Henry Nashaknik was interviewed on July 26, 1978 by Kenneth Toovak in Barrow, Alaska for a project related to potential oil development of the Alaskan continental shelf. The original interview was in Inupiaq. The interview was first translated into English in 1979 by Molly Pederson and appears in the Historical References to Ice Conditions Along the Beaufort Sea Coast of Alaska (Scientific Report, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, 1979). The interview was translated again in August 2014 by Ronald Brower, Sr., and appears below synced with the Inupiaq audio. The original interview was recorded on two different tapes: part one of the interview is on the end of ORAL HISTORY 97-64-04 (after the interview with Harold Itta ends); part two of the interview continues on ORAL HISTORY 97-64-08. The two parts of the interview have been combined here into one digital file and named to reference tape ORAL HISTORY 97-64-08, since ORAL HISTORY 97-64-04 has already been used for the Itta interview.
In this interview, Henry Nashaknik talks about sea ice conditions on the northern Beaufort Sea coast, in particular around McClure Island, Cross Island, and Harrison Bay. He discusses how the wind and current influences the ice and how and where pressure ridges are formed. He also tells stories about two different groups of men who were drifted out on the ice and how they survived and were able to return to shore.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Sea Ice in Northern Alaska
Date of Interview: Jul 26, 1978
Narrator(s): Henry Nashaknik
Interviewer(s): Kenneth Toovak
Transcriber: Ronald Brower, Sr.
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Living on the coast near the Canadian border
Living and traveling on the coast in the mid-Beaufort Sea area
Ice conditions and pressure ridges in the McClure Island area
Ice conditions, pressure ridges, and multi-year ice in the Cross Island area
Effect of wind on ice and creation of leads
Ice conditions around Barter Island
Pressure ridges and open leads around McClure Island
Men getting drifted out on the ice from Cross Island
Ice conditions the men dealt with while drifting
Another group who drifted out on the ice
Ice and wind conditions when the men drifted out
Trying to save themselves and return to shore
Survival while out on the ice
Ice conditions at Qulvi, Pingu Island, and Harrison Bay
Variability of ice conditions by season and by year, and traveling by boat along the Beaufort Sea coast to Barrow
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KENNETH TOOVAK: July 26, 1978
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Now, we first came to the coast in 1920. In 1920, we came to the coast from the Canadian side. In 1920, when we came to the coast. That year we came to the coast I was 15 years old. So I was able to remember everything at the time we relocated to the coast.
KENNETH TOOVAK: With regard to your age. How old are you now?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: In this spring I became 73 years old. KENNETH TOOVAK: 73. That is getting up there.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: So at that time when I was 15 years old,
we lived for a while on the coast; for a few years. We would then move inland but did not stay for years there. We traveled ever westward. So since the time we went to the coast from our home in Canada. We never stayed in one place for long. Wintering on the coast, constructing houses to winter in, and living in it a few years. We never stayed at one place too long, but also never traveled too far westward in our lifestyle then. Sometimes five years, sometimes two years sometimes only a year. We would spend a few years on the coast then move inland not too far, building sod homes at each location where we lived.
KENNETH TOOVAK: East of Barter Island? HENRY NASHAKNIK: We lived east of Barter Island, I believe it was for just one year.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Oh. How old were you then?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: About 20, I think.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So when you were about 15 years old, you lived east of there?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: When I was 15 we lived inland across the Canadian border.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Where at?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: At Puukak. Puukak is just west of Demarcation Point, east of Barter Island, where we came to the coast. We spent the winter there then traveled by boat in the summer time to the west side of Barter Island. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. HENRY NASHAKNIK: There we lived off the land there for a few years.
KENNETH TOOVAK: 20 years old?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Until the time I reached 20 years old or so. When I reached 25, I married a girl raised in that area.
So after I got married we moved to the coast of Kuukpaaġruk River, then to Canning Rver, sometimes spending our winter in the mountains. Then we moved to Shaviovik River. However, we lived off the land at the mouth of Shaviovik River for several years summering along its foothills before I got married. We lived at the fork of adjoining Kavisugruk River. We lived off the land by the large river systems, or at the foothills, alternating between these environments sometimes inland.
And sometimes by the coast. And then we moved westward, to live off the land at the mouth of Saġvaaniqtuuq River for a while. Our lifestyle was such that we moved every so many years, not by great distances. Living in a vast land, we remained decidedly nomadic, ever mobile. So it was, that we came upon the mouth of Kuukpaaġruk River.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Traveling on the coast? HENRY NASHAKNIK: We were traveling along the shores. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. Along the shores.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. Along the shores. So we were traveling along the shore. We then came upon the banks of the Colville River. We settled for the winter, building a house just east of the Colville River.
KENNETH TOOVAK: The mouth of the Colville River?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes, just east of the mouth of the river, at Qulvi, we lived off the land.
We would go hunting up the river inland, but did not winter up there. We spend the winters on the coast. We stayed there for quite a while.
KENNETH TOOVAK: At Qulvi?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. At Qulvi. It was not too long before we moved here. At that time, I was already married and already had children. It was during the time we lived at Shaviovik, that I started having children.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: There we lived for a while at the mouth of the river.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Up Shaviovik River? HENRY NASHAKNIK: On the coast. KENNETH TOOVAK: Oh, down on the coast? HENRY NASHAKNIK: We also lived at Tigvaġiaq Island, west of Barter Island. Where we lived.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. Was this in the winter?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: In the winter, out on the sea ice I was running a fox trap line along the coast to the islands. In the winter, sometimes as I laid out traps, I drove my dog team to the outer islands.
Now these islands often have large pressure ridges.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Which islands are they?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Pole Island and the McClure Island group. We used to go trapping at these islands because there are houses on these islands. On Pole Island and McClure Islands.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Using Shaviovik as a point. HENRY NASHAKNIK: It is east of Beechey Point and in front of the mouth of Shaviovik River. KENNETH TOOVAK: While living at Shaviovik? HENRY NASHAKNIK: While we lived at the mouth of Shaviovik River. KENNETH TOOVAK: And down there?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Down there, we often set traplines down on the ice along these islands. Especially because there were houses on the islands. This allowed us to overnight in the cabins at the islands as we pursued trapping opportunities.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Now in the winter, before Christmas, the ice in the inlet between the land and the islands must have moved?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. Sometimes in the winter the low islands will have pressure ridges on two edges. West side of the island, and the north side of the island. KENNETH TOOVAK: Oh. HENRY NASHAKNIK: And other times, the west side have no pressure ridges, but the north side does on those islands.
KENNETH TOOVAK: There must be times when the ice instead of ridging, slides en mass? HENRY NASHAKNIK: I have seen the ice move en mass like that, but not enough to cover the islands. KENNETH TOOVAK: You have not seen that kind of ice movement?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: I have not seen ice movement like that, that was capable of covering the islands. It is because the outer islands are high above water. They have lots of driftwood with plenty of high land. Where Inuit live off the sea.
KENNETH TOOVAK: McClure Islands?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. At McClure and Napaqsralik.
Cross Island is what they call Napaqsralik. It also has a high land base. And like Tapqaaluk Island they have steep and deep edges so ships pass fairly close to the inward shore of these two islands. When ships are wintering over, the oceanside forms pressure ridges they would take to the inward edge to make safe anchor on the eastern side. Cross Island and the others are a long ways off shore. But I cannot tell you how far off the mainland these islands are. How many miles off shore they are.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Now McClure Island and Foggy Island are closer?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Foggy Island is close to the shore and is an eastern part of the river system.
There is a small creek to cross to the island so one can go there by walking. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. HENRY NASHAKNIK: It is a part of, no, an extension of the mainland, that Foggy Island.
KENNETH TOOVAK: What about Cross Island?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Cross Island is a long distance offshore.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Yes. Cross Island must be at least 15 miles from the mainland.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: It could be that far out to sea.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Yes. When you look at it on a map. And so you would be trapping foxes along these islands?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes, about 10 to 15 miles to Cross Island. McClure Islands are also a part of the same system. They are just some distance eastward. As I recall, these two larger islands were used to winter over because they are large islands.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Now on the north side of these islands. There is the deep drop off. Along that edge of the ocean there must have pressure ridges forming there as well?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes, it has pressure ridges. It has very high pressure ridges that passable with some difficulty, but they do not stop there.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Does it have multi-year ice with it?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: There is a lot of multi-year ice passing. And in some years it is only multi-year ice forming very large ice bergs.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Getting grounded? HENRY NASHAKNIK: Some do get grounded, but not for long because it is pushed along by deep currents.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So the inlet would have smooth ice? Like Barrow area?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Sometimes the ice conditions make for smooth ice. But when an east wind blows steady.
In the spring it will blow clear all the ice between the islands and the mainland. Just like it does in Barrow.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I thought it was a westerly winds that caused leads to form?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Shore leads do form with the westerly winds. However strong the westerly winds may become, the main ice pack remains visible always moving.
KENNETH TOOVAK: In the spring? HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes, in the spring. Now the coast along the mainland will clear of ice soon as a westerly wind picks up. When the pack ice start to break apart, when the westerly sets in the coastal ice is taken out to sea but remains visible from the coast. So in this way, the inlets are clear of ice all summer.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. So the pack ice remains visible even with westerly winds blowing it out?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. That ice pack always remain visible. It never goes out of sight on the horizon.
KENNETH TOOVAK: And when the wind is blowing from the east?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: In the east winds, the ice will flow westward and disappears from sight. So that is the way it is. When winds are westerly the ice stays visible from shore. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: I do not know how the ice behaves around Barter Island. I know it is moving in different directions so leads open to the north side and west side.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Because it is a point?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Because it is a point. When we lived east of Barter Island the ice conditions were similarly situated. There would also be pressure ridges but I never lived there long enough to learn the east side. KENNETH TOOVAK: Okay.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Well, we wintered on its coast for one year. No, it was two years we wintered there.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So it must be pretty deep on the shores of Barter Island?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: The people of Barter Island would know about that. KENNETH TOOVAK: I agree.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: I never lived at Barter Island, so I do not know about its sea ice conditions as we passed by there in the summer.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. HENRY NASHAKNIK: When we moved, we bypassed Barter Island and wintered at the mouth of Canning River. From there we lived off the land from Canning River to the Kuukpik River.
KENNETH TOOVAK: And so, at McClure Island do icebergs flow pass southern shore into the inlet?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: I do not recall any icebergs being pushed into the inlet there.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Is it because the waters there are shallower?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: I have no memory of seeing grounded icebergs. I have never seen large bergs grounded around there. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: When the currents move the ice from the inlet, it all goes out and none goes back into the inlet.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Oh. Now McClure Island must get some pretty large pressure ridges on its ocean side?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: That island always have high pressure ridges on its ocean side. However, it is good traveling by dog team between the many pressure ridges. Because we were always hunting seals along the leads by the island. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. HENRY NASHAKNIK: In the spring, when the seals move to the ice surface.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Now in the winter, when the lead is open seaward of the islands, in front of Shaviovik River over to Cross Island, is the lead out at sea very far?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Sometimes the lead opens close to the island shores, so we go seal hunting along the open lead during the spring. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: It does not happen that way all the time. It changes. Sometimes it is close. Other times it is quite a ways further out. When we travel by dog team to Cross Island. With a fast team one can make it to Cross Island in about four hours or five hours.
KENNETH TOOVAK: To Cross Island?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: We would start over there from McClure Island. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: It was there on Cross Island that men would gather to hunt marine mammals at sea. So it was possible to hunt in its open leads, even in the spring, during some winters.
KENNETH TOOVAK: But the westerly winds must shut that lead? HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes, west wind closes the lead.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So what does the east wind do?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: So when the wind is coming from the east. It acts like Barrow’s northeast wind blowing from the north.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So along this coast -- There forms no lead? HENRY NASHAKNIK: There is none. It is not forming a lead because it now acts as the shear zone. KENNETH TOOVAK: So are there times when new ice is formed?
When the west winds come, does it shear it off?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: It gets sheared off. It is especially at Cross Island where men are carried out to sea by broken sheets of ice. This happened on several occasions.
KENNETH TOOVAK: To the men who were hunting from Cross Island?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. In one incident early in the season, there were five men who drifted out into the high seas from Cross Island. However, they were able to come ashore when their island drifted to the shorefast ice.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Which men were these?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: They were Sovalik, Misik, Eekolook, Clay and Utoayuk. There were five men.
KENNETH TOOVAK: In the winter? HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes, it was in the winter, new hunting season around December.
KENNETH TOOVAK: 19-what ? HENRY NASHAKNIK: 19-what, I wonder as well,
KENNETH TOOVAK: Can you take a guess?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Perhaps '32 if I recall right.
KENNETH TOOVAK: 1932?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes, it was about that time or pretty close. I’m sure it happened in 1932. KENNETH TOOVAK: I agree. HENRY NASHAKNIK: By happenstance --
KENNETH TOOVAK: In December? HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. In December. By happenstance, Andrew Oenga and I were setting traplines on the other side of the island and did not join them on their way to hunt seals across new ice in the open lead north of the Cross Island. They had drifted out to sea while Andrew and I were setting traps on the mainland.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So it was before there formed the shear ice wall? HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes, it was before a shear wall formed.
KENNETH TOOVAK: From the west wind?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: With regard to the west wind, when the winter air is warm, a westerly wind picks up during warm calm winter days. One can always expect west winds to pick on calm warm winter days. So at that time the men headed to the sea, intent upon laying our fresh traplines, Andrew and I headed for the mainland with our dog teams. We covered our sled runners with burlap coated with ice to gain speed. As we were making our way to the mainland, the iced burlap melted from the warm weather. And made for a difficult journey! Being so warm, it had been a waste of time to re-skid our runners with the ice covered burlap and we had to remove the stuff to carry on. And so we returned to the island and were told that those men had drifted out to sea.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So it was that they were adrift?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. They were adrift for several days. Was that five days?
It is said the currents took them far out to sea where they were totally lost. KENNETH TOOVAK: Yes?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: They reported that while on the drift ice, the men climbed on the multi-year ice ridges. When looking at the shore fast ice, it was said the waves were so large that the shore fast ice would disappear from sight as they rolled with the waves in the high seas. KENNETH TOOVAK: That is beyond belief.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: The men reported that in the evening, parts of their ice island would be covered with water pushed on by the waves and break off. KENNETH TOOVAK: I agree. HENRY NASHAKNIK: When they woke up the men would move toward the east end of the ice island. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. HENRY NASHAKNIK: Each evening before it got dark, they would look for a safe place to spend the night among the multi-year ice.
KENNETH TOOVAK: They were still moving? HENRY NASHAKNIK: They kept drifting along.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. So what was the condition of the ice?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: New ice is not unlike water. It can flex but rolling waves break it apart into whatever shape it wants.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So they were on new ice? HENRY NASHAKNIK: It already had newly formed ice.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So ice was freezing together as they moved eastward? HENRY NASHAKNIK: When ice froze together in the mornings, they would push on eastward. KENNETH TOOVAK: When the ice froze together. HENRY NASHAKNIK: When ice froze together. They kept going eastward sometimes falling through the thin ice, ever moving eastward. It so happen that there was no wind blowing. It was on a calm day when the ice island came to shore in front of Flaxman Island. There was a large and dark newly formed ice butting to the shore ice. The folks on Flaxman Island had not dared to walk on because it was so dark.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Never stepped on?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: They had not stepped on it at all. But it was this same dark sheet of thin ice by which they crossed. So the stranded men came ashore driving their dogs across. They were quite anxious to come ashore. Once ashore a man is safe. KENNETH TOOVAK: I agree. HENRY NASHAKNIK: However, the men said they were adrift in the deepest part of the ocean, because when they climbed high pressure ridges they could see the shorefast ice on the far horizon but it would disappear in the most giant swells they were riding. They were lucky to survive. KENNETH TOOVAK: I agree. HENRY NASHAKNIK: It is for certain that these men were carried adrift far from shore.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Was there a strong west wind blowing?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: There was a strong west wind that broke off the new ice, then the winds died down and the men found themselves adrift in calm oceans. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: After this happened. And during the new spring. There was another group of men who went to Cross Island. There was still time to make to the leads to hunt.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Yes.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: So when these men got to the open lead, they decided to spend the night by the lead. They were intent on catching seals.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. What about Sovalik?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: With regard to Sovalik, having learned a terrible lesson, had decided to head home. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. HENRY NASHAKNIK: He was supposed to be one of this group. KENNETH TOOVAK: Yes?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: He asked his father-in-law if he was going home with him.
When he said no, Sovalik left his father-in-law, his change of dry socks and boots. He then started for home to his mother with his dog team. He also asked his friend Piilaq if he could take him to the mainland.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So he did not want his friend to fall into the water?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Aalaak was with them as well. There also was Kingosaaq and Ulaaq, with the group.
KENNETH TOOVAK: These were different men, in the spring?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: It was spring time. When there was more daylight, that these guys were adrift.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. This was the same winter the other men went adrift?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes, it was after those men had been adrift.
KENNETH TOOVAK: This was the winter of 1932? HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. And these men, in the spring, had gone hunting at the open lead.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Maybe in March or something?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Ulaaq had commented to one of his comrades, “Tonight, if we shake for a while in the cold never mind!”
KENNETH TOOVAK: It was enough if they caught a seal.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: I agree. And so they had drifted out to sea during night. The new ice had broken off taking the men with it.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I wonder what part of the year. Was it maybe in March?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: I forget exactly what month it was on the calendar. Maybe toward the end of March? It was in the spring. No. Let me correct myself. It was in December that this happened. We were preparing for Christmas when they were lost. It was not in spring. It was during the darker part of the month when they drifted out to sea. So this happened during the darkest time of the year.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Perhaps when you were born?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Perhaps before I was born.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Before Joshua was born probably. So it was in the dark winter when these men went adrift?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: So this happened in December, just before Christmas.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. Could it have been another part of the year?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: No. It was definitely that winter. Because the first group went adrift in early winter. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: So I had seen these men who went adrift in December during the deep dark days of winter.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So it was in early winter, around October, the first group went adrift? HENRY NASHAKNIK: It was somewhere in October.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Before new ice got thicker? HENRY NASHAKNIK: There was newly formed sea ice when they went adrift.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So it could be in October maybe? So the second group went adrift just before Christmas? Ilaaq and them? HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. We were preparing to celebrate Christmas. We were just reading for Christmas when the men were found. We were preparing for Christmas on the mainland.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. So the area around Shaviovik is a good place to shelter?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. It was those who lived at Cross Island that drifted out to sea.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So there were people living in houses at Cross Island?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. There would be several hunters that wintered there.
KENNETH TOOVAK: With their families?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. They had their families with them, building homes on the island. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: There is always lots of wood on Cross and McClure Islands. Enough material to build homes with.
KENNETH TOOVAK: With wood? HENRY NASHAKNIK: With wood.
KENNETH TOOVAK: And so it was. Those men hunting at night who got caught in the ice break up?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. The ice had broken apart. And so when it became day, they were leisurely heading back to the island. It was not that the ice had broken and drifted noticeably.
KENNETH TOOVAK: From the west wind?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: A slight west wind had opened a new lead behind them. So when day approached, they headed for shore too late.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. HENRY NASHAKNIK: So they drifted eastward. It was Kingosaaq who lead them to shore.
He led the men, traveling to pressure ridges, crossing where pressure ridges were forming among the ice floes.
KENNETH TOOVAK: He probably knew it adjoins to another ice floe leading to safety?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. I’m sure the ice floes were randomly bumping each other causing pressure ridges to form along the shore fast ice. He knew where the ice was forming pressure ridges against the shore fast ice and made his way there.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: And so as they made their way across this moving pressure ice. It was there they had an accident. As they were going over the active pressure ridge, Kingosaaq was caught by the ridging ice.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Kingosaaq?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Kingosaaq got crushed by the ice.
KENNETH TOOVAK: That is so sad alright.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: When he was crushed by the ice, it did not cover him. It crushed his leg only and stopped.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: It was during this crisis, as they made their way through piling ice, that they lost personal belongings and lost a few dogs in the crossing. The men built shelter on the shorefast ice upon getting their companion out of the ice.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Using what means?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: They had to chop him out with their ice lances when the ice stopped.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. That was so bad. It is so sad alright.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: There came upon them a strong blizzard. A strong cold blizzard. So they all spent the night in the shelter.
KENNETH TOOVAK: A snow shelter? HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes, in a snow shelter. So at daylight, a couple of the young men decided to head for shore. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: So when it was decided that they go on, Ulaaq decided to stay with his son-in-law. He did not even venture out to check on the weather.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: So the young men prepared to travel, Iliiyaq and Qavruna. Now there are no houses between the far islands and the mainland.
KENNETH TOOVAK: No houses at all.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: So as the young men traveled toward the mainland. Perhaps because they were weary, maybe they got sleepy, so they fell asleep.
KENNETH TOOVAK: They were walking? HENRY NASHAKNIK: They were walking together.
KENNETH TOOVAK: With no dogs? HENRY NASHAKNIK: No dogs with them. However, Ulaaq had a doq, but only one who kept him companion. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: So the young men fell asleep. When Qavruna did not awake. Iliiyaq continued to walk to the shore. Now there was a family wintering on the coast on a barrier island. It was Kinŋuatchiaq and family. So when he came ashore on the barrier islands, he traveled eastward missing their house on the west end. And so he continued to the mainland which was still some distance south.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: So on reaching the mainland as he was searching for shelter he stopped and fell asleep.
KENNETH TOOVAK: It is difficult to see where people live.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: He had barely missed them, going east. If he had just gone
westward he would have been saved without a doubt. KENNETH TOOVAK: I agree. HENRY NASHAKNIK: He had gone the wrong direction following the west wind.
KENNETH TOOVAK: It is hard to tell where people live in the dark conditions.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: So when he made it to the main coastline a strong wind began to blow, he stopped among small pressure ridges to rest and never woke again.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. This young man, Iliiyaq?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. And so, the older men, who were waiting for the arrival of help. The two older men who watched over Kingosaaq, having been crushed by the ridging ice, were Aalaak and Ulaaq.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Now who is this Aalaak’s kin?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: He was Sovalik’s father.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Oh. So Sovalik’s father is Aalaak? HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. Sovalik’s father is that man Aalaak. KENNETH TOOVAK: Now I know.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: So Ulaaq and he, being there,
decided when no help came, to go ashore to seek help.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Leaving Kingosaaq behind?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes, they left him in the snow house.
KENNETH TOOVAK: After that spent many days there?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: I agree. After they spent many days there, and no one came.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So they were waiting for expected help to arrive. HENRY NASHAKNIK: They were expecting help to arrive.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So after they spent several days expecting help to arrive, they left. After spending so many days there?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Now it should be noted that they have not eaten for several days. On their journey for help, they were being followed by an untethered dog.
KENNETH TOOVAK: The two, Aalaak and companion?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. So as they traveled toward the coast, they killed the dog and to have something to eat.
They had no choice in the matter of survival after all.
KENNETH TOOVAK: They had no other means apparently.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: So they took bits of raw meat into their mouths for strength. And in this way, made their way toward the mainland. When they reached the barrier islands, they found a can and used it to make water to quench their thirst.
KENNETH TOOVAK: To the barrier island?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: When they made it to the barrier island. So they followed its shore and came upon the Kinŋuatchiaq family there. It was then,
people found out they had been adrift. The young men had come so close by. But they had succumbed to the cold weather.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I agree. That was a dangerous cold spell.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: That was definitely a dangerous cold spell. It was also hazy weather. So it was in these conditions the two young men froze to death. KENNETH TOOVAK: I agree.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: It is probably because they left their group too early trying to make it ashore leaving behind the older men, which caused their demise in the conditions. One of the old men had given his winter pants to Iliiyaq.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. Thinking that they would make haste and bring help? HENRY NASHAKNIK: They thought they could fetch help pretty quickly, but it was the dark that hampered their journey. I was not only the darkness but also it was quite a distance to walk that contributed to their demise.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Yes. It must have been a long ways to go.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: These were healthy and strong young men who never made it to shore under those conditions.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Yes. It is known that when ice has no groundable ice, it is considered dangerous ice. HENRY NASHAKNIK: However, that area is also a dangerous environment.
Especially in the wintertime. In the spring, the edge of the ice and the open leads are visible from long distances.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Yes.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: I think that is about all I know of this area.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Now how about when you lived at Qulvi? How many years did you spend at Qulvi?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Now how long were we at Qulvi? Maybe 3 or 4 years.
KENNETH TOOVAK: You must have caught some fine foxes there as well?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: I briefly set traps down to the far islands.
But I did not learn much of its coastline to the islands. However, it has similar ice conditions.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. When we were traveling by Cat train, that time to Pingu Island. We were hauling research houses to Pingu. Cutting seaward from Atigaru Point, I was going to lead the Cat train across to bypass the Colville River bluffs. Traveling straight ahead, we came among large icebergs. Laipik stopped me and
told me I am taking them into the deep sea. When Laipik told me that, I redirected our train southeasterly aiming toward the west banks of Colville River. We ran into pressure ridges which we plowed through. Out in the bay I was surprised to see grounded ice bergs in the bay. It was like a bay.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: That is Harrison Bay. Where large ice bergs often get grounded and often stay. There is no sign of ice there in the summer time when we hunted there.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. So there must be large icebergs that stay some years?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. Some years, there is no ice. In other years, there can be ice.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: One summer, there was no ice so waves were frequently encountered. When we were boating in the bay we traveled slowly especially when we moved from one place to another.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So there is no ice some years and lots of ice in other years, because no two years are the same?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: The seasons are not the same. Some years there is absolutely no ice in other years, and lots in others. The pack ice can be far out of sight. Once we were traveling in the winter and headed across the bay only to discover we had gone straight way out to sea. We were traveling in in thick ice and we never came to the land we were expecting to see.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Were you traveling east or what? HENRY NASHAKNIK: We were heading west. KENNETH TOOVAK: Was it in the spring or winter?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: This was in the spring. We were on our way to Barrow before the ships came. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: When the westerly winds came. We turned around and traced our path back toward shore. Before us was a large open lead. As waves were growing, we traveled onward and pretty soon we saw the shorefast ice. When we got there it seemed safe alright. There were grounded icebergs some distance before us. When we crossed to the grounded iceberg,
there was more open water before us. No land before us.
KENNETH TOOVAK: And where was the land?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: As the winds were picking up and the waves came upon us, but we could see land on the other side. KENNETH TOOVAK: Yes?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: They did not have any tow, but we did. We were towing Fred Ipalook’s boat. A double-ended dory, you recall?
KENNETH TOOVAK: Yes. That double-ended dory.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes, it was that double-ended dory. Silamiitchiaq and I were traveling together. KENNETH TOOVAK: I see.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: In the waves, the dory started surfing toward our boat. By chance, the rudder of our craft was on the outside of the boat. When the dory surfed toward us, it would hit our boat.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Ah. The waves were upon you.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Even though our tow line was quite long. When, at once the dory started surfing toward our boat again and hit us and smashed right into our rudder destroying it.
KENNETH TOOVAK: For goodness sake. Your only means of traveling? HENRY NASHAKNIK: The land was real close alright. We almost lost it.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So you were about to save yourselves?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes, it was. It was at Miki Joe’s. We came ashore at Miki Joe’s.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Yes. There must have been a number of you?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: There was a number of us. We were many. And several had already anchored on shore in front of us as were trying to make it ashore. We had no rudder to speak of, however our engine was still running. KENNETH TOOVAK: Yes?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: But we could hold it by hand. And Silamiitchiaq was making the effort to solve our problem. However, as for me, when we came to a stop I got seasick.
KENNETH TOOVAK: HENRY NASHAKNIK: My innards tightened up in a ball.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Yes.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: We had to anchor to fix our engine in the now larger waves.
KENNETH TOOVAK: I see. Trying to fix your rudder?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: He used twine to tie the parts together enough to steer the boat while we were anchored.
KENNETH TOOVAK: Yes.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: But the waves were getting quite large.
KENNETH TOOVAK: You had anchored in front of Miki Joe’s?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Yes. We anchored in front of Miki Joe’s on the east side. Then after anchoring there and fixing the rudder, Silamiitchiaq took the boat around the point of Miki Joe’s and we went around the bend.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So you were around Sippaqtuligaaq, on its western edge?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: Well, we were traveling west by that direction. Then we went around the point to calmer waters and landed there. So we used the scow flat bottom. It is too shallow for the large outboard sea boats to go in. And so we used the scow to go up river to haul water. I rested my stomach for a spell there and was not too anxious to get back on a boat.
HENRY NASHAKNIK: I stayed up there a bit longer but I never recovered on that one. I still wanted to throw up. Finally, they came to get me. So when we got back to the scow, Jake gave me grapefruit breath mint to calm my stomach.
KENNETH TOOVAK: So he made you have grapefruit?
HENRY NASHAKNIK: It was grapefruit juice. And it made my stomach better.