Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Craig George, Part 2

This is the continuation of an interview with Craig George on June 4, 2017 by Karen Brewster at his house in Utqiaġvik, Alaska (formerly known as Barrow). In this second part of a two part interview, Craig talks about ice break-off events, the effect of snow cover on ice conditions, how the timing of freeze-up has changed, and the importance of observing the ice throughout the season. He also discusses specific ice types (sheared ice, slush ice, and ice cliffs formed by wave action), the effect of wind and tide on ice movement, and the changing ice conditions he has observed. Finally, he mentions how the collaboration between scientists and Iñupiat hunters can be a model for good natural resource management.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-25-43_PT.2

Project: Sea Ice Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Jun 4, 2017
Narrator(s): Craig George
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster
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

Whale census camp drifting out on the ice in 1987

Reaction of ice across long distances

Hinging effect with large areas of moving ice

Predicting ice movement and where it might break off, and effect of wind and tide on grounded and floating ice

Effect of snow cover on sea ice

Sheared ice edge (agiukpak)

Changes in ice conditions and what is safe ice

Ice break-off event in 1997

Slush ice (muġałłiq), and big ice chunks popping up from under the ice

Timing of freeze-up and how it has changed

Ice cliffs formed by frozen wave action

Importance of observing the ice throughout the seasons

Cold years with a lot of ice (1975) versus warmer years

Changes observed in ice conditions through the years

Future of sea ice and whaling

Threats from big fall storms, and need for preparation and adaptation

Beauty of the Arctic, and positive experience of working with and learning from Iñupiat people

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Transcript

CRAIG GEORGE: (In) ‘87, there was -- we were setting up to count. It was an interesting year. It was kind of a year off in that we’d had a big effort in ’86, and ’87 we decided we were just gonna do behavioral work. And go out and track whales and estimate numbers of blows per surface, you know, all of this.

And we -- we got a smaller crew and we broke trail out off Narl, and it was a pretty classic year where, I don’t know, shorefast ice was about three miles wide.

And then we set up a really nice perch called Toovak Perch. And I forget why we called it Toovak. KAREN BREWSTER: After Kenneth. CRAIG GEORGE: After Kenneth or -- I think that was it.

But anyway, we -- and Geoff was out there with -- there were only four people. We were just getting started.

They’d set up a perch and Polly Hessing (sp?) was up there. George Talaak was out there. Geoff was asleep.

It was a beautiful perch. I think built -- big -- used the chainsaw to build blocks and all this. I think that was the year. But anyway.

And one of the counters called on the radio. I wasn’t out there yet. I was listening, and he said, "Yeah." He said, "Craig, the -- the ridges behind us are moving. We’re fine, but -- " He had never been on the ice before. This guy, David Barren, I think his name was.

And I said, "Ooh." And then I said, "Put Polly on the VHF." She said, "Yeah, there’s definitely -- " I said, "Well, you’re moving. It’s not that the -- " KAREN BREWSTER: The ridges don’t move.

CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. You -- you’re moving not -- not -- not the ice. You know, inland of you. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAIG GEORGE: And I said, "Send someone back up the trail immediately." So they -- George Taalak took a handheld (radio) and he went.

And it was just like what -- kinda like what Wesley (Aiken) was saying. He got back and he got to the lead edge -- you know, this thing -- this open water and he said -- he called, he said -- and his voice was really high. I remember, it was kind of an octive up.

He said, "Yeah, the trail ends alright." I said, "George, what do you mean?" This is George Taalak.

I said, What do you mean the trail ends? Is there water? Is it cracked?" He goes, "Yeah, there's open water." I said, "Well, how wide?" He goes, "Well, maybe a quarter to half a mile." Oh no. Geez. I said, "Okay." I said, "Alright, I’m calling the chopper."

So they woke Geoff up. And again, we just had one tent and one perch. And they tore everything down. And packed up the tent. And the chopper went out.

We were the first on the ice that year, I think. I don’t think anyone else broke off. It was in -- oh, I don’t know, like maybe after -- around the 20th of April or so. And they picked ‘em up and came back.

But in ’85, we got hit hard by pack ice. The lead closed. And that was quite a year, ’85. But basically what happened was the -- a big piece of multi-year ice was moving up the coast and the lead was closing.

And by the way, this was the year we first saw bowheads breaking through the ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh wow, cool. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. (reading from field notebook) I chopped around whale breathing holes looking -- It was fantastic. We just -- out in the young ice they were busting up through it.

KAREN BREWSTER: So you -- so you saw the whales doing that? Or you found their holes first? CRAIG GEORGE: No, we -- we -- we actually -- Well, we could see -- hear them blowing and we saw the hummocks. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CRAIG GEORGE: And it was really fantastic. And hundreds of them. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. CRAIG GEORGE: Blows everywhere, yeah.

I think we estimated oh, at least a thousand whales went by in this brief period.

KAREN BREWSTER: And that sikuliaq they’re breaking through is a couple inches? Or is it thicker than that? CRAIG GEORGE: It was about a foot. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, it was about a foot thick. Yeah. Yeah, nine inches or something, yup.

Anyway, but (reading from field notebook) then we were on Slippery Perch, and counted about four hundred whales. This was on the 16th.

The acoustic array went in but not very successfully. There was a strong current, which stayed strong and caused hydrophone strum -- strumming. Masked the good sounds of the bowheads.

Early on -- On 5/21, the pack ice came in, began smashing the attached ice we were on. And a hundred and eighty -- a hundred and thirty-eight feet of water. So we were quite a ways out. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: But we were on a big multi-year pan, which you’re not supposed to camp on. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

CRAIG GEORGE: You know, the camp started breaking up and these big fissures. Pung. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, god. CRAIG GEORGE: Started going through the camp. And the ice started folding down and the water rushed up.

That was really spooky, was the -- the roar of the water. You know, the ice got deformed like this and -- grrrrr, you know it’s like whoa -- KAREN BREWSTER: Like a geyser.

CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, it was really -- it was really almost surreal. And some of the -- I remember one young lady was crying. That didn’t help. And ahh, panicking. We were pulling -- KAREN BREWSTER: That would’ve been me.

CRAIG GEORGE: (reading from field notebook) We pulled down camp and moved in thirty-four minutes. But were almost too late as the trails -- the perch was mostly obliterated as we finally pulled off. That was so close.

And that was again that was part of the learning curve. It was hitting down quite a ways, and Geoff and I actually drove down. We watched this big multi-year chunk of ice just bulldoze through the shorefast. And it was making a ridge. It was really dramatic. Really dramatic.

KAREN BREWSTER: It was ivuing, and you could watch the -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, and it would push the landfast up and it would buckle and it was like wow.

And we were several miles down the coast and we drove up and we said -- Very casually we said, "Yeah, we’ll -- yeah, we’re probably gonna have to move camp." And we had been moving all -- you know, every --

Moving camp ‘cause you have to -- it means half the people you have to wake up and aren’t gonna get a night's sleep and -- or day -- yeah. Sleep schedules all screwed up, but --

So we were kinda casual about it, and then, you know, it was out of -- you know, the -- couldn’t see the -- we were still counting whales. We couldn’t see this big multi-year ice. It was, you know, like miles away and all of a sudden, you know, it broke the pan we were on. It’s like okay, yeah, you know, and I --

You know, of course, the local people all know about that. But the pressure’s transmitted through the ice and --

And we were tearing down camps and I was one of the last to go and we threw everything in the sled shed and, you know, we were going around these things and then the -- the -- the rope to the sled shed broke where we had the acoustic equipment.

And Brendan Kelly was saying, "Just leave it. We gotta get out of here." I went, "No, let me try it one more time." And we -- we snaked our way out. Pretty stupid. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, and all the time --

CRAIG GEORGE: In retrospect, pretty -- pretty stupid.

KAREN BREWSTER: And all that time you were snaking your way out, it's -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- still fissuring around you and -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, it’s -- it’s moving. It’s active.

And it -- you know, we were -- you know how you are when something bad's happening. You’re kind of in -- you’re kind of in adrenaline mode. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: And, you know, in retrospect, yeah, I -- I was just reacting. Wasn’t -- it -- it -- I was too scared to be scared, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: And just reacting. And we did get out. Got it out. KAREN BREWSTER: Well -- CRAIG GEORGE: And --

KAREN BREWSTER: But it’s interesting, as you say, you know, I find it really interesting, is it happened in ’97, too, that there’s a big -- something happens way far away.

Like ’97, it broke off way south and then that huge thing drifted out. And in your case, it hit way below you and then there’s this kind of ripple effect. CRAIG GEORGE: You know in ’97, that was unclear. So people -- KAREN BREWSTER: That’s what people are saying is -- CRAIG GEORGE: That -- that it did get hit to the south?

KAREN BREWSTER: No, no, no. It broke off first in the south. CRAIG GEORGE: Oh, oh. And it peeled up the coast and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, it kinda peeled off.

CRAIG GEORGE: But what -- what was interesting about the ’97 event where there were a lot of people out there. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: But the current was raging to the no -- But it --

Instead of just calving off like it used to with, you know, a nice big -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: Like -- like Geoff in ’87, they didn’t even know -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: -- they were underway. Merrily counting whales until somebody looked backwards.

But it -- and then in ’93 that big piece went off as a nice coherent piece.

In ’97, it just shattered. And I guess they were okay if they were way out near the lead, but anybody in between it was -- KAREN BREWSTER: So small pieces? CRAIG GEORGE: It was -- yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: But it sounds like it kind of pulled away. It -- it started in the south and it kind of slid away at an angle. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: So it peeled of versus just -- CRAIG GEORGE: That’s fairly common. KAREN BREWSTER: It is? CRAIG GEORGE: It start -- I think it -- it does start -- Like in our -- the big ’93 event, it started up north and it rotated out. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: And then went southwest. This big, big thing. We watched it go.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, and then if you’re lucky it rotates back sometimes. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, if you’re lucky it touches and you can get off.

They always say -- I forget the rule of thumb, but you go -- you go with the direction hoping that it’s hinging, I think. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAIG GEORGE: So, you know, don’t -- I think your intuition might be to go against the drift direction, but -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: -- go with it. KAREN BREWSTER: Because it might --

CRAIG GEORGE: You might be on a hinge here, although those are -- those are dangerous to cross, too. You know, we were --

Geoff and I were mushing to Wainwright. We were out there with the dogs in -- sometime in the'90s. And there were a bunch of people out off town and it broke and the helicopter had to pick up some crews. It was like early April or something like that. They were seal hunters. I don’t know if it was whaling crews.

And the chopper landed near us. We thought, "Oh geez, what’s going on here?" Thought that maybe, you know, something bad had happened in town. They were getting us, you know, a child injured or something terrible. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAIG GEORGE: Anyway. They said, "You guys alright?" We said, "Yeah, we’re fine. What’s up?" They said, "Well, it’s breaking up. The ice is pretty -- " And we said, "Well."

And sure enough, it -- it had done that. It had busted, and there was a kind of a crack in the -- you know, that was rubbing.

And we had no idea, but we -- We said, "Alright." And we mushed the dogs across a crack that was kind of filled with ice but it was active. About ten feet wide.

Had a good leader and phew, went across and stayed on the -- on the shore side of it going down south. But, yeah, often you have no idea you’re moving.

KAREN BREWSTER: And that -- going across that rough ten-foot moving crack, was that the hinge part? CRAIG GEORGE: I think so. Yeah, exactly.

I think it was kind of a hinge like thing or a place where it hadn’t quite opened up. But, yeah, often I think they do peel one way or another.

KAREN BREWSTER: But you said the hinge part is dangerous. Why? CRAIG GEORGE: Well, ‘cause it can be rubbley and active.

I’ve seen those. I’ve actually seen where -- Well, kind of like where we’re watching and a big piece of multi-year ice will come and hit.

And it may just be one area, but where it hits it’s -- it breaks up. You know, there’s a lot of pressure there. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: You know, and it seems like that -- that hinging thing, you know, I think -- I think there are instances where that may not be the case. But again, that’s the complexity of it.

That -- that where just, boom, a whole -- who knows how these cracks really propagate. But I bet we have some data finally on this.

And I remember -- you know, I lived and breathed this stuff for twenty years when we were counting every -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: -- every year and then intermittently up through 2001.

And I -- I was begging the ice physics people. I said, "Please help us with this problem." And to his credit, Hajo Eicken said, "Yeah, we’ll take that on." He’s had a number of students looking at it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAIG GEORGE: Bottom line, very very complicated. There does look like there might be some precursors, but it’s -- to these calf-off events. Man, it’s a tough thing to predict.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, that’s what I was gonna ask, you know, we said like why does the shorefast break or even these guys looking to see about the trail this year. Well, we think it’s gonna break here.

And why does it break where it breaks and why does the lead -- why does sometimes it forms in one place and others -- ?

I mean, yeah, how do you -- that was a very complicated, badly worded question, but -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I guess why does it break where it breaks? CRAIG GEORGE: Why does it break where it breaks? Well, I think it’s a combination of a weak spot or bad weld from an iiguaq. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. CRAIG GEORGE: To water depth to current direction to wind speeds. All these things.

A tidal lift, you know. When you turn off the east wind, sea ice lifts.

And one really interesting thing that, you know, like the katak theory. You know, that an east wind happens -- Warren (Matumeak) and others talk about katak, where it falls.

KAREN BREWSTER: ‘Cause the water below drops? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. So you have grounded ice here and yeah, and you might get a fracture there.

And again, once it’s fractured, the wind can take it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAIG GEORGE: But one thing that Josh Jones, one of Hajo’s (Eicken) students, figured out is when you get east wind, you might have a -- you know, a grounded ice sitting on the sea floor. And an east wind sea level drops and it crunches. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

CRAIG GEORGE: And then when the west winds or the wind gets turned off, it lifts up. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

CRAIG GEORGE: And it -- that keel is no longer sticking in there. And in the absence of wind, the sea level will -- will rebound. Of course, with west winds it’ll go up.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, that's what I've heard. West winds, southwest wind is it brings the -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. And it can be as much as three feet. It’s hard to believe -- KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. CRAIG GEORGE: -- that that pan -- KAREN BREWSTER: It can move by that much? CRAIG GEORGE: When we measured it, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: I kind of always figured -- What you just said is interesting ‘cause I figured once something was grounded, like those big old ivus, that that tidal - quote, unquote - "tidal shift" in water level wouldn’t affect it. But you just said it can. CRAIG GEORGE: Well, I think the ones near shore it doesn’t, but as you get out to where it’s kinda, you know, maybe only sticking -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, right. CRAIG GEORGE: -- a foot or two feet. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CRAIG GEORGE: You know, the keels are down in the mud. You know, those, but -- as you get out deeper. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, that makes sense. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Your katak -- Warren's katak thing. It makes me think about on the rivers in the Interior, where, you know, the ice freezes and the water level is so high.

And so then as the winter goes on the water level drops. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: And now you have ice with no water under it to support it. And so then the ice collapses. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so that’s what you’re saying happens here a little bit? CRAIG GEORGE: Well, kind of. You know, you have ground -- let’s say this is a grounded ridge and you have attached ice -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. CRAIG GEORGE: -- that is floating. And the sea level drops. It -- it forms a -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: It detaches here.

KAREN BREWSTER: ‘Cause it doesn’t have the support underneath it? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: But -- but it also might be that if there was any grounded stuff here it could get crunched.

And I think -- I think he shows some pretty good evidence of that. But, you know, a lot of that’s sea level and current generated, and then, you know, like, you know, once it’s broken then the ice can work with it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And so that part once -- that katak, once it’s broken, it’s sort of loosened and then -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, the weld’s broken. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And then that crack can start forming and -- and getting bigger? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

Or, you know, it’s like bending a piece of metal, too. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: You know. Where you finally, you know, weaken it enough so --

KAREN BREWSTER: What about the amount of snow in -- from one year to -- You know, if you have a high snow year, does a lot of snow on the sea ice make a difference? CRAIG GEORGE: Boy, I don’t know if it makes a difference. I do know that it tells you -- The snow tells you what the older ice is.

Like in the landfast. Like if there’s -- if it’s new, often crumbled up, it won’t have snow on it. Or very little, you know. It’s blue or, you know, it’s fresh looking.

Whereas old ridges that -- the stuff that’s been there awhile, they’re drifted and you can tell. Yeah, this is -- this is mature ice. It’s been around awhile.

And, of course, pieces can come in -- an iiguaq that have snow on 'em -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. CRAIG GEORGE: Especially the -- well, the --

The old multi-year would have wonderful drifts on it sometimes, you know.

Big ice islands. In 2001, we counted on one that was a big, you know -- Late March this thing came in and attached. And it was like darn. We’re gonna have to go across that.

What we did -- I never trusted it. In retrospect, we could’ve, but we camped just this side of it and we had about a half mile commute to the -- KAREN BREWSTER: To the perch. CRAIG GEORGE: -- to the perch that year. And it worked. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm-mm.

CRAIG GEORGE: You know, people could walk or -- if they wanted, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: I didn’t know if, you know, a low -- a high snow year, a lot of snow out there, covers up the signs you need that, you know, like the holes or the cracks or -- but it doesn’t make a difference.

Or the insulating effect of snow, you know, in -- in fresh water ice, that makes a difference. It doesn’t freeze as well -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- if you have a lot of snow on top.

CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, I’m trying to think. I think off in the Chukchi side the current trumps all. You know, that’s the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAIG GEORGE: -- and it’s so dynamic. I don’t know how much snow blanket affects ice stability, but it -- KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. CRAIG GEORGE: -- it might. Again, yeah, that’s an interesting idea. So --

KAREN BREWSTER: The other couple type ice situations that I wanna ask you about is that when it scrapes along the side, which I can't ever remember the name of. CRAIG GEORGE: The ii -- KAREN BREWSTER: Agiukpak? CRAIG GEORGE: Agiukpak and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Kind of what’s going on there? CRAIG GEORGE: Well, that’s -- that’s actually pretty straight forward, I think.

That’s where you have your shorefast ice and the pack ice comes in. You know, a southwest wind or current and it just drags along. And it -- and it forms a -- a rub wall. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: And, you know, you see 'em. They’re -- they’re pretty common.

And then -- and then it may stop. And weld. And I guess I don’t know how -- how stable they are, you know.

I was trying to get that sense from Wesley yesterday when he -- and I -- I kinda got the same sense that he did that it doesn’t -- they aren’t necessarily bad welds. But they’re noticeable. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: And you might cross a few of ‘em going out. If you have a big one right out near the lead edge where it typically forms, and then young ice, like we had a couple times then, yeah.

That I would be -- I would be leery of camping on the other side of that.

KAREN BREWSTER: So does it -- it scrapes along the edge and so the shorefast that it’s scraping on, does that crumble? So it -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, it’s -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- cuts away, it crumbles it. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: And that forms that little wall.

CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, that’s probably a big part of it, yeah. It’s like a pressure ridge that -- it’s being sheared as it’s built. KAREN BREWSTER: Shearing, that’s the word I was thinking of, yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. And I think that’s probably pretty --

KAREN BREWSTER: And so why does -- I don’t know if you know why, this is sort of an ice physics question, maybe, but why does that happen -- the shearing happen versus just coming in straight on? CRAIG GEORGE: I think it’s the angle. KAREN BREWSTER: Of the current? CRAIG GEORGE: But often -- Yeah. The -- the current. And the -- the direction of the hit. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

CRAIG GEORGE: If it’s a -- if it’s kinda a wind driven head-on event, you know, it might just build.

But you know, it’s never -- it’s not like this big uniform, perfect, you know, hit from the pack ice against shorefast. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. CRAIG GEORGE: It’s edges and pieces.

But yeah, often the current is from the southwest and it’ll -- if you get a powerful southwest wind, it tends to rub along the edge. And if there’s a lot of current behind it, nothing’s gonna stop it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAIG GEORGE: And then when the current, you know, like it -- it goes -- like we were saying, it’s episodic. Lot of power and deformation and then again, and then it stops. And especially if it’s cold, during the dark months, it’ll -- it'll adhere.

KAREN BREWSTER: But if you’re out there at your perch or on the lead edge and you -- you hear about that -- that shearing is coming, do you move? CRAIG GEORGE: Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah we sure learned that in ’85. Don’t mess with that.

Although, you know, sometimes you get shearing of not too heavy stuff. When we were up on those really well-grounded ridges up by -- past the point up by Nuvuk.

You know, you’re on heavy ice in fifty feet of water. And you know you’re, you know, on good solid stuff. And we used to -- we used to kinda hang out and watch the ice show feeling very confident that what we were on wasn’t gonna move.

Now, of course, if you were -- like we were, I said a hundred and thirty-eight feet of water, you’re well beyond grounded ice out there. Then phew, you get out of there.

But we were on the shoal, we used to -- we called them ice shows. You know, even get on the radio and say, "Hey, get over here. Really, we’re watching a good ice show." You'd watch the ice.

It’s fantastic. Deform and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: -- sound of thunder and all this kind of stuff.

KAREN BREWSTER: Nowadays, would you do that? CRAIG GEORGE: I’ve lost my -- I must say -- you know, one thing I'm -- that’s changed is my -- I’m -- I’m just so impressed that these guys go out every year, you know.

I --I -- I’ve kinda lost -- I feel like I’ve lost my nerve so to speak.

It’s just you can never completely relax when you have people on the ice. And I don’t know, it’s a -- it’s a constant strain. You’re always trying to second guess things and --

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, and is -- is that feeling partly because now the ice is less stable? CRAIG GEORGE: Partly, because of that. That is part of it, is it’s thinner.

You know, the multi-year ice isn’t there. I think you -- you can go up by the point and probably, yeah, you know, that still sets up and it’s pretty solid. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CRAIG GEORGE: Like that -- that ice up there, that’ll be there well into July. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, really?

CRAIG GEORGE: Oh yeah. Yeah. It’ll melt out around it. But those ridges, they might be there for quite a while.

Used to be in the old days, they would make it through the summer sometimes -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: -- out there. It'd stay grounded. Heavy, heavy ice.

But yeah, that’s part of it is -- is just with the first year ice I think there’s pretty good evidence now that it’s more likely to calve off like it has been the last ten years. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: It doesn’t take nearly as much to snap it off. That’s kind of a generalization. It’s mostly just a change in --

Some ways it feel like we -- we’re so lucky through -- for so many years that you don’t right -- you know, roll the dice again. You don’t know.

There’s so many things that can go wrong, you know, when you’re doing this work and camped out there.

Often with people -- you don’t always get the most experienced people. But everything from a snowmachine accident to a bear attack, or you know -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAIG GEORGE: Ice breaking off and, you know, like in ’97 they’re just so, so lucky they had those big choppers.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you got -- you didn’t have a census camp out that year? CRAIG GEORGE: No. No, we weren’t counting that year.

We were going out to that whale. We were standing by. I was listening to the VHF and we were just about to mobilize ‘cause they were gonna pull it up off Nunavak or something.

They said, "Oh, nope, we’re gonna go up off town." Alright. Alright. Let’s --

I mean, I’ve had that happen, you pull up one place and the whale is going by. Like you have to go back.

Yeah, anyway, then they said off town, then they said, "No, we’re gonna pull it up off Narl or something." And -- and then I heard people yelling, you know.

And then the -- you know, there was no wind. Essentially no wind. There had been a little bit and then the wind went to almost zero.

And then the fog came in. You couldn’t see anything. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: It was crazy.

KAREN BREWSTER: So that delayed the rescue a little bit? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: The other ice thing that people have talked about that maybe you can talk about is -- I don’t pronounce it quite right. Muġałłiq? CRAIG GEORGE: Muġałłiq, yeah. Muġałłiq. Yeah, muġałłiq is kind of frozen slush. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And it’s a -- is that the one that comes out from under -- there’s something -- CRAIG GEORGE: No, no. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, that's different? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, he gave us a name for that, I --

KAREN BREWSTER: No, no, but what Wesley (Aiken) was talking about was it seemed to me a different thing than I’ve heard people talk about when they’re on the ice edge and you start seeing little pieces come out from underneath. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. Well, yeah. And --

KAREN BREWSTER: I don’t think that’s -- Wesley was talking about big pieces coming out. CRAIG GEORGE: Well, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: But maybe it’s the same thing? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, it’s probably the same thing. Just --

But I know we’ve been counting from a perch and all of a sudden it’s -- it’s really terrifying. It’s like a submarine surfacing right in front of you.

And these big chunks and they move slow -- you know, will go up and they keep going and going. They’re almost as high as us. And then they’ll settle down.

Or you can get these and then -- you can get stuff rolling up and then it shoots off in front of the perch for some reason. It’ll come up and then, phew, and spread out.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, that’s maybe what I’m thinking. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. It’s really dramatic.

And, you know, we didn’t pay too much attention to that. In retrospect, we probably should have. But it’s telling you that things are rolling off the bottom.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And even those big pieces like you -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah KAREN BREWSTER: -- that would pop up in front, that’s coming from underneath you? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. Yeah, they’re coming up -- KAREN BREWSTER: That doesn’t sound good. CRAIG GEORGE: -- from what you’re standing on. Yeah, probably not good. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, the last time that happened, the perch, it cracked behind it. It very slowly just sort of tilted and plenty of time to pull off. But it kind of rotated and then phew, headed down a lead.

KAREN BREWSTER: When was that? CRAIG GEORGE: That was, I think ’92. ’92, I think it was. It was pretty cool. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah..

CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. We took careful notes on it and all that. KAREN BREWSTER: Cool. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: I wanted to sort of talk a little bit about freeze-up and what -- what happens with freeze-up and how that’s changed. CRAIG GEORGE: Mm-hm.

KAREN BREWSTER: 'Cause people talk about it. One its timing is later, but is the process different? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, freeze-up is so complicated ‘cause it’s complicated by wind.

So what I try to do is I note three things. When -- when this fresh water lake in town -- town, when it freezes up. That’s a lake. It’s pretty simple. KAREN BREWSTER: It’s fresh water.

CRAIG GEORGE: It’s fresh -- Well, it’s simpler in it’s a small water body. And I just wait until it’s, you know, completely -- the first time it’s completely ice covered.

And it’s affected some by wind, too. But less so.

And then Elson Lagoon, when that slushes up. And the Chukchi side, when it first gets slush. But then what is freeze-up? KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Exactly.

CRAIG GEORGE: And then when the shorefast ice is stuck on. Again, that can be a little tenuous.

It looks like it’s all set up and then, you know, there the wind and current can get it. So it’s set up and then it isn’t.

And, the -- the big change is that it’s later and later and later, like I think Wesley said, you have landfast ice by mid-September. KAREN BREWSTER: Or October or -- ?

CRAIG GEORGE: Well, you have -- yeah, October you can go out on it. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: But it starts freezing up in September and that was the case.

Like if we were doing fisheries work or anything we’d have to be -- you -- you wanna be off the water by mid-September because it’s slushy. Now, that’s -- all that’s delayed a month at least.

And I don’t know if you remember during your time in the mid ‘90s. I remember early ‘90s -- We froze up in -- early in ’91, ‘cause they didn’t -- they were coming back out of Prudhoe (Bay) with our car in early September and they couldn’t even land it here. They -- they left it in Wainwright, which wasn’t much help.

But the fall whalers, I think they might’ve got one whale and then it froze up, and that was early September.

You know, the -- the multi-year ice came in so they couldn’t land a barge. But then it froze. That’s what it does -- it stabilizes things and it freezes around it. This matrix kinda like -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: Concrete.

KAREN BREWSTER: That’s the year when all the polar bears came into town? ‘Cause they had ice to walk in on. CRAIG GEORGE: That was ’92, I think. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. CRAIG GEORGE: Because they -- they landed a bunch of whales that year. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And then it was iced early so -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- the bears could get in. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, it was --

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, that -- that -- You know, it’s a stupid question about how sea ice freeze-up happens. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So with the -- what you’re saying, the multi-year ice -- You know, ice -- the pack moves in and gr -- pieces ground and it freezes up around it. Okay, that’s one way.

But nowadays you don’t have that coming in. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: So is the salt water -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- of the ocean freezing in place kind of? CRAIG GEORGE: Well, it’s kind of like, it -- it usually --

KAREN BREWSTER: And is temperature affecting it? CRAIG GEORGE: You know, yeah, you start getting this frazzle ice or the muġałłiq kind of stuff. And it’ll come in and out and you can get, you know, like waves, breaking waves even after it’s dark, which is something new. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: You know, to hear the ocean breaking. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: When it’s dark. I remember when I first heard that, I went wow, this is weird. Never heard that before.

And anyway -- and you can get these kind of weird little ice cliffs -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: -- on the beach. KAREN BREWSTER: On the beach? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, you know, this yucky -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: -- kind of strange stuff. But some years more than others.

But then, yeah, this kind of slushy stuff sets up, and, you know, then maybe you’ll start to get some pieces of first year, or, you know, second year ice that -- you know, like this year that kind of scatter around -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, moves in? CRAIG GEORGE: -- out there. And --

KAREN BREWSTER: So how do those little cliffs form in the freeze-up time? What’s going on there? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, it’s just these waves, slush waves kind of set up.

And each time it -- it kind of adds a layer as it rolls up. And they can be six feet high.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. It’s kind of like overflow in the ocean sort of. Like a clear -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- overflow, but it just keeps freezing. Like aufeis ice, it just keeps freezing on top of it?

CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, I’ve got some pictures of it and you can see clear layers in it of mud and ice and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Cool.

CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, it is. And I don’t know, it’s an ice type that I tried to get a name for that. I think Richard Glenn may have -- KAREN BREWSTER: He may have given us a name? CRAIG GEORGE: Given us a name for that, but --

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, the other thing is, I think you mentioned it, but sort of this idea of watching the ice throughout the season. That you don’t just go out in -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- in May and build a trail.

CRAIG GEORGE: Well, that’s what the elders always said. You got to -- you got to watch it develop, where the iiguaqs are and get -- get a sense for how long it’s been in place, where the -- where the big ridges are, where they’re not.

And -- and that’s -- I think they’re right. You know, and people start building seal trails and all that.

But I think for the real -- the real ice experts. Yeah, you want to know exactly where those different ice types are and where the iiguaqs are. And the water depth and it’s kind of a --

But at the same time, what you see is what you get, you know. A lot of people like going in certain areas off the coast and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: -- you might be constrained some.

But often you -- you work with what you got rather than what you would want.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Well, and it seems like in the old days -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- you know, like they used to go out seal hunting all winter so they were out there all the time. CRAIG GEORGE: Oh, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And now there’s only a few people who are doing that. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, that’s true.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so they may not have that full year observations in the same way at all. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. And -- and, well it’s -- Yeah, it’s really good to know how it’s set up. The structure. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Okay. CRAIG GEORGE: Yup.

KAREN BREWSTER: The last thing. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: 1975. Kupaaq's year when the ice didn’t go out. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Were you here? CRAIG GEORGE: No, I wasn’t. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

CRAIG GEORGE: But I was right on the tail end of that. I got here in ’77, and it was still -- those -- it was like the mini ice age of the -- of the ‘70s.

And you know, that -- what John Burns and other astute people tell me is that it really was tough on the wildlife. The seals were having a hard times. I think there was some major die-offs of eiders. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

CRAIG GEORGE: And production -- primary production failed in the ocean. But he said bowheads cruised right through it, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: They didn’t need to --

CRAIG GEORGE: The bears were struggling, the seals, all these vertebrates. But they -- they are designed --

They kinda, you know, in all this variation they kind of draw the mean line or the regression line through it. And it’s one reason they have that incredibly -- well, the main reason probably they have that incredibly thick blubber. They invest heavily in storage. Saving for a rainy day sort of strategy. And --

KAREN BREWSTER: They still need to come up to breathe, but -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- the ice was there -- they had enough places they could break through? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, yeah. They can always, seem to --

You know, I think they very rarely drown, which is astonishing. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: But they can always find something.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. You’d think seals could, too, but -- CRAIG GEORGE: Well, yeah, but I think in -- yes, in their case though it was just that the -- there’s no light penetration.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, so the productivity? Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, productivity was off after a couple of summers like that. It was pretty tough.

You know, sea ice -- you know, for the Arctic Ocean to be productive, ice is important. But not too much ice.

You know, it’s kind of a -- there’s sort of an optimum. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. And but like the Bering Sea, it’s an ice covered sea that goes ice free. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: And it -- this is more and more -- more like a sub-arctic -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: -- sea here.

KAREN BREWSTER: Did -- did you hear Kupaaq or others talk about what happened in ’75? CRAIG GEORGE: You know --

KAREN BREWSTER: Why it was -- it never went out? CRAIG GEORGE: I never did. I think it was just simply part of these cycles. You have these strong cycles.

If you look at the data, they were pretty regular like four-year, five-year intervals. Very heavy ice years and then it would lighten up and then it would build again.

I never did, no.

KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. And it’s interesting ‘cause if -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- you know, all the science talks where they put up these diagrams of global warming, climate change and the temperature. ’75. It’s like from ’75 on -- CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: -- is where it starts going up, up, up, up, up. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. Well, that’s one of the -- the skeptics --

You know, that’s one of their criticisms. It's like, "Well, you started in a year" -- it’s actually maybe a couple years later -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAIG GEORGE: But you started during a very cold period with heavy ice that was not representative of the norm. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay. CRAIG GEORGE: So it’s a biased -- KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

CRAIG GEORGE: But I think those arguments have largely gone away.

If you look back in the Yankee whaling records and others, that was not atypical. I mean, there was -- it varied quite a bit, but generally the ice was heavy and always near by.

You know, if you read Sonnenfeld. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: He -- he said right in there. KAREN BREWSTER: '59, I think. CRAIG GEORGE: In the ‘50s, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAIG GEORGE: He said, "One day of west wind and boom, ice is on the beach." KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: And that was, you know, here through the ‘80s it was always a cat and mouse with the barges. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: Could they get in? KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: In the late ‘70s and ‘80s. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAIG GEORGE: And they’d wait and wait. And then they’d get a little window, but any west wind -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: -- and the ice was back on the beach.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right, and that pack ice really moved around.

CRAIG GEORGE: So, you know, maybe the mid-'70s were west wind years? A lot of heavy ice -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: -- around anyway. And it just kept it on the beach.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right, and that was -- You know, ugruk hunting time is in and around all those pieces of floating ice. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Which is a whole different scenario. CRAIG GEORGE: But, yeah they couldn’t get the barges in. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

CRAIG GEORGE: I guess, what was he saying, they went back to Seward, put everything on a train and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Hauled it up?

CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, they -- yeah, they moved stuff up the Haul Road or something. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

CRAIG GEORGE: What did they say? Anyway -- KAREN BREWSTER: I don’t remember. Anyway --

CRAIG GEORGE: And they broke in. They also got icebreakers and they did break in to Prudhoe (Bay). KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. And the barges following them. And the Crowley guys told me they made it -- an ice breaking barge that you put a tug behind. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CRAIG GEORGE: And they built this -- invested in this fantastic ice breaker barge. And they said, "You know, we haven’t had to use that thing in a decade and a half now, or more." KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.

They thought -- we all did. We thought that was, you know, always a --

I don’t think anyone ever dreamt that the ice would actually do what it’s done.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, so as I say, it sounds like since you’ve been here it’s really changed a lot. CRAIG GEORGE: It’s really changed tremendously.

Like I say, late summer and fall is the really huge change. And -- well, all through -- it breaks up earlier.

We used to figure yeah, we can get a boat in the water by the tenth of July was pretty reliable in the ‘80s for fish studies. And now it’s a couple weeks earlier than that.

And then the ice goes out and you have generally open water. Ice free in October, I mean August, September, October.

I remember one year, you know, they were delaying the hunt to get the small whales in fall. Fall whaling opened some time in the last decade on the 7th of October. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

CRAIG GEORGE: Which is the date the -- of the discovery of the trapped gray whales.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, which -- everything was frozen up by that point. CRAIG GEORGE: Everything was long frozen up -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: -- by then.

I just remember the irony of that and went wow, we’re out whaling in a place that was -- not only was it fully frozen there were pressure ridges -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: -- and it was twenty five below zero. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAIG GEORGE: We’d had -- we set -- it was a cold -- very, very cold autumn. October of ’88 broke a number of all time records and still stands as one of the coldest years. But -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: But there were pressure ridges. I mean, it looked like -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: -- what you’d see in -- in fall. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. I mean in -- KAREN BREWSTER: In spring, yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: -- spring. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, yeah, and it’s like now you have fall whaling, open water whaling, yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Crazy. Yeah. It -- that -- that was like wow.

Yeah, the variation. Again the variation here is just huge. And will remain so, you know.

This ice retreat thing is -- like this is obviously a bit of a throwback year, but -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAIG GEORGE: You know, there’s -- it’s the long-term trend you look at, not the -- each year is different. And the people and the critters have to -- have to adapt to that.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, so what do you think will happen up here if there’s -- if it happens that ice doesn’t form in the winter anymore? If it -- CRAIG GEORGE: Oh, it’ll always form in the winter unless we’re, you know -- that would be pretty much the end of life as we know it, if there was no winter ice here.

I -- you know, but the summer ice, you know, it’s pretty clear unless there’s a drastic change in human behavior we’re gonna lose the summer ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: I mean, is it possible the ice could be so thin in the spring that there’ll be no whaling? So thin because it forms so late, it just can’t get thick enough? CRAIG GEORGE: Could be. Like Wainwright last year, they wa -- they whaled right from town.

KAREN BREWSTER: Like fall whaling, but they did it in the spring? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

CRAIG GEORGE: There was about a hundred yard apron. That was it. They hunted off there and caught their whales and it might be something like that.

Same at Point Hope. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: That happens. KAREN BREWSTER: That happens?

CRAIG GEORGE: So it might be a Point Hope situation. Yeah, that’s probably not too improbable.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And then they use powerboats? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, they -- they do. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah

KAREN BREWSTER: Anything else you want us to talk about or that I didn’t ask about? You know, your remembrances, your notes, whatever? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. I think -- Yeah, the history's important.

You know, hearing like over the last three days of the elders conference, I think putting things into -- the sea ice into a historic perspective is really important. Looking at long-term trends.

I think the biggest local impact of ice retreat is going to be -- I mean our 9/11, so to speak. That’s a terrible term, but our big problem is going to be a big fall storm with, you know, three, four miles of fetch. Like we get.

That’s gonna be our biggest challenge, I think is we’re gonna get really beat up. We’ve been awfully lucky, but we could lose. It could really damage our town.

But yeah, I guess, you know, like the locals say, don’t panic but prepare and deal with it and, you know, adjust their techniques. They’re doing it.

Boats are bigger. They’ve adjusted the fall hunt. Adjustments to the spring hunt.

Bowheads are doing beautifully now. There’s plenty of -- plenty of whales. Probably eighteen to twenty thousand now. So they’ve darn near made a full recovery.

Yeah, it’s -- it’s going to be all about adaptation.

And, you know, I don’t know that the sky is falling. I don’t understand the climate models well enough. But I think it’s gonna be a lot about adjusting.

Pretty -- I -- yeah, it’s best -- can and may not be. I don’t know.

We’re losing -- erosion is a serious problem here. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Really is.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, and you don’t have the ice that comes in in the fall to protect the coastline. CRAIG GEORGE: That’s a big -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: Big difference.

You have it -- if you’ve got ice on the coast, you can have a horrific fall storm and it doesn’t hardly do anything. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CRAIG GEORGE: But yeah. So yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Any other -- any other particular experiences out there that -- stories that you wanted to tell? CRAIG GEORGE: There’s endless stories. I -- I really loved it. I loved learning about the ice.

Like I said, I transferred my love of mountaineering and being in the mountains with the ice. There’s a lot of similarities. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: And it’s beautiful. It’s sort of this kind of very -- not simplistic environment but, you know it's just --

KAREN BREWSTER: Austere? Is that what you mean? CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, but it’s ice and snow. Kinda like the high mountains. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CRAIG GEORGE: You know, it’s not complicated with a lot of green stuff. But nonetheless intriguing and awe inspiring and incredibly beautiful, you know.

Well, that -- this migration here in spring with twenty thousand bowheads and half a million eiders, fifty thousand or more belugas.

And the light and the -- the drama. It’s -- it’s just -- I mean, it really is one of the more remarkable wildlife spectacles and natural spectacles on -- on earth. And hope it continues.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And I think it’s pretty neat how you have learned from the local people. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: And incorporated that into your work. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah, no that -- that’s probably the -- that’s an important message that --

I think what we did here, we both kinda leaned on each other. The hunters needed us, we needed them. And we -- we developed a really good partnership and it should be a model for other resource users.

Don’t fight with each other. Work together. It’s fun and you learn a lot.

Set common goals. You know, we both want healthy whale populations and all that.

Yeah, so that -- you know, it’s funny, I’m so a part of it that I don’t think of it. But when I step outside, what other people say, that’s really the most remarkable thing we’ve done here is -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: Work -- work -- in a -- in a really positive way. It's not perfect, you know, bang heads on various things and we’ve made a lot of mistakes, I’ll tell you, through my --

I’ve probably made every cultural error you can make, but I think people understand that I’m interested and like the community and I’m very --

I think that maintaining a reverent whale hunt here is -- it’s a -- it’s an important thing for a lot of reasons. And maybe some wouldn’t agree, but as long as it’s done in a sustainable, reverent manner, it’s a huge contribution to the community and to science. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: It’s unbelievable what we’ve learned about bowheads by being able to watch them in the spring, and then as Tom would say, look inside ‘em a couple times a year. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CRAIG GEORGE: With some of the best whale biologists in the world come here. And for good reason. Anyway, we’re good.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, great. Thank you. CRAIG GEORGE: Yeah.