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Cyrus Harris, Part 1

Cyrus Harris was interviewed on March 31, 2016 by Karen Brewster, Andy Mahoney, and Rebecca Rolph in an apartment of the Fish and Wildlife Service bunkhouse in Kotzebue, Alaska. In this first part of a two part interview, Cyrus talks about growing up at Sisualik and learning to hunt seals from his father and uncles. He discusses the importance of understanding ice conditions and how things have changed, including ice breaking away, thinning ice, timing of break-up, effect of tide and overflow, and the effect of changes on the travel routes and the seasonal round of subsistence activities. He also talks about ice safety, testing the ice, open water conditions, seal hunting, and his father drifting away on the ice but returning safely.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-25-35_PT.1

Project: Sea Ice in Northern Alaska
Date of Interview: Mar 31, 2016
Narrator(s): Cyrus Harris
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster, Andrew "Andy" Mahoney, Rebecca Rolph
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.
There is no slideshow for this person.

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


Personal and family background, and growing up at Sisualik

Current job running Maniilaq Association's Hunter Support Program

Job history and education

Life in Sisualik, and going out seal hunting with his father and uncles

Sealing at Sealing Point

Fishing at Anigaaq

Seal hunting on the shorefast ice

Understanding the ice and the ocean and sandbars underneath

Location of open leads, and camping on the landfast ice near Sealing Point

Being observant out on the ice, testing the ice, and staying safe

Story about his father drifting out on the ice

Reasons why ice can break away

Changes in freeze-up and travel to Sisualik

Kobuk Lake ice and the boat channel

Determining ice thickness for safety, and differences between saltwater and freshwater ice

Changes in the timing of break-up

Tide, overflow, and flooding

Salinity of the ice, and freshwater and saltwater boundary

Changes in the sheefish population

Identifying safe ice

Effect of the tide on ice salinity

Multi-year ice

Ice with rocks in it, and pressure ridges and ice pile-ups

Landfast ice and open leads

Hunting seals on the ice

Waiting for good trail to Sisualik

Open water conditions, and seal hunting amongst broken ice floes

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KAREN BREWSTER: This is Karen Brewster. Today is March 31st, 2016. Here in Kotzebue, Alaska with Cyrus Harris and we’re at the Fish and Wildlife Service bunkhouse.

And, also here are Andy Mahoney and Becca Rolph. Thank you, Cyrus, for talking to us again.

CYRUS HARRIS: Thank you.

KAREN BREWSTER: This time more fo -- sort of funny to sit here in a apartment talking about ice, but it’s kind of a follow-up to what we did on Monday.

CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah, okay. KAREN BREWSTER: When we were out there.

And on Monday we kind of just leapt into things. So, could -- let’s do a little bit of background.

Tell me about you and where you come from and all that.

CYRUS HARRIS: Okay, I’m a lo -- lifelong resident here in Alaska. Born in Kotzebue. Although I was born in Kotzebue, I been raised -- raised over at Sisualik. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm.

CYRUS HARRIS: Sisualik is roughly about fifteen miles across the bay. From -- from Kotzebue. So I been raised over there for at least half of my lifetime.

And so I spend a lot of time out in the ice. It -- for the purpose of the coastal people really depend on the sea ice.

The seas, sea mammals, that -- that type of food.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And what year were you born? CYRUS HARRIS: I was born in 1957.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. And who are your parents?

CYRUS HARRIS: My parents are the late Doc Harris and Elizabeth Harris.

So, I’ve been raised over at camp with my father and my uncle so, they were both elderly folks as I was growing up. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: So I’d spend a lot of time with those folks.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you have brothers and sisters?

CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah, I got four older -- older brothers. No, I take it -- three older brothers, three older sisters.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you’re the youngest?

CYRUS HARRIS: And I also got three -- I got two younger brothers and two younger sisters. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

CYRUS HARRIS: So I’m right in between. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm-mm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And it went boy, girl, boy, girl, boy, girl. And I’m the boy right in the middle. KAREN BREWSTER: Good, and --

CYRUS HARRIS: I -- lemme take that back. I got two older sisters and two older brothers. So there’s -- KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. Yeah. CYRUS HARRIS: There’s --

KAREN BREWSTER: And right now you work at Maniilaq, right?

CYRUS HARRIS: I work for Maniilaq Association, which is a non-profit association. I work for the Hunter Support Program.

Actually, I got this program up and running back in ’93. So it’s still success -- successfully running today.

And I’ve also got this new position added on to my -- the program, which is Natural Resources. You know, for similar things that we’re doing out on the ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: That type of activity. Natural resources also involved with other meetings such as migratory bird, caribou meetings, ice seal, beluga meetings. That type -- that type of stuff.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then don't you do something with traditional foods, too?

CYRUS HARRIS: I do a lot of traditional foods. This program is -- the program, the Hunter Support Program, which was originally called the Elder’s Traditional Foods Program, really began with a federal funded program back in ’93.

And then today it -- it’s the Maniilaq board of directors that’s handling -- running this program, you know, through some of their capital projects.

Mainly, because it got kind of -- well, you hear a lot of budget cuts here and there, now and then, but this program -- the community really supported this program for -- you know, it to be -- continue running today. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: So this program is designed to keep traditional foods on our elders’ table. So we use that through the Hunter Support Program, which is gasoline, motor oil, and ammunition.

And it’s for any able bodied hunter that’s got the equipment to be going out or is going out already that can utilize this program, you know, to help their neighborly elders or elders around the community.

Kotzebue -- It’s not just designed to work here in Kotzebue, but the entire Maniilaq service area. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: Which is twelve of our villages.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And what other kind of work have you done in your life before that?

CYRUS HARRIS: Before that I’d work in -- I’d -- I’d work in construction. These were seasonal jobs, mainly --

Well, for the most part I focus mainly on keeping food in our siġḷuaq back then when I was growing up, okay, and so that was -- that was one of the most important things to do is to follow through with the seasons, with, you know,

what’s coming up, and, you know, what we’re gonna be harvesting and then putting that away.

But in between that, like seasonal jobs during the spring and part of the summer, I’d do construction work. I grew up as a commercial fisherman, a dog musher, so I was able to -- and part time trapper -- I was able to make ends meet. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: But until gas prices went up. Fuel prices went up, pelt prices went down. So, I had to come into town to work and try to make -- make it work.

KAREN BREWSTER: And did you leave Kotzebue for education?

CYRUS HARRIS: Well, living in Sisualik I really didn’t have very much education. I’d start off school late. We’d come into Kotzebue when the ice get safe and thick enough and actually it would -- back in the day it would get thick enough roughly at the end part of October.

But then, we’d still have a lot of activities going on in October such as fishing, and seal hunting, and caribou hunting.

So it would be late November that I would come into town. Practically move into town. So I’d start school late -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. CYRUS HARRIS: -- during my elementary years.

And, of course, I’d finish sooner. Maybe in April, when school’s out in May. Mainly, because we were heading back into -- back to camp, you know, while the conditions are still good. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And preparing for the spring hunt.

So I kinda follow through -- follow along with my parents, aunts, uncles, or whoever might be at Sisualik.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And, was there a high school in Kotzebue yet?

CYRUS HARRIS: High school -- they -- it was just starting when I was getting there. Yeah, there was a high school.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, so you didn’t have to go out to Mt. Edgecumbe? CYRUS HARRIS: No.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. Well, let’s talk about life in Sisualik. You said your dad and your uncle were out there. Do you remember how old you were when they first took you out -- out on the ice?

CYRUS HARRIS: That’s a good question because it was -- I was very young when I started following along with them and this was mostly all by dog team.

That was well before snowmachines. Well, there were a few snowmachines here in town, but it was my father who chose to stick to his dog team, so we were still with dog team at the time.

And I’d -- I’d jump on his sled whenever he’s going and, you know, go for day travels and stuff like that. But I -- it -- I must’ve been about eight years old when I first went out and spend overnight times out in the ice by dog team.

So when I say overnighting, we’d be overnighting well beyond about at least five miles out toward the lead outside of Sealing Point. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And rather than traveling all the way back that particular day we’d pitch camp next -- near the lead, there. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And start our next hunt the next day and just go from there ‘til we were able to load up our sled and go back home again.

KAREN BREWSTER: How old were you when you got your first natchiq?

CYRUS HARRIS: That’s really hard for me to remember. Participating in these hunts, I can’t remember the exact age, but, you know, the first rifle I started using was a .22. And it’s, of course, was a single shot.

And -- and I -- I can’t remember that exact date. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. CYRUS HARRIS: But --

KAREN BREWSTER: But you were eight, nine, ten years old? CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Somewhere around there? CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah.

Being involved, being around the area.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. So, what -- So from Sisualik, you’d go out to Sealing Point? Was that the closest place to get to the lead?

CYRUS HARRIS: That was the most common area that we would hunt out of. The -- a lead either outside of Sealing Point -- an area out about -- roughly about five miles outside of Sealing Point would be an area that’s active with the currents and the setting, you know, of the point that would open during the time the ice is shifting.

But other than that, when there’s too much current around that area we’d -- we’d head out farther -- farther toward -- for instance Rabbit Creek, and then hunt -- hunt that area. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ANDY MAHONEY: And Rabbit Creek is further around the coast toward Kivalina? CYRUS HARRIS: Toward Kivalina. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then there’s also -- I’ve heard people talk -- An -- Anigaaq? CYRUS HARRIS: Anigaaq. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah, we spent a lot of time over at Anigaaq during the spring and falltime. I mean, we got -- during the falltime especially.

It’s a heavy area that we subsist for whitefish. So we get a lot of different types of whitefish over there.

We’ll start off by set net and as it -- the weather start cooling off, I grew up using the traditional qargisaq, which is a traditional fish trap.

It’s a fish traps that -- that -- that the only modern day tool you use today is a shovel. So, and it’s nature that takes care of the rest. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. CYRUS HARRIS: That --

KAREN BREWSTER: That’s when that blocks off the creek there? The outlet?

CYRUS HARRIS: And that -- no -- it -- on the -- Yeah, right where it’s blocked off. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. CYRUS HARRIS: We -- we’d create like a little channel without opening it. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: But that channel would be flowing and so it kind of give the fish a sense of an idea that it’s heading out to the ocean so it --

And then at the end, we’d have a -- a collecting area. And so when it get full we’d shut that one off. All the water drains.

And there was one day I did get -- On my best day, I got fifteen sacks. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

CYRUS HARRIS: Out of -- out of that one. So there’s at least 80 fish in a sack. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: And other days when it’s slow and the weather's not right, maybe we’d get a sack or two. Or none at all, depends on what the winds and the tides are.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. Is the sun bothering you, should we move your chair? CYRUS HARRIS: We can if it’s not gonna -- is it bothering the film? KAREN BREWSTER: No, I can move your -- can we move his chair forward? ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: I’m afraid it --

CYRUS HARRIS: Is it bothering the picture? KAREN BREWSTER: No, I’m worried that it’s bothering you. CYRUS HARRIS: Oh.

KAREN BREWSTER: I’m okay with this here. Is that more comfortable? CYRUS HARRIS: It’s good, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. So, Sealing Point. What time of year did you guys go out there?

CYRUS HARRIS: We spent a lot of time over at Sealing Point during the springtime, mainly for sea mammal hunting. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: We’d head out over rough -- For the folks that’s camping out along the coast would head there roughly about this time of the year. April. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And then camp out there the entire spring, harvesting sea mammals. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

CYRUS HARRIS: Mainly, starting out with natchiq and occasional ugruk here and there, and, you know, preparing seal oil and seal meat. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: So that was -- that was the focus of being around that area.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you were on the shorefast ice? CYRUS HARRIS: We were hunting mainly on the shorefast ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: Along -- along the lead or -- ?

CYRUS HARRIS: Next -- Well, we’d go out as far as where the lead is at. Sometimes we got to get past beyond that shorefast ice. Depends on what the conditions are.

And the most important thing is not crossing a -- a fresh -- freshly open crack heading out beyond the landfast ice.

So that -- it kind of give you an idea on that crack that we passed, I felt safe passing that one. Mainly, because it was attached to the shore and -- and to the other side of another shallow area. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: Otherwise, if it was beyond the landfast ice, then I probably wouldn’t go past it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, so that crack we crossed was a crack in the landfast ice? CYRUS HARRIS: Well -- KAREN BREWSTER: Sort of?

CYRUS HARRIS: -- it -- that -- that crack that we passed was well -- It was attached, it was not gonna lift up and drift off. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

CYRUS HARRIS: It was attached to the shore and also to -- on the other side of it was another shallow area. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

CYRUS HARRIS: So if it were further out, roughly around the area where we were -- ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm. CYRUS HARRIS: I probably wouldn’t go past that one. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm, okay.

CYRUS HARRIS: You have a -- you know, you have a chance of drifting off if -- once -- once you get past that one.

So that’s one more important thing we look out for when we’re heading out to the -- to the leads.

KAREN BREWSTER: You know, it’s interesting that you -- you have to not only know the ice, but you have to know, you know, that it’s shallow or deep in that spot. And you knew there -- it was shallow there and the sand bar or something.

CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah, I spent a lot of time -- I -- I -- I do commercial fishing. Some of that area that we were on when we first started, I did some fishing on that area.

And water depth is important on, you know, where we’re going to be setting. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And I travel to and from on the lowest part of the water, so there’s areas that I wouldn’t ever think that I’d hit shallow water on my 22 foot boat, you know. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: That just happened to be there. This is on really low tide during the falltime. So -- so I -- That particular area, I did spend a lot of time around.

ANDY MAHONEY: And so the water is lower in the fall because there’s less water coming out of the rivers? Is that what --

CYRUS HARRIS: Well, it’s got a lot to do with the north winds, outgoing tide, yeah, a lot of -- ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: Lot of the rivers drained out that particular time of the year. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And, of course, that changes really quick once the winds shift to south, southeast. I mean, the tide just comes surging right in.

KAREN BREWSTER: So on -- when you used to go to Sealing Point, about how far out might the lead be? How -- I know it always changes, but --

CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah, it --it -- it really depends on, you know, where that landfast ice is formed.

But there’s one particular area roughly about between three to five miles out on -- near the point of Sealing Point that actively stays open when everything else is shut and closed. There’s one particular area that stays open.

But that area create -- is not a lot of current. And when the current is too much to handle we’d head out further toward, like I said, Rabbit Creek or the direction of Rabbit Creek. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: Where ever the next nearest lead would be.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And so being camped out there for a month or something, were there lots of people who did that or just your family?

CYRUS HARRIS: No, there was other folks that were camped out along the coast.

And I -- I know when I was growing up -- they’re -- I can’t remember them exactly by name but there -- they were pretty much the same people that were heading over that direction for the springtime and then back again.

KAREN BREWSTER: When did people stop doing that? Kind of camping out.

CYRUS HARRIS: You don’t see so much of that activity today, but we still have, now -- well, back then it was all tents, you know.

And then, so most folks were tenting out. Today you’ll see a few cabins here and there but -- and the folks that do have those cabins, they’re still -- stay there during the spring. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: Some parts of the summer berry picking and falltime.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. So, do you remember what kind of things your dad and your uncles would talk about and teach you when -- to be safe out on the ice?

CYRUS HARRIS: Well, they never really spoke about it, but I kind of see it. That -- you know, they’re always paying attention to what they’re traveling on.

And -- and they’re talking about their next step, their next travel. Pretty much similar to what we did after we passed that one crack going, heading out. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: We kind of planned, you know, what’s the next step from there until we could get to -- to the lead.

And then they’re also talking about the seal holes or -- or the breathing holes, and, you know when they stop and identify them, they -- it kind of gives them an idea on the thickness of the ice and -- and so forth.

Or, you know, where, you know, they might be able to participate in some hunts.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And when you would go out to the lead, were you -- I don’t know how to say it, but -- shorefast ice and then there was a le -- the lead, was there dangerous ice in between there?

CYRUS HARRIS: There’s a lot of -- there was a lot of -- yeah. Between -- between the landfast ice and -- and the lead, you kinda like got -- need to navigate your way through there through the safest route.

And once you get there, -- because we’re dealing with a lot of jumbled up ice here and there, so we’re, you know, navigating our way to get to and from.

And one thing I notice what my dad would do is when we’re out there by dog team, he’d have a compass. So once we set our self next to the lead, you know, we’re sitting there for hours at a time.

He’d aim his compass on the ice and to an object and just have it sit there during the day, and he’s checking on that every so often to see if we drifted. Or we moved, you know. REBECCA ROLPH: Mm-hm. That’s -- ANDY MAHONEY: So that’s --

CYRUS HARRIS: So he took it by experience. And he -- my dad, he’d spend a whole week out in the ice during his younger days, yeah. REBECCA ROLPH: Oh.

CYRUS HARRIS: By dog team. I mean, he could’ve easily make it back with his kayak, but he’s not the kind of person to leave his dog team behind.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, so he -- he floated around for a week? CYRUS HARRIS: He -- he drifted out for a week, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

CYRUS HARRIS: And so there’s this -- he got -- there’s a recorded story on that -- on his adventure.

He never really shared that much of that information with us when we were growing up, but as he got older before he passed he started sharing some of that information, yeah.

That -- this all happened when he was a young man.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So do you know more about it? Like, where it was and what happened?

CYRUS HARRIS: Well, yeah. It took place, I believe, outside of --it -- I’m not exactly sure where the exact location it took place, but it was between Anigaaq and Sealing Point. That particular area, heading out by dog team. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And he happened to be, you know, by himself. By dog team, a young man. And venturing out to the ice and got drifted out.

And so there was no way he can get back, so he just, you know, find the biggest portion of the ice there and then stayed with it.

And, you know, be with his dog team there, took care of what he needed to take care of. And he just kind of like weathered it out as he’s drifting along.

And it -- it -- it was so many days later that he drifted further west. And -- to where that chunk of ice that he was in --

He actually had to move from one chunk of ice to the other, because that one he was on was deteriorating. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: So he had to move to another chunk and just kept moving until -- ‘til he -- you know.

So, after several days of that he -- it finally stopped in an area more west from where he started off and -- and so sikuliaq formed.

And so that overnight ice formed and he waited for a little bit longer and then he knows that sikuliaq did had some open spots here and there but he had a good leader at the time -- that leader that really understands the sea ice also, and knows the commands really well.

So he decided, well, maybe from that chunk of ice that he was in, and on the sikuliaq, that he’s going to be traveling on, he -- he -- he went for a dash, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: And during that process, he -- as the story mentioned that he dropped his -- during the time he’s dashing across to the landfast ice on that sikuliaq, or that young ice, he dr -- his -- his ayaktuun or paddle for the kayak fell off (McLean's Iñupiaq dictionary defines ayaktuun as "a long pole or staff used for poling (hand maneuvering) a boat.") And that was his lifeline, you know.

So during the time he’s dashing across on the sikuliaq, he actually made a U-turn, came back around, and picked it up without stopping and continued -- KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. CYRUS HARRIS: -- his journey back up, you know.

Mainly, because that one particular item there was his lifeline. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

ANDY MAHONEY: They say never let go of your paddle.

CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah, yeah. So he made it to shore.

Back in the day, when he was younger, we didn’t had really no VHF, CB radios, that type of communication.

But the word got out that my father didn’t make it back on one of his seal hunting trips. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And the message went all the way to Nome to where the nearest search and rescue and airplane air -- air -- airplane was.

So by the time -- A week later, by the time he made it to shore, they finally spotted him going home on -- ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: You know, heading home on the shore. So this is what I understand about the -- about the tape that he -- that he shared with -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And then he spoke all in Iñupiaq, so I asked my -- my wife, you know, “What’d he say? What’d he say?” You know. Some words I didn’t understand, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: And do you know where he ended up on shore?

CYRUS HARRIS: I’m not exactly too sure the exact location, but it was further west than from where he started off.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Wow. That’s pretty exciting. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Kinda scary.

ANDY MAHONEY: But -- did -- that doesn’t happen very often. It seems like stories like that are quite rare?

CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah, they’re quite rare. I mean, it happens on an occasional basis.

I mean, you hear of, you know, it -- that ice is -- the weather’s really unpredictable out there if you’re not careful so -- and that ice is very powerful even if you’re just on a boat on -- on pack ice out hunting ugruk, you know.

ANDY MAHONEY: Did you hear what made the ice break away?

CYRUS HARRIS: Well, there just happened to be a crack that just formed right behind him when he went -- when he went -- when he went out that direction. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And by the time he was out there already, it had already shifted and it got beyond to the point to where he was able to get across that crack.

And so he had no choice but to, you know, go with the flow. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I wondered if he talked about what the wind or the current might have been doing that day. CYRUS HARRIS: Ye -- KAREN BREWSTER: The weather.

CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah. It’s very -- you know, that -- that one particular tape, I need to get a hold of it. And it -- it -- it -- it’s around somewhere. I need to study it more. Just -- ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm. CYRUS HARRIS: -- for -- Just for me. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: But that’s the first fact that came into mind is when we passed that first crack.

And then we opened -- we checked it out and it was a freshly -- freshly crack that took place that morning. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm mm.

CYRUS HARRIS: So that immediately caught my attention. So don’t -- don’t --

Like the elders always say, when you’re heading out to ice like where we were. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm. CYRUS HARRIS: Don’t cross a fresh, open crack like that, you know.

But, like I say, you know, I felt comfortable. That one was beyond heading out on the ice floes so -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: I felt safe crossing that one particular one.

KAREN BREWSTER: So you mentioned going back and forth from Sisualik, so how has that freeze, thaw timing changed?

CYRUS HARRIS: It changed dramatically. Back in the day about -- I’ve always used the term Halloween. October 31st.

Growing up as a kid we didn’t really had any kind of -- any kind of, you know, like candy or -- or -- or goods such as that, you know. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: So, but we’ve always looked toward Halloween to, you know, go and -- go trick or treating and get our treat for the year.

And we’ve always -- being kids at Sisualik, we’ve always looked forward for Halloween and our only way of transportation is by dog team.

So it just about would always freeze up well enough by Halloween when I was growing up.

Today, you’ll be lucky to get across there in mid Oct -- mid-November. The beginning of December, you know.

So, that’s a big, significant change right there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. So what do you -- when you talk about freeze-up, when is freeze-up for you? What does that mean?

CYRUS HARRIS: Well, freeze-up is when the weather first start cooling off during the falltime. And the -- the -- the shores off the lakes or -- or edges of the shallow areas begin to freeze.

So that kind of tells us that freeze-up is coming in pretty soon. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: So it’s about then we start paying attention to the weather.

And, of course, if we’re -- when we’re having north wind and it’s low tides, we’re watching the edges that’s freezing.

The river areas that’s freezed -- and, of course, there’s lots of open areas on the river crossings that’s going to be -- that’s -- that’s open.

But yet, we pay attention to the areas that freeze. So the areas that froze and kind of like stayed there, it kind of gives us an idea of where safe crossing is going to be. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And that would be the same thing when we’re still traveling by boat to and from Sisualik. We’d watch the edge on the -- on -- on the east side of the bay to where there’s less current, to where the ice is foring -- forming.

And we’d watch it and immediately after a big wind or high tides, which ones stayed and which ones got -- broke loose.

So we’re always paying attention to that early on.

And the next step after that, we’re watching the -- the ice in front of town where the channel -- the Kobuk and Noatak channel goes right in front of Kotzebue here.

So there’s probably the deepest part with the most current that there is, so -- and it’s roughly about a mile, a mile and a half long, wide. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And so we’re paying attention to that. To where, you know, the sheets of ice stopped and where it formed and where it freeze and where the open spots are.

So it kind of gives us, the people that’s paying attention, a sense of direction to where the safest route is going to be to make that crossing. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

ANDY MAHONEY: So the ice that you see forming in the channel in front of town, you say some of that ice is actually formed in Kobuk Lake but then kind of drifts out and then stops in in the channel and freezes there? CYRUS HARRIS: Exactly. Either that -- ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: Or, you know, with that young ice that's going out, it kinda creates a piled up -- it -- it -- pile -- it -- it goes on top another and then piles up. And then -- REBECCA ROLPH: Yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: It kinda helps itself thicken up in that manner. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah. Okay, yeah. Yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: But, of course, there’s a lot of bad spots between here and there, you know. Areas that stayed open or -- or didn’t freeze yet.

KAREN BREWSTER: And does the ocean ice start freezing past that channel, and the channel stays open longer? Does that happen?

CYRUS HARRIS: No, it’s -- in front of Sisualik it stays open for a long period of time. Mainly, because there’s really no -- not very much of shallow waters from the shore on out.

So at any time we get east wi -- we’ll have -- We’ll have a lot of this ice from the Kobuk Lake, from the Noatak, from the Kotzebue Bay that got knocked loose that will eventually be traveling by and heading out in front of Sisualik.

And some of it’s stopping and forming during the freeze-up time.

And so, but the -- the areas that still remain to be open for a while yet is the boat channel. And it’s the shallow areas that we know that forms a lead.

In other words, on the Sisualik trail that -- the areas that froze first were on the right side of, you know, where we were -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: From us, from when we were going across. And that particular area that we were on on the staked trail is the boat channel that we’re going to and from.

But there’s a lot of slush, there’s a lot of -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CYRUS HARRIS: -- a lot of little ice cakes floating around.

And, of course, the east wind kind of clears that out except for whatever ice is strong enough to stay.

KAREN BREWSTER: ‘Cause I've heard about last November. There was the open water in the channel in front of town and then there was ice on the other side and there were natchiq in the water and tuttu out on the ice.

CYRUS HARRIS: That ice on the other side is -- is -- is about -- it’s a sandbar.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. CYRUS HARRIS: So the ice in the center is the channel. So when that first froze up and we had outgoing tide it -- it broke that up.

So it create -- that -- that was what you call a lead, a mini lead -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. CYRUS HARRIS: -- right there in front of town.

And, of course, at the same time we had a -- like a herring run as to what the fish were attracted to. And they were actually, you know, feeding around the area.

And so that lead was a place where they bunched up for, you know, to -- during that feeding cycle.

KAREN BREWSTER: Now, was that unusual to have that lead right in front of town and then ice on the other side?

CYRUS HARRIS: No, it’s a natural occurrence. It happens all the time.

I mean, you know, and that’s just the way it -- how it forms, how it start freezing. It start freezing on the -- more on the north side of town, and it kind of works it’s way out. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: So it’s -- it's in front of town. So it’s a natural occurrence.

It just so happened that one -- that particular area just happened to be a lead when -- during the time during that herring run.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And in the falltime when it’s freezing, how long do you wait? How thick does the ice have to be before you’ll go out on the sea ice and then on the Kobuk Lake side?

CYRUS HARRIS: Well, it’s gotta be able to support your snowmachine and of course your, the gear that you’re taking.

And the most challenging part is, like I said earlier, is crossing the channel right there in front of Kotzebue.

And once we were able to cross that and get to the sandbar side, we still yet need to be careful of lot of overflows or -- and young ice around that area.

KAREN BREWSTER: So for the sea ice side, a few inches? A foot? How long are you waiting before you would go out?

CYRUS HARRIS: Well, you know, I thi -- eight -- eight inches of that sea ice, that salt water ice is going to support you. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: There’s a huge difference between the fresh water ice and sea ice.

Notice the fresh water ice -- there’d be fresh water ice, you know, once you get on it and you know, you step on it. It just breaks like glass. Bunch of sharp pieces.

And then the salt water is more like Plexiglas. It’s flexible.

KAREN BREWSTER: So what’s your ice thickness comfort for the fresh water ice?

CYRUS HARRIS: Well, for the fresh water ice I thi -- I, you know, to me it would be more challenging, you know, to be testing fresh water ice mainly because it’s not -- it --

It would be more challenging, because the weak spots is just going to bust really quick. Like -- like -- like I say, like if it was glass breaking.

And then yet again, when I’m on -- when we’re on fresh water ice, we’re able to notice the flex, before, you know. Before -- before if -- if it were to break.

ANDY MAHONEY: So get kind of like a warning that you’re on thin ice. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah, yeah.

ANDY MAHONEY: On fresh ice, you get no warning you just -- CYRUS HARRIS: No warning. Yeah. Exactly. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And what about break-up in the springtime? When is it time to -- "Oh, it’s getting too thin, it’s getting dangerous."

What are the signs for that?

CYRUS HARRIS: A lot of rotten ice on the trail, lot of rotten holes. Depends on the snow year, just, I mean. And a lot of -- basically, a lot of water. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: We’re able to -- growing up, you know, we’re able to travel late in the season. Practically days before it open up and stuff like that, you know.

But it all really depends on the -- the normal trail that you use. Where -- where bumping off, and you know, if a bad spot occured there we’re moving from one side or the other just to get to and from.

We did some pretty late traveling during the springtime. Mainly because that’s our only way of traveling to and from the -- This was, of course, when snowmachines came and we’re traveling with two or three folks at a time.

And so, when it get really bad is when -- I guess if -- when it really warms up and there’s a lot of snow melt. Lot of water running.

You know, from the both the Kobuk and Noatak Rivers, so that’s when it -- that’s when we slow down our travel.

Until we do get a west wind or northwest wind and the water drains, and we’re able to identify the thicker parts of whatever ice is left there.

KAREN BREWSTER: And when you were growing up, when might that be that you would stop? Like June Ju -- May?

CYRUS HARRIS: Oh, well, on the Sisualik side it -- on the Sisualik side -- yeah, May. KAREN BREWSTER: End of May?

CYRUS HARRIS: Toward end of May, yeah. We’d still be traveling to and from.

But there’s cracks that form. Once they get too wide, we just kinda quit using it. Otherwise, we’re traveling whatever ice is left on the -- on the shore.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And then what about nowadays? When do you stop going back and forth to Sisualik?

CYRUS HARRIS: It all -- Well, when we stop traveling to and from Sisualik -- when the trail conditions get too bad.

It’s kind of hard to predict, you know, what it’s going to be like this year compared to what it was last year but we just kind of play it day by day. And just kinda like go from there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Does it seem like it’s about the same timing as when you were growing up or earlier?

CYRUS HARRIS: It -- it’s -- it’s coming a lot sooner than when we were growing up. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

ANDY MAHONEY: So, you mentioned that the -- you wait for the wind to change ‘cause that results in -- in the flood water -- CYRUS HARRIS: Ev -- ANDY MAHONEY: Going away?

CYRUS HARRIS: Evaporating. The -- the s -- evaporating and the tide heading out, going out. Both of those work together to where the ice, the -- all that snow melt -- ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm. CYRUS HARRIS: Drains out.

So by the time it all drains out, you’re able to see whatever ice is left. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: But with all that water run off -- ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm. CYRUS HARRIS: -- it’s all covered with water so you’re -- ANDY MAHONEY: Right, right. CYRUS HARRIS: It gets harder to identify where the holes are. Or where the bad spots are.

ANDY MAHONEY: So does an -- does the -- do you know, does the -- the water actually drains through the ice?

CYRUS HARRIS: It drains through cracks or open holes. Fishing holes.

ANDY MAHONEY: Through cracks or open holes. CYRUS HARRIS: Wherever there’s holes, yeah.

ANDY MAHONEY: The -- the water doesn’t drain through the ice itself like a sponge. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah -- I -- I could imagine it can, but -- ANDY MAHONEY: Okay.

CYRUS HARRIS: You know, we -- we see a lot of the current really going out either through cracks or -- ANDY MAHONEY: Okay. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, yeah. CYRUS HARRIS: Or -- or through holes.

ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah. That’s -- that’s really interesting.

KAREN BREWSTER: So Andy, do you want to say something about -- you -- we were talking before about the results of our -- your coring the other day and the salinity. You and Cyrus were sorta talking about that earlier.

ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah, right. So, well, we went out the other day and took two ice cores kinda near each other. And the ice was 50 centimeters thick, so about -- about a foot and a half thick.

And the water underneath was pretty fresh. It was -- it had a salinity of nine, which is about a third of the salt that you’d find in the open ocean.

So we were out on the river water there is still coming out from -- from the Noatak and the Kobuk, right? CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah.

ANDY MAHONEY: And so I expected this -- the ice to be very fresh, as well, maybe almost drinkable. That you could -- you might’ve been able that you drink that ice melt.

But the -- it had almost as much salt as you’d find in sea ice that formed in the middle of the Chukchi Sea or -- or Beaufort Sea, away from these rivers, so --

So that was a surprise to me. And I guess that to me said that this ice may be formed a little bit farther offshore where the water was saltier, and then got maybe blown by the wind or the -- the open water closed up.

CYRUS HARRIS: Or the same area. Well, it could be the other way around, too. At the time we were there there’s a good chance the tide was going out.

So when the tide’s going out you got the fresh water, the Kobuk and Noatak waters -- ANDY MAHONEY: Uh huh. CYRUS HARRIS: -- that’s going out.

And when the tide’s coming in, you got the sea ice -- sea water’s coming in. So it -- it -- it changes within that area.

ANDY MAHONEY: So if we'd stood there -- CYRUS HARRIS: If we stood there -- ANDY MAHONEY: -- at a different time -- CYRUS HARRIS: -- for incoming tide. ANDY MAHONEY: Oh, okay, yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: Then it would be a whole different story.

ANDY MAHONEY: Right, so -- so that one salinity measurement that we made, we -- we put the salinity probe through the ice -- REBECCA ROLPH: Oh, right.

ANDY MAHONEY: If we’d done that a different time of day or a different day -- CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah. ANDY MAHONEY: -- there’d be more changed.

CYRUS HARRIS: You’d get different -- you’d get different results with the incoming tide.

ANDY MAHONEY: Okay. How far off shore do you think we’d go to where we wouldn’t see that anymore? We’d only ever see salt water, we’d never see -- CYRUS HARRIS: I would think -- ANDY MAHONEY: -- fresh water.

CYRUS HARRIS: -- further down the coast. REBECCA ROLPH: There's a map here.

CYRUS HARRIS: You know, the ideal place would probably be outside of Sealing Point, you know.

ANDY MAHONEY: Oh, all the way to the Sealing Point? CYRUS HARRIS: You know, you probably could be closer. ANDY MAHONEY: Oh, okay.

CYRUS HARRIS: But I'm picking the ideal place, you know. Away from any of -- from these drainages. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm. Okay.

CYRUS HARRIS: If that -- if that’s what you’re -- if that’s what you’re looking for.

ANDY MAHONEY: I -- I wasn’t looking for necessarily anything in particular. I found something very interesting. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah.

ANDY MAHONEY: And so now I’m trying to understand it in terms of other places where I’ve studied sea ice where we -- there aren’t rivers like the Kobuk and -- and the Noatak.

So this is sort of a new environment for me. Around rivers. I’ve never looked at sea ice around rivers before.

CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah. And, that’s funny, too, because the fish are also telling us something, you know. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: In front of Sisualik, we never used to really get sheefish. Sheefish is a freshwater fish. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And we’re getting more and more for longer and longer periods of time.

So it’s telling us that the water within that area is getting less salinity. ANDY MAHONEY: Right. CYRUS HARRIS: Less salt.

ANDY MAHONEY: Less salt in the region. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah. ANDY MAHONEY: ‘Cause otherwise --

CYRUS HARRIS: And it -- it happens mostly during the springtime when that -- when the water, tributaries are flushing out. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: So we do have a lot of fresh water so we get all very -- different kinds of fish. And --

But, you know, we get those sheefish staying for longer periods of time in -- in -- in our oceans in front of Sisualik. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And it’s co -- it’s supposed to be considered a saltwater area. So, but, fish is a -- sheefish is a freshwater fish. So that’s telling us something.

ANDY MAHONEY: Right, yeah, yeah. Sometimes you don’t need a salinity probe. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah.

ANDY MAHONEY: You just need to look at the fish, right? CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah, exactly.

ANDY MAHONEY: Has anyone speculated why -- where the -- where the extra fresh water is coming from? Or -- or why it’s getting fresher?

CYRUS HARRIS: Well, that’s a good question. I thi -- my guess is, you know, it’s -- it’s thawing out a lot sooner, freezing up a lot later. That could be a part of the indication. I, you know. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: I don’t know, that’s a good question. We never really get these measurements. ANDY MAHONEY: Right. CYRUS HARRIS: When we were back then. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah, yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: But that’s one thing that’s -- that -- that -- that I notice, you know.

That -- when I was growing up, we -- we -- maybe we had a few sheefish, but not a whole lot. Today, you've got tons -- tons of them. Even going down all the way clear down to Sealing Point, you know. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: Which is very unusual. And this is considered, like I say again, a freshwater fish.

ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah, right, okay, that's what you -- Very interesting to -- to hear about.

So yeah, it was great going out on the ice the other day. I think doing that on our first day in town really helped all the other people we’ve talked about, that we’ve been able to -- when they talk about crossing the ice to go to Sisualik we’ve got that -- CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah.

ANDY MAHONEY: -- that -- that -- that reference. We -- we’ve done it, too, so we -- we kinda know what they’re talking about and we can picture the geography that they’re describing.

So -- so thanks again for taking that out. And for me and -- and Becca looking at the ice cores, that’s been really helpful as well. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah

REBECCA ROLPH: Yeah, thank you.

CYRUS HARRIS: Good, I’m glad that we were able to accomplish that trip. So that’s the reason I asked you were you happy with -- with the results.

ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah, no, very, very happy, yeah. Yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: And you notice I was describing the water depth before we even checked it right there.

ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah, exactly. And you were right on. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, you definitely demonstrated how you’re always out checking with your tuuq -- CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: As you go, right?

CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah. Yeah, 'cause with that slight snow cover -- we had snow just a day b -- or a day or two before that. So it was questionable on what -- what layer of ice was next.

And you notice that one little crumbled area, I noticed a soft spot. That’s why I deterred a little bit on the left side before we walked -- ventured off, walked out to the seal hole.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And when you’re out there trying to decide where to go, what -- what are you looking for? What tells you this is good, this is not good?

CYRUS HARRIS: Well, you can see the difference in the ice. You notice the difference in the ice and I stayed more to the right side of that other different colored ice.

You know, that -- that tells -- that kinda like gives you an example that, you know, that particular ice maybe, it is fresher than what we’re actually standing on. Or -- or traveling on.

KAREN BREWSTER: So the color? CYRUS HARRIS: The color, yeah.

ANDY MAHONEY: And when you said fresher just then, you meant newer. CYRUS HARRIS: Newer. Yeah, newer. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: Newer formed ice. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And then there were -- what about the pressure ridges? What -- what is that telling you?

CYRUS HARRIS: Well, those pressure ridges, I could only imagine that they’re gonna grow. And that they -- they just formed.

They -- they just recently formed. They were not there all winter, if --

They normally would form in November, and that would create the shorefast ice right there.

But it was funny that they just formed about two weeks ago when we finally had a light west wind. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: We rarely seldom see that west wind anymore. And it -- it -- it’s a colder temperature, the west wind.

And it also helps push in whatever ice is out there toward the shore and crumbles and create -- makes a anchor to keep that particular part of the ice from drifting out.

So it look like that one is going to be attached for -- and it just happened maybe a couple weeks ago so --

Kinda late in the season, but it look like that one’s going to be attached and we’ll be able to -- (phone ringing).

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh oh, is that your phone? CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah, I -- Turn it off.

ANDY MAHONEY: Will it stop? It’ll stop, right?

CYRUS HARRIS: Eventually. KAREN BREWSTER: So I forgot -- CYRUS HARRIS: I -- I should’ve turn it off. KAREN BREWSTER: I forget to tell people to.

CYRUS HARRIS: Oh, it’s my work one. I got a work one and a personal one. I better shut this one off, too.

KAREN BREWSTER: I always forget about shutting off phones.

CYRUS HARRIS: This is my work, so I better find out what’s going on here. KAREN BREWSTER: Here, I'll pause --

KAREN BREWSTER: Now we’re back on. Go ahead, Becca.

REBECCA ROLPH: Oh, I was just going to say maybe the ice formed within the Sound but -- and then when the tide was bringing the salt water in --

ANDY MAHONEY: It brought the ice in with it, you mean?

REBECCA ROLPH: Well, he was saying that the salinity right below the ice was really variable because of the fresh water being either brought in from the rivers -- CYRUS HARRIS: The -- REBECCA ROLPH: -- or from the outside.

CYRUS HARRIS: The tide going -- heading out. REBECCA ROLPH: Yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: We have an incoming, outgoing tide. REBECCA ROLPH: Yeah, so -- ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah.

REBECCA ROLPH: -- maybe the salinity from all the ice is indicating what water the ice came from.

ANDY MAHONEY: Right, yeah, it changes over time. REBECCA ROLPH: Yeah.

ANDY MAHONEY: So -- so we need to -- if -- if we’re going to think about this when we -- when we look at the salinity data that we’ve got, we need to remember that the -- it --it’s not constant. REBECCA ROLPH: Yeah.

ANDY MAHONEY: It changes with the tide. And with the wind. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah.

REBECCA ROLPH: Probably, a lot more so than just the open water.

CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah. And then when we’re out ugruk hunting by boat and we’re 20 -- we could be 30 miles out in -- on -- on sea ice, you know. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And then there’s areas that we do collect fresh water. And these are off ice melts, off where the bigger icebergs are. ANDY MAHONEY: Oh, okay.

CYRUS HARRIS: Which you don’t see very much today of anymore.

ANDY MAHONEY: Right. So -- so you would go -- you’d -- you’d go up next to one of these big ice floes in your boat -- CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah

ANDY MAHONEY: -- and scoop fresh water off the top of the ocean? CYRUS HARRIS: Ye -- yeah.

ANDY MAHONEY: And -- and you'd be able to drink that? CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah. ANDY MAHONEY: Right, wow. Pretty cool.

KAREN BREWSTER: So is that that multi-year ice?

CYRUS HARRIS: It’s multi-year ice or it’s ice that piled up early on in the winter and it’s kind of formed big ice piles and -- and --

And then on the top layer that’s, you know it -- it -- it really -- the salt water never really affected it to where it got on top. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And so this is mostly like ice melt or snow melt on top. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. Yeah, I didn’t know that you’d get sort of multi-year ice coming into the Sound. CYRUS HARRIS: We did. KAREN BREWSTER: Do you?

CYRUS HARRIS: No, we did, it -- it -- it was a natural occurrence before and -- not exactly here in front of Kotzebue right there in the Sound, but out here like in front of Sisualik, between Sisualik and Cape Blossom. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.


CYRUS HARRIS: And we very seldom see that anymore, but I -- I’ve witnessed going to a huge iceberg, to what was about like, I’d like to say at least ten feet off the surface. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm. Mm-hm. CYRUS HARRIS: You know?

ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah, some -- some of those -- some of that ice comes out of like way northern Canada. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah. And comes around past Point Barrow. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah.

ANDY MAHONEY: Down the coast. CYRUS HARRIS: The polar ice. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah, polar ice. CYRUS HARRIS: I -- I saw that before. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: My uncle just went directly to that. He -- they have a keen way of seeing way beyond the horizon. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And what’s out there, you know. So we were passing all this other ice. He just kept going, kept going, kept going, he went directly to that polar ice, you know. And then --

ANDY MAHONEY: Have you ever seen or heard of ice with big rocks in it?

CYRUS HARRIS: I never really saw that. I heard some, but I never really saw that.

ANDY MAHONEY: Hm. It -- it’s quite rare, but sometimes they can -- and actually, just in 2012 out of Barrow -- CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah.

ANDY MAHONEY: -- there was an ice island that had come out of Canada and it had these big rocks that had fallen off a cliff. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah.

ANDY MAHONEY: Onto the ice in Canada, and had been transported.

But there aren’t any big rocks near Barrow, so they knew they couldn’t have come from anywhere near there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, well, that’s interesting that you used to get that -- ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah CYRUS HARRIS: That polar ice, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: That big polar ice. Yeah. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So that’s when you were a boy or something? CYRUS HARRIS: When I was younger, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. Well, we were talking about those ridges, the ivuniq. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And what we saw the other day seemed pretty small. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah, they were.


CYRUS HARRIS: They were small, mainly because that ice was only what, like that?

ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. CYRUS HARRIS: You know. And then I’m not exactly too sure how much of an anchor it created.

But who knows what happened after the next west wind that we had between when we came back into town, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh huh. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: There’s -- there’s because it was just forming, it was fairly fresh piled ice. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

KAREN BREWSTER: So is that typical to have it small like that? Or -- ?

CYRUS HARRIS: No, it should’ve been bigger.

KAREN BREWSTER: They’re usually bigger? CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And they form normally farther out or that was -- CYRUS HARRIS: That’s roughly about the s -- KAREN BREWSTER: That’s the spot?

CYRUS HARRIS: Roughly about the spot right there in front of Sisualik. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: So that would create the landfast ice there. And then beyond that it’s going to open up sooner than anywhere else.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, you mentioned when we were out there and other people have talked about, you know, this -- this year in particular the ice was forming way later. And that had been open water.

When you were younger, how far out would you go that it was still safe to be out there?

CYRUS HARRIS: Well, when I was younger we’d -- we’d more travel more west toward Anigaaq or Sealing Point.

These were the ideal spots, mainly because all this was frozen. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And it would be a while before the seals haul out. And so we were mostly looking for like leads.

And then so when I was younger, we’d be heading out, like I say, nearest point, Sealing Point five miles out. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

CYRUS HARRIS: Or maybe beyond Sealing Point five to ten miles out. To -- to the nearest lead. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

CYRUS HARRIS: But today, you probably wouldn’t see -- go anymore than getting off the beach beyond Sealing Point, you know?

ANDY MAHONEY: So when -- when you go to the lead, how -- how wide is it? Can you -- can you see a lot of ice on the other side of the lead?

CYRUS HARRIS: We can see -- it all depends on how strong the wind was when -- ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah. CYRUS HARRIS: -- that lead formed. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah, yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: Or if other ice came in after the lead formed. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: It -- it all varies. You could run into ice that’s big as a football field or open water, rather, as big as a football field or it could be open from the lead on to where you couldn’t see the other side. Or you could see ice flowing on the other side.

But what we’re actually looking for is a good place to launch our kayaks and -- and our boats in our area because there could be rough ice on this side and rough ice on that side.

And so this is just a safe travel route to and from, you know, from -- from landfast ice to the shore. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: To the lead. So once we get that location then we -- this is where we do our seal hunts.

ANDY MAHONEY: So you’re -- you’re hunting from your kayaks in the lead?

CYRUS HARRIS: We’re hunting on the ice, we’re retrieving with the kayaks.

ANDY MAHONEY: Ah, yeah. Okay, right, right. So you’re not going too far off with the kayak. You’re not paddling between the floes -- CYRUS HARRIS: No. ANDY MAHONEY: -- to find the seals? CYRUS HARRIS: No. ANDY MAHONEY: No, no, no. Okay.

CYRUS HARRIS: No, no. We’re -- we’re -- we have patience so we’re waiting for the seals. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah. CYRUS HARRIS: To come -- come our way.

ANDY MAHONEY: Sounds a lot -- a lot wiser. Yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: And -- and they float. They’re floating right now for ever, you know. ANDY MAHONEY: Right.

CYRUS HARRIS: They’ll start floating in December, mainly because of their body fat. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And all that other good stuff that they got with them. ANDY MAHONEY: Right, right.

CYRUS HARRIS: And the salinity of the water, you know. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: I read someplace that the -- there used to be an elder tradition they’d say not to go out on the sea ice until after Christmas. Have you heard that?

CYRUS HARRIS: Well, yeah. I mean, we couldn’t in front of Sisualik. And during Christmas it’s still open or just newly formed.

We don’t usually start traveling in front of Sisualik up until, you know, after January. Maybe, mostly, you know, what’s the purpose of traveling there through January when you have the winter trail up here, you know, on the -- on the coast.

But to get like to where we were and -- and it would remain a shortcut to be heading over toward Sealing Point. And the better travel route would be on the ice.

It’s in April that -- that ice, that -- that trail on the ice is gonna start forming. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: That’s when the land -- the -- the winter trails start deteriorating. With snow it’s easier to travel on the ice.

ANDY MAHONEY: So the winter trail is actually on the beach? Or -- ?

CYRUS HARRIS: No, it’s -- it’s on -- it’s on the land. Some parts of it are on the beach, but most of it is on the land. ANDY MAHONEY: Ah, alright, okay.

CYRUS HARRIS: So once it start thawing out, the snow get really soft, traveling get hard -- hard to travel on and there are a lot of -- bunch of water puddles.

So it became much easier to travel on the ice. So in April, that’s when the ice trail really -- KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. CYRUS HARRIS: Start. So -- ANDY MAHONEY: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: That trail that we veered off to the left. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

CYRUS HARRIS: Folks are going to start using that and start going, you know, heading toward the coast from there. KAREN BREWSTER: Is the --

CYRUS HARRIS: Of course, they’ll look at our what -- what -- what in the world are these folks doing, you know? KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: 'Cause it’s a natural occurrence to follow a trail that’s already there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Who’s the brave one to be the first one? CYRUS HARRIS: Exactly.

KAREN BREWSTER: Somebody’s gotta be first, huh? CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: And check out the trail conditions. But I noticed a lot of rough ice with that west wind that took place more in front of Sisualik, so the chances are the main trail may occur closer to shore.

It all depends on what it look like beyond that.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. But now people are saying that there’s open water by Anigaaq and Sealing Point this year.

CYRUS HARRIS: Near. There’s a lot of open water that, you know, just stayed open. This is all freshly covered ice where we were right there.

It was open, it was last month. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: Like I mentioned, you know, you could be out there with boat and go to Deering.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. But, yeah, so if this year there’s open water so close to shore out at Sealing Point and Anigaaq, is that going to change the trail?

CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah. It’s going to definitely change the trail. We’re going to have to be much closer to shore.

And it’s gonna open sooner. That’s just been what’s been happening.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And -- Well, I was going to start asking about summer seal hunting in the open -- in the -- CYRUS HARRIS: The fall seal hunting. KAREN BREWSTER: In the -- in the pack ice.

CYRUS HARRIS: Oh, in the pack ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: Oh, okay. Yeah, we would -- we would wait until that -- in Sisualik -- Speaking of in Sisualik, because it opens up a little bit later than what it does here in front of Kotzebue.

Mainly, because that shorefast ice that we were on stays attached for a period of time.

But we don’t normally go out until that breaks loose. Because we need a way to get back home once we go out and get our -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. CYRUS HARRIS: -- ugruk.

We need a way to get to our meat racks and stuff like that. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: But just as soon as that break loose then we’re -- then we’re heading out.

And, of course, the folks here in Kotzebue are going out about a week before we do. Unless we had a boat to where the lead opens further west from Sisualik.

But, yeah, we would wait until that shorefast ice get loose in order for us to head out to the pack ice.

And that pack ice, once it get loose, this past several years it -- there’s really nothing to hold it back or hold it in from just going. And once it start going it’s gone. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: So our -- we used to have like a -- a comfortable two week period of time to be out going to and from the pack ice to do some ugruk hunting.

Last year, it felt like we had three days, you know. And after that we were heading all the way to Deering to do some ugruk hunting on a chunk of ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: That was still there. And that’s -- became -- that -- that -- the dangerous part of that is traveling through all that open water, mainly because we use that ice for shelter if -- when the winds, you know --

ANDY MAHONEY: Keeps the -- keeps the waves down? CYRUS HARRIS: Yeah. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah, yeah.

CYRUS HARRIS: There were times that I tried to travel home. It got windy on me or it got windy on us, you know, and we’re trying to get from the ice to Sisualik and we were only about fifteen miles out.

And the wind really picked up, and so we’re trying to head back before it, you know, get worst.

And I -- as soon as I head out to the open water it was just too much, I -- you know. It -- it was just too rough. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: I had to turn around and head back to the ice and, you know,

I stayed with the ice and -- and then followed it further west past beyond our camp and head out further northwest and -- to where -- until I get closer to shore and more -- more sheltered off that wind and then -- ANDY MAHONEY: Mm.

CYRUS HARRIS: -- and then ventured off to the shore to where I was able to follow the shore back to Sisualik.

KAREN BREWSTER: And what way -- what direction was the wind? CYRUS HARRIS: That was a east wind. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And it happened so sudden. We get these strong east winds that just -- just can happen really quick. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

CYRUS HARRIS: And I so happened to be in the -- that -- this is on one of the later hunts.