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, so they come up -- You said five and a half inch mesh? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, somewhere around there. CRAIG GEORGE: Five or six. And they -- WESLEY AIKEN: Some might be a little bit smaller or bigger. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm-hm. WESLEY AIKEN: But not -- maybe not less than five and a half. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, okay. Wow. That’s -- that’s a new one.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that’s neat. Now I don’t -- now I don’t remember what we were talking about before. Quyanaq. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So when you used to go out seal hunting out there, what did you -- what about the wind? WESLEY AIKEN: Oh, after that there’s no ugruk. I never see no ugruk or walrus. Nothing. In that area. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, just natchiq? WESLEY AIKEN: Just natchiq. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: I don’t know if they catch them ugruks and walruses over here. They must’ve -- when they go out that way, they must’ve way out.

I don’t know where they -- they're not -- I’ve never seen them even in the summer when the ice -- CRAIG GEORGE: Oh, yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: -- pull -- pull away. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So when did you come to Barrow to go whaling? WESLEY AIKEN: It was 1938. CRAIG GEORGE: Hm. WESLEY AIKEN: When I first went to school. I was -- I don’t even know how old was -- how old am I, so I just -- KAREN BREWSTER: Twelve.

WESLEY AIKEN: And nothing in like English talk or -- You know, I was twelve years old and I find out I was born in that month. Up here they told me in -- in Barrow.

So I went to school in 1938. In the fall of 1938. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. WESLEY AIKEN: We got here in August with a -- a boat. Sail boat. CRAIG GEORGE: Oh. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. WESLEY AIKEN: It was.

Was -- I think it was a over thirty foot sailboat. When that Anaġi bought it with the -- when he catch a lot of foxes in the winter that fox was -- they told me it cost fifty dollars a skin. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Sounds good.

WESLEY AIKEN: He catch a lot of those in the winter and bought it out of those -- that -- the people that came in with the big ships -- the big sailboat. They sell some of those. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: I think maybe when they going back or -- You know, they sell them I don’t know how much they bought 'em for. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm.

KAREN BREWSTER: Craig, did you have a question that I interrupted? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: No. KAREN BREWSTER: So --

CRAIG GEORGE: But, I do know that people made a lot of money at that time during the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: During the fox -- When the fox prices were high, life was good? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: People were able to buy things. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So, Wesley, when you first went whaling here in Barrow, who did you go with? Who taught you? WESLEY AIKEN: Oh, I learned from my uncle Ned Nusunginya. CRAIG GEORGE: Hm. WESLEY AIKEN: He’s my -- my mom’s first cousin. CRAIG GEORGE: Oh, wow.

WESLEY AIKEN: That guy. He had a whaling crew. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. WESLEY AIKEN: So I learned from him how to be out there. And his father-in-law was my -- my mom’s uncle. Qiugaq, James Qiugaq. They -- that’s what I learned.

He’s from Nuvuk. He knows this ice. He must be from here. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. WESLEY AIKEN: From Nuvuk. And he knows the ice around here.

KAREN BREWSTER: Do -- do you remember what he told you about the ice? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. I know very well. And there used to be fifty -- fifty feet high ridges near that -- near out here. Maybe three, four miles away.

When they start piling up, soon as the ice is grounded and it keep piling up, a strong ice come in and whenever the wind is blowing from west, start piling out there.

And big ridges out there when I first come up here. I don’t see them, I never seen them. About maybe more than ten years now. CRAIG GEORGE: Hm. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm. WESLEY AIKEN: So --

KAREN BREWSTER: So -- was all that ice piling, was that different from the ice east when you went seal hunting? Did the -- was the ice different here? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, out there in the -- big ridges too out there. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, there were? Okay.

WESLEY AIKEN: But it -- the open water, it way out there, maybe -- CRAIG GEORGE: Mm. WESLEY AIKEN: -- forty, fifty miles out. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm. And --

WESLEY AIKEN: Sometimes, whenever the west wind comes in, it get closer out there. KAREN BREWSTER: Out on the east, huh? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And around here was open water closer? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. WESLEY AIKEN: Very close.

Sometimes if there’s no big ridges out there in front, there used to be where -- right where Oliver (Leavitt) house -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm, yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: You know, that -- there’s always open water right there.

I know couple used to go -- named Numnik. CRAIG GEORGE: Hm. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm. WESLEY AIKEN: Numnik and his wife, they have a whaling care.

And umiaq, they go out to that kaŋiqłuk (indentation in sea ice that forms a bay). There’s always big kaŋiqłuk. Sometimes no -- no ivuniqs. Just flat.

And then the -- all -- some whaling crews turn their boats during the late part of May when there -- there -- there still be open in that kaŋiqłuk and take 'em out there with the sailboat. They go out with a sailboat. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. CRAIG GEORGE: Hm. WESLEY AIKEN: Later in May or June. CRAIG GEORGE: Oh.

WESLEY AIKEN: First of June. That’s how they're whaling. CRAIG GEORGE: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: One time, those two, Numnik and his wife, catch a whale down there. That Numnik is a good harpooner, too. He catch a whale and never did go out, they just holding on -- on in that ice with a float.

We see the -- a flag out there. Victor Koonaloak was with them. It was three of them. They put up a flag down there and everybody goes out and pull that whale.

You know, it was during my -- I didn’t even know what year is that. Must be '40. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: That was in June? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, somewhere around there. After school. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

WESLEY AIKEN: So we -- I’ve seen those. You know. I’m telling you what I see. KAREN BREWSTER: Ii. Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: I never forget sometimes. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: What I see. KAREN BREWSTER: That’s good.

CRAIG GEORGE: Have you noticed a change in the number of whales over your lifetime? Were there -- are there more now, are there less? What have you noticed? WESLEY AIKEN: Oh, there must be more.

But the -- sometimes when it -- when it’s open all -- all spring over here, we’ve seen a lot of them going by when there’s no other open water on the -- further out.

They’re -- they went by through that open water. We've seen them start -- everyone starts around May 15, when it’s open all spring. CRAIG GEORGE: That late? May 15? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: You start whaling?

WESLEY AIKEN: A lot of them start going by. CRAIG GEORGE: Oh. KAREN BREWSTER: The whales start going by? WESLEY AIKEN: Used to be. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

WESLEY AIKEN: That’s when people always saying we don’t get to sleep. You know, some of 'em don’t get to sleep out there. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm. WESLEY AIKEN: Just going to catch that whale. So that’s how it was.

CRAIG GEORGE: One other question. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. CRAIG GEORGE: When did the tuvaq (shorefast ice) freeze, back when you were a young boy? When could you go out on the tuvaq? What month? WESLEY AIKEN: In -- in the fall? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

WESLEY AIKEN: We’d start freezing in last part of -- When the ice is nearby, that heavy ice, it start freezing in last part of September. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm.

WESLEY AIKEN: And freezes -- Get to the shoreline, start forming in October. Sometime be a little thicker, all covered with the ice, in -- before October 15.

CRAIG GEORGE: You could seal hunt? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, everybody start going out seal hunt. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm.

WESLEY AIKEN: You know where open -- little open water is. That’s when they start catching the seal. First part of October. Even nanuqs. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. That’s when they start catching those seals and -- and nanuq. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm. So -- WESLEY AIKEN: That’s what I see.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So the ice would come in, the sarri (floating pack ice) would come in? WESLEY AIKEN: It keep coming. KAREN BREWSTER: Coming, coming.

And then does it freeze from the shore out, they meet? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, sometimes -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: -- they -- some ridges right to the beach. CRAIG GEORGE: Hm. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: And then -- but I never seen -- Kenneth (Toovak) told me there was some big ridges right against the -- out -- out here. CRAIG GEORGE: I heard that story. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Those the ones he said he could see all the way from up inland? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, yeah.

WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, that’s what I heard, too. Maybe you guys heard about it. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I’ve heard that story from him. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

WESLEY AIKEN: But I’ve never seen -- Sometime I’ve seen the -- that big one. But sometime they build up maybe thirty foot high right against the beach. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: So, that’s how it was. Because there was heavy ice way out there that comes in. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. WESLEY AIKEN: Pushing it.

CRAIG GEORGE: Big difference now. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Freeze-up is --

WESLEY AIKEN: Right now, we never seen the ice when it went out. We never seen it all summer long. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm.

WESLEY AIKEN: Just big waves whenever the west wind started to blowing thirty to forty miles an hour.

Big waves start going against the -- along the shoreline and get some of it out. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that erosion. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

WESLEY AIKEN: I never thought where Ualiqpaa (Walakpa) is, there were -- used to be a lot of sand bar in front of that, you know, monument. KAREN BREWSTER: Ii.

WESLEY AIKEN: But now it’s eroding that where Monument (another name for Walakpa because it is where the monument to Will Rogers and Wiley Post was built) is. That’s what I heard. I never been down there. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, it katak (to fall down). KAREN BREWSTER: Yup. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: What -- what about in the springtime? When -- in -- when you were younger, when did the ice go out? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah -- I was -- when I was staying out there yet, before I go to school. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm. WESLEY AIKEN: Some -- In the spring, whenever the wind comes in it always pile up right to the beach sometimes. Big, high pile up on the beach. In the spring.

KAREN BREWSTER: In the spring? WESLEY AIKEN: When the -- when the ice is loose it just -- CRAIG GEORGE: Start floating. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

But not in the winter? In the winter, that ice out east’s good? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: All winter?

WESLEY AIKEN: In the winter, it’s always flat. But when it's get rotten, when it start piling up, it always piling up pretty high on the beach. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: On the east up here.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. I’ve heard stories. I’ve heard stories about by Cross Island, seal hunters getting drifted out. The ice taking them out. Have you heard about that? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. When the ice starting out, there’s no -- all of the ridges out here in front some left. The one that grounded, it -- it always flowing out through here.

And the -- the one on the -- on the beach -- flowing out that way, start pulling out. Left those big ridges out here that close. And left them out, you know -- I always -- that ice always pull out.

Until those ridges are -- ridges are thawed out underneath and when a west wind come in they just pull out that way, too.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm. Did people ever get taken out? People go out with the ice? Get lost out there? WESLEY AIKEN: Not in the spring. But some people drifted out. These young people doesn’t know current is always strong out here. Past Nuvuk going out that way. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm-hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: They get drifted out out there and blocked with ice. Some of the ice blocked them out.

Never -- sometimes they lose their boat. Yeah. When the -- when the helicopter -- when we find them -- When we find them, it just take the people out of their -- left the boat out there. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm-hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: I saw some of 'em -- some lose their boat. Sometimes barely survive.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. What about long time ago? Did that happen long time ago, people get drifted? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, some sailors and big boat grounded out there. CRAIG GEORGE: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: Maybe I don’t know how many of those big ships. They just grounded to the beach some of them. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: One was over here by Nunavak. I’ve seen that old ship was right against the beach.

I’ve seen that part of it. Down there, Bert -- KAREN BREWSTER: Panigeo. WESLEY AIKEN: Panigeo. He haul all part of it, make a house. CRAIG GEORGE: Oh. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, that’s what I heard. I’ve seen that building, I think it’s still standing in -- their house inland. That was an old Native store.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. That’s -- it’s across from old Top of the World. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Maggie Gray. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, Maggie Gray’s house. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Wow. WESLEY AIKEN: That’s what I heard.

KAREN BREWSTER: What about seal hunters? They ever get drifted out? WESLEY AIKEN: Oh, yeah. I heard lot of them. Some drifted out.

KAREN BREWSTER: You know what happened? WESLEY AIKEN: Oh, one of the stories I heard Owen Sovalik story.

You know, you guys heard about that. He drifted out from Nuvuk. He go -- he went out and keep traveling.

Find a village or somewhere down there. Maybe Siberia?

CRAIG GEORGE: Pete Sovalik? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, Pete Sovalik. CRAIG GEORGE: Oh.

WESLEY AIKEN: He heard that -- name, the guy named Tuuqsraq (sp?). He called it Tuuqsraq. He’s from Nuvuk. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: And he kept going and find a village down there somewhere. After two years, come back. He got little bit of tattoo. CRAIG GEORGE: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: So he’s been living with those people for couple years. Come back. He wanted to make sure he found that village way out there.

When he got drifted, he went out by himself. He make couple of boots. His wife make him a couple of boots, so he can wear them.

And then he went out when the ice is -- you know, there’s -- there’s no open water. He walked out out to the ice. And after maybe a year and a half, he come back again. CRAIG GEORGE: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: He wanted to make sure those guys believe him out there. Where he couldn’t reach on his back, he get tattoo of a whale. Whale picture. You know, those guys believe him that time.

He was with the people that are living out there. I don’t know where he landed, probably to the -- that St. Lawrence Island way out there in north of Siberia. That big island. Yeah, that’s what I heard.

CRAIG GEORGE: I haven’t heard that story.

KAREN BREWSTER: That’s good. Does the story say how he came back? Did he walk back, come back by boat? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, he walked back. KAREN BREWSTER: He walked back. CRAIG GEORGE: Wow. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

WESLEY AIKEN: That’s what I heard. KAREN BREWSTER: That’s good. WESLEY AIKEN: I believe him. People used to live in that -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. WESLEY AIKEN: They’re probably Siberian.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yup. Were there times that people drifted out and got lost and never came home? WESLEY AIKEN: Some of them, they never came home. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: That’s what I heard.

KAREN BREWSTER: They were seal hunters? WESLEY AIKEN: They were hunting. They wouldn’t go out for nothing. KAREN BREWSTER: Nope. WESLEY AIKEN: These guys are hunters.

And I heard about whaling one -- one year, and they -- when ice comes in, these guys were -- a fog or something, you know.

That ice, before the wind comes in, started to push in. They -- they lost some -- one of their crew. Old guy. And I forgot his name.

Got ivu and -- and never did -- they never did found him. They just -- CRAIG GEORGE: Mm. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: Lost their -- one of their old guys was out.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I think I’ve heard that story. The ivu and ice moving around and he got caught in it and they couldn’t pull him out? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Something like that?

WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, and the ice folded back, you know. Never did find him out. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wesley, were you on the ice that year 1957? WESLEY AIKEN: No, I wasn’t there. KAREN BREWSTER: You weren’t? WESLEY AIKEN: I wasn’t here. I was still out in -- east of Barrow.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But, there’s another time I’ve heard about 1957 big ice comes in and it all was breaking up, everybody runs to shore. You know that one? WESLEY AIKEN: Uh, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Were you out there? WESLEY AIKEN: That’s when I lost my -- that’s when I lost my equipment. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. CRAIG GEORGE: Hm. WESLEY AIKEN: You know, I was out there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Can you tell me about it? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. Our dogteam never come back. They come to here and -- and finally the ice start coming in. We try to leave everything out out there we wouldn’t use.

There was four of us in the crew. In my crew. We pull that boat with -- with not much load in it. Just whaling gear.

And we stopped when it start piling in front of us. We were down by Nunavak. Below the Nunavak. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm.

WESLEY AIKEN: And that ice keep moving. It getting closest to the big ridges. In front of us, in front of Barrow over here. CRAIG GEORGE: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: So -- And some guys, the guy that shoot me my ataata Qiugaq telling me, you -- if you catch one of those, move out to the north. CRAIG GEORGE: Oh.

WESLEY AIKEN: Don’t get close to the big ridges in front of you. I wanted -- I waited -- the way he talk, I wanted them people to go out further little more, out to the north. ‘Til that -- ‘til the ice is stop piling up in front of us.

One of the older guys says -- I wanted to go out a little further out, but older than me, say "No, don’t get away. We stay here together."

It was a glacier ice, the one we -- CRAIG GEORGE: Mm. WESLEY AIKEN: -- staying in. It was maybe some of it might be ten foot thick. That glacier ice, it wasn’t too thick.

All of a sudden pop up. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm. WESLEY AIKEN: We tried to pull umiaq and that -- that ivu it’s right against it. Again it take our boat.

When it stop, I went -- I want the boys to drop everything, you can leave the boat. Try to save yourself. Go over.

I grab my rifle and paŋagliks (think this is what he says since double-bladed paddle = paŋak) maybe the second one I could grab. Just go over the -- when it stop. CRAIG GEORGE: Hm.

WESLEY AIKEN: After -- right after we go over that ivu and start piling up. Cover our boat. We lost everything. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm. WESLEY AIKEN: All of us. There were about six of us, six crews.

CRAIG GEORGE: Was it qaisaġnaq (westerly current)? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Was it west wind? Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: Wind, west wind was about thirty, forty miles an hour. CRAIG GEORGE: Oh. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And that sarri just came in and started -- WESLEY AIKEN: Ice -- heavy ice from down there starting to coming in.

CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. Gosh. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Terrifying. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. But we almost lost one of our elders. Named Ahkivgak. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm.

WESLEY AIKEN: That’s the guy told us not to leave together. That’s the guy told us the -- not to leave.

And then after that -- after we -- after we’re all safe in the same place, it stopped. Never did move again. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

WESLEY AIKEN: Lost all -- all our whaling equipment in that glacier ice just like glass. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

WESLEY AIKEN: Piling them in and never seen them again. When it didn’t move again, it start going up to those big ridges.

So we’re all home right in front of Barrow. All of us safe home.

CRAIG GEORGE: Wesley, how come the dogs didn’t make it off the ice? It sounds like many of the dogs were lost, is that true? WESLEY AIKEN: When they’re -- When they’re not loose, they got -- CRAIG GEORGE: Oh. WESLEY AIKEN: They got these ropes with them.

CRAIG GEORGE: Okay, I understand now. Yeah. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: The loose -- WESLEY AIKEN: That’s how they lose some of their dogs, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: If you let them loose -- the loose ones made it? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah, the loose ones can -- CRAIG GEORGE: Oh, okay. So the loose ones did make it? Alright. WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, the loose ones made it. WESLEY AIKEN: Can make it. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: But the other ones didn’t? WESLEY AIKEN: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.