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Frank "Obbie" Greene

Frank "Obbie" Greene is interviewed on May 17, 2017 by Karen Brewster and Andy Mahoney at his home in Kotzebue, Alaska. In this interview, Frank talks about hunting seals and being on and around the ice of Kotzebue Sound. He discusses the effect of wind and current on ice movement, observing the color of the ice to determine thickness and safe conditions, the presence of tidal overflow, and the effect of big storms. He also discusses beluga whale hunting, the processes that occur during freeze-up and break-up, and knowing when it is safe to be out on the ice. At the time of this interview, Frank was not in the best of health, but he did the best he could under the circumstances to tell stories and share his knowledge. At one point during the interview, his wife, Linda, came in to check on him, and to meet the interviewers and find out the purpose of the project.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-25-38

Project: Sea Ice in Northern Alaska
Date of Interview: May 17, 2017
Narrator(s): Frank "Obbie" Greene
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster, Andrew "Andy" Mahoney
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.

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Personal background, education, military service, and work history

Learning to hunt from his grandfather, and first time out seal hunting

Experiencing ice cracking and having to rush to shore

Things to look for to ensure safety when out on the ice

Observing the color of the ice to determine thickness and safety

Changes in ice conditions, and thinning of the ice

Effect of wind and current on ice conditions, and drifting out on moving ice

Whaling in Point Hope and Barrow, and difference in ice conditions



Tidal overflow

Effect of big storms

Bearded seal (ugruk) hunting

Beluga whale hunting

Deciding when ice is safe enough to go out

Taking chances and learning from your mistakes, and teaching others about ice safety

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KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, this is Karen Brewster and today is May 17th, 2017. And I’m here in Kotzebue, Alaska with Frank “Obbie” Greene, and also joined by Andy Mahoney.

And this is for the Sea Ice Project Jukebox. May I call you Obbie? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yes.

KAREN BREWSTER: Alright. Thank you, Obbie, for letting us come visit you today. I appreciate it.

So just to get us started, maybe you could tell us a little bit about yourself. Did you grow up here in Kotzebue? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah, I was born and raised here.

KAREN BREWSTER: And when did you first start going out hunting? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I was thinking about that the other day and it's -- I was about thirteen. ‘Cause when I -- shortly after that I went to Edgecumbe in Sitka for high school.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. So you went to Mt. Edgecumbe for high school, and then you said you went to the university? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yes. KAREN BREWSTER: In Fairbanks? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: In Fairbanks. To take more training in electronics.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. And then you said you went into the navy. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah, I joined the navy for -- in 1966. Got out in 1970. And my job was electronics radar. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: So I spent four years working -- working on radar equipment on an aircraft carrier "Yorktown" and destroyer "Stormes."

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, and you said you went to Cuba -- you were stationed off of Cuba in one of those, right? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Say again.

KAREN BREWSTER: You said one of those ships you were off of Cuba. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. We just kinda cruised back and forth -- back and forth in front of Havana. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. To show strength. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: To what? KAREN BREWSTER: To show them that we were there. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE Oh, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Right.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: And we’d pick up refugees, you know. In the morning. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Riding on the inner tubes and stuff like that. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: We weren’t supposed to be doing that, but nobody was watching.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, you didn’t wanna just let them drown. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It’s what? KAREN BREWSTER: You didn’t want to just let them drown. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So when did you come back -- after 1970, when you got out of the navy, what did you do? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I sta -- got a job with the FAA. That didn’t pan out. And I got a job with the White Alice with the Air Force communication system. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: That worked out. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I worked here and Tin City. That's outside of Nome. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Plus, here in Kotzebue until it closed down. I believe you mentioned one of the people I worked with, Virgil Naylor. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. You guys worked together? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yes.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you were maintaining the radar equipment? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: No, the communications part. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. Right.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: The -- the radar was maintained by the Air Force. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

Well, it sounds like you put your electronics training to good use. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: It gave you some good jobs.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It -- it was my goal to get on the White Alice system.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And I don’t remember what year they closed that. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Ooh. I can’t remember that either. KAREN BREWSTER: Sometime in the 70s? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: A little later than that, I think.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. And so then they closed down, then what did you do? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I got a job here and there. KIC president, land manager for NANA.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. And then you -- you are now retired, when did you retire? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Good question. I don’t even remember. KAREN BREWSTER: Couple years? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: No. KAREN BREWSTER: No. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Longer than -- longer than that. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

So when you were young growing up here, how did you learn to hunt and fish? Did your dad take you out? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: What? KAREN BREWSTER: How did you learn about hunting? From your father?

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Oh, I was -- I was raised by my grandparents. And my grandfather raised me -- taught me about hunting. Hunting seals and ugruks and -- out on the ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: From the ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: What were your grandparents’ names? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: My grandfather’s Andrew. And surprisingly he didn’t -- he didn’t have an English -- English name. It was given to him by the pastors. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: And, of course, my grandmother was from Point Hope. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: She came -- came from a whaling side.

KAREN BREWSTER: And what was her name? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Maggie. KAREN BREWSTER: What family from Point Hope was she from? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Ferreira.

KAREN BREWSTER: So what was your grandfather’s Iñupiaq name?

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Anaulaqtaq (phonetic).

KAREN BREWSTER: And you said your's is Upiqsaun? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. So you said you first went out when you were thirteen? Is that when you first went out on the ice? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I think -- I think that’s -- that’s about right. ‘Cause I was -- that was my first trip when we went out.

KAREN BREWSTER: What time of year was it? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Surprisingly, this time of the year. KAREN BREWSTER: This late, May? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

And you -- what were you doing out there? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Hunting seals. KAREN BREWSTER: Natchiq or ugruk? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Natchiq. Well, actually, the ugruks were starting to come around. We were going after both of them. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: And we traveled out there with dogteam. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

And then did you go out to the open lead and hunt them out in the ocean or were they in the breathing holes or on the ice? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: They were -- they were -- they were starting to appear when the ice -- lead starts opening up.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. So would you take a kayak out and then go out into the water? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: No, that’s -- that’s a little too early. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: We just go out there with dogs -- kayak to retrieve the seal or ugruk. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

ANDY MAHONEY: So this is just hunting on the -- on the tuvaq, on the -- the ice attached to the coast? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: The what?

KAREN BREWSTER: The shorefast ice. The -- you were on the ice that was attached to the beach? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yes. ANDY MAHONEY: Yup. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And you don’t--

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: And -- but it was -- it was starting to break up. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. That sounds kinda scary.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Well, when the -- first noticed it, it’s -- what was happening it was -- I was sewing dog mukluks. You know, we didn’t -- we didn’t have no place to buy -- buy them, dog mukluks. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: We'd have -- we’d sew canvas -- canvas mukluks for the dogs. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, right.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: But I was sewing them, and there was a crack opened up between our do -- our teams. And I hollered at Doc. Doc Harris and Danny Sage.

I said it’s opening up. Almost lost -- I grabbed somebody’s shotgun, it was almost falling in a crack. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: And we hurriedly loaded up the sleds and took of for the -- for land. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

ANDY MAHONEY: And that was your first time out on the ice? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: My first trip on the ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. ANDY MAHONEY: Wow.

KAREN BREWSTER: So, do you remember, was there any warning about that crack? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: No. KAREN BREWSTER: No? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I -- I -- I -- all I heard was a crack and -- KAREN BREWSTER: And that was that. So --

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: And we picked to -- we thought we picked a safer place. Just the lead. But during the night time, the ice start cracking. Is cracking more.

So we had to travel about midnight toward -- toward land. And then if -- found really where it was pretty safe.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so that -- What year would that have been, in the '50s? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: '60s, I think. '60 --

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, so like right now, middle of May, I look out at that ice out there and it doesn’t look like very solid ice anymore. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I -- I don’t -- I think you’re correct in saying that.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so but when you were out there, it was still good ice? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. We still could travel on it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And did lots of people go do that with dogteams and go seal hunting? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yes. They -- usually quite a few boats out there. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And that was for natchiq? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yes. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: But some people were fortunate enough to get the ugruks. And, you know, rather than sitting out there, let them cook, they throw them in the sled and take them back to camp so they can work -- work on them.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. Yeah. ‘Cause they’ll start to cook from the inside ‘cause they’re so fat? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Say again.

KAREN BREWSTER: If you don’t cut them up right away, they’ll start to rot from the inside ‘cause they’re so fat? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Well, because they’re fat and heat from the sun -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: -- kinda cooks them and spoils them.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yup. So -- Before you went out on that trip, did your grandfather talk to you about things to look for and know about the ice? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: He’s -- he’s a man of few words. He was deaf. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: And he said a few -- few words. But -- and whenever he’s talking to somebody, you know, we pay attention.

KAREN BREWSTER: Do you remember some of the things that you learned from him? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah, but it's been years ago. Some of them don’t apply.

KAREN BREWSTER: Can you give me some examples? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I don’t know.

KAREN BREWSTER: What did he tell you about the wind? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I can’t remember.

KAREN BREWSTER: Or the current, did he tell you -- FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: No, not so much with the current. Most of my hunting was done with the others. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I followed others with dogs that we had. We had about twenty-four -- twenty-four dogs. And I followed other -- other hunters because of my young age. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

And so how did you learn to know that the ice was safe? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: By talking to others. To the people I hunt with. They usually -- usually hunt with people that know -- know more about the ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. Would they talk about things like what color the ice was? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. Especially the -- especially if by -- by boat. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: When you have black ice, no sense in going around there with boats, because there’s -- there’s no ugruks. KAREN BREWSTER: The ugruks aren’t on the black ice? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: No, they -- they prefer the nice, flat white -- white ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: So what causes that black ice? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Mud and -- coming from -- it’s coming from the beach. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay, so like dirty. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Like I noticed yesterday when we flew in, some of the ice kinda had a light blue color? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: That’s the kind the ugruk likes.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Is -- is that just water on the ice or is the ice getting thin? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It’s everything really. It gets thinner and thinner. It’s pretty hard to say.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. So can you say what you’ve noticed in your lifetime about the ice and how it’s -- might be different from when you were young? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It’s a lot thinner. The ice is a lot thinner. I’ve gone out on it a few times aft -- you know, after I settle here in Kotzebue.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so if the ice is thinner, what does that mean for going out on it? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It’s not safe to be out there. And the -- the ice, when it -- when it gets thinner, it breaks up easier. And you got to watch the ice that you’re on.

ANDY MAHONEY: So do you know what’s the most common way that the ice breaks up? Do -- do you know what makes the ice break up, is it the river, is it the wind, is it the sun? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Mostly current and wind.

That -- sometimes -- sometimes you can be out there watching ice, if you’re on a boat, you’ll see the wind going one direction -- one direction, and the ice going the opposite direction. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm. Mm-hm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: And I -- and it’s -- makes it look like the -- that the wind has -- the current has no respect for the -- for the wind.

And if it -- once the ice -- move the ice a certain way, that’s what it’ll do.

KAREN BREWSTER: So does that mean that the -- the current moves the ice more or the wind moves the ice more? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It’s probably pretty -- kinda hard to say. The -- seem like the other day we -- work against each other sometimes. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Like I said you see ice going one way, current going the other way.

KAREN BREWSTER: And is that particularly dangerous when they’re going the opposite? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yes. I've seen bo -- boats get stuck out -- stuck out there.

I was sitting on an iceberg one time. And I looked out and there was a boat. Guy with a boat all by himself. He blamed us for getting stuck there.

As soon as I looked, seen the ice going one way and the wind going the other way, I -- I told my uncle let’s -- let’s get out of here.

No sooner than we got out of there, then it’s closed up.

KAREN BREWSTER: Is there a wind direction that is particularly dangerous? if you’re on the ice that’s connected to the -- to shore? When it’s still solid. Is there a good wind or a bad wind? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: East wind is the bad wind. KAREN BREWSTER: East wind is bad.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: ‘Cause that’s usually a sign that it’s changing and -- the current will -- chances are be going from out of the east and take the ice -- take the ice out.

KAREN BREWSTER: And take you with it? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Take you. KAREN BREWSTER: Has that happened to you? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yes that has.

KAREN BREWSTER: What happened? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Well, we settled where we thought it was pretty safe. And during the night, it start breaking up.

When we woke up the next morning, we were out drifting on chunks of ice.

Of course, we couldn’t go anywhere. We had to sit there. And seals were coming up.

You know, can you imagine a thirteen year-old boy sitting in the sled, lot of seals coming up.

And there was two guys I was hunting with, especially Herb -- Herbert Foster, he was teasing me.

"Hey, Obbie, lot of seals, get some." And I say, "All I want to do is to get seals."

But a miracle happened. It was a big chunk of ice and a small chunk of ice coming down catching up with us.

So as soon as it got in front of us, Herbert said, "I’m going to run my dogs across on this iceberg, you guys get right behind me."

Just soon as it got right in front of us, he let his dogs cross and we just, of course, let ours -- ours cross right -- right -- right behind him.

And both teams was safely cross that bridge. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Needless to say, we headed for ground. Pitch our tent up and slept.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Do you know how far out you were, how many miles out? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: We were out in front of Cape Krusenstern right -- right -- I’d say -- I’d say about four, five miles.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. And where did you start? By Sisualik or -- FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah, Sisualik. KAREN BREWSTER: Sisualik.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: We had camps. We had camps in Sis -- Sisualik.

KAREN BREWSTER: That’s a pretty long way to drift. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: What?

KAREN BREWSTER: That was a pretty long way to drift. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah, but you can’t -- you can’t control it. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh huh.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Sometimes you just got to, what do they say, go with the flow or whatever.

KAREN BREWSTER: And that was that same time when you were thirteen, huh? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. And that was -- Yeah, that was on reg -- solid ice and then it broke up. That wasn’t in the summer with ugruk hunting? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: And --

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Those -- those -- those -- those two guys I was hunting with just recent -- recently passed. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Passed away. Danny Sage from Kivalina. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, okay. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: About three years ago, I think. Herbert about three years ago.

KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. Did you ever -- you said your mom was from Point Hope, did you ever go -- FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: No, my grand -- my grandmother.

KAREN BREWSTER: Your grandmother. Your grandmother. I’m sorry, your grandmother was from Point Hope. Did you ever go up to Point Hope and go whaling with them? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Aft -- in late -- later years, yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: What was that like? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Dangerous. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Real dangerous. That's where -- where you need somebody that know what they’re doing.

KAREN BREWSTER: So what you knew about the ice from around here, could you use that up in Point Hope? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: When you have the least -- least experience in whaling, you just kinda sit back and listen and learn.

You don’t go up there in Point Hope country and tell -- tell the people in Point Hope how to hunt whale.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And -- did they teach you things about the ice? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah, you just want to sit back and listen and learn and -- and how they do it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. What about the wind there? Like here you said east wind is bad. In Point Hope is it the same or different? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It’s pretty much the same. It does -- doesn’t take much for -- for that wind to pick up and move the ice.

But the springtime, it’s especially dangerous springtime because you got no control over -- over the movement of the ice.

If it decide to go, we’ll have -- just like in Barrow, a whole bunch of whaling crews got caught on the ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: They -- they got no control over it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But -- if there are pressure ridges, the big ice piles that go all the way to the bottom, do they help keep the ice from moving? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. But there’s -- their -- their -- their ice movement is even more -- more dangerous than around -- around here.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. Does the Kotzebue Sound get pressure ridges? (phone rings) Oops. (Recording paused)

(Recording resumed) FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: -- gone whaling with them in the last few years. It’s just my health that’s coming apart. It just don’t interest in me anymore. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: The crew I -- I whale with in Barrow is Eugene Brower. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm. KAREN BREWSTER: Me, too. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. Really? I’ll be darned. Ahlaak’s --

KAREN BREWSTER: Ahlaak Crew. Well, it was Kupaaq Crew, his dad -- FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Really. KAREN BREWSTER: Was -- I was friends with him. Yeah.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah, they got a -- he got a whale again this year. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, Frederick is captain now. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah, I got -- I got my hundred pounds.


I was going to ask a little bit about freeze-up. What happens in the falltime with freeze-up, with the ice forming, can you describe that? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah, there’s not -- not -- not much -- not much we can say about it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Which -- does the Kotzebue Sound freeze first or the Kobuk Lake or the Noatak? How that all happens. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It -- Kobuk Lake freezes up, then it’s usually current going out, then it pushes it out.

Very seldom you have ice coming in. It’s usually being pushed out.

KAREN BREWSTER: So when does the ice form out on the ocean? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Say again. KAREN BREWSTER: So if Kobuk Lake is frozen, and it’s pushing water out, then what happens out there in the ocean? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It just push -- pushes it out. And you don’t see it.

And you seldom see it freeze up and stay here in Kotzebue. What happens is it contains -- it freezes then continually freezes. I’m trying to explain it.

KAREN BREWSTER: Does it start at the beach and freeze from the beach? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. Yes. And it just works its way -- its way out. When the wind is done growing, it doesn’t go anywhere. It just freezes.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. Does it happen that it starts to freeze from the beach and then the wind comes in and breaks it all up and -- FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It did -- it does that. But the wind is -- seem like -- the wind is a major factor as -- when it’s starting to freeze. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ANDY MAHONEY: So you say the wind is important for it starting to freeze. Does that mean that it -- the wind has to be blowing from a certain direction or there has to be no wind for the ice to start freezing? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It has to have no wind. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah, okay.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: ‘Cause it -- it’ll just -- if there’s wind, it’ll blow it out. Chances are it'll be offshore wind. ANDY MAHONEY: Okay, yup.

KAREN BREWSTER: What direction is offshore wind, coming from the east? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Usually from the east and northeast.

KAREN BREWSTER: What happens if the wind comes from the south or the southwest? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It’s usually brings in what ice there is. ‘Cause the current -- if you -- when they have a south wind or something like that they -- the current -- the water brings it in. The ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. And if there’s ice starting to form on the beach, and it’s a south or southwest wind, does that break the ice up? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: ‘Cause the water comes in. KAREN BREWSTER: Brings the tide up? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: And then how does it work in break-up? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It kind of works the opposite. KAREN BREWSTER: But the Noatak River goes out first? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So how does that work? So the Noatak River’s flowing through the ice? Or it breaks it up? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: See, you don't -- KAREN BREWSTER: The -- when Kobuk Lake goes out, Noatak River goes out? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: No, Noatak usually goes -- goes out first.

When -- when the Noatak River, it’s just a river. It got no big lake like Kobuk do -- Kobuk does. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It starts going out, then a little bit later, the Kobuk ice starts coming out. Just like, probably be another month before the Kobuk ice starts coming out.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. And then that ice -- the Kobuk ice going out, does that push the ice in the Sound out? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yes. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: What little ice it can find. ‘Cause usually by then, most of it is getting pushed out. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, so the Sound is already kinda breaking up? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, it -- before -- before the lake?

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: See, you’d get out here about a quarter of a mile. It’s shallow. You go out that -- about that deep. KAREN BREWSTER: Few feet.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: (pointing to a person who enters the room off camera) My wife, Linda. KAREN BREWSTER: Hi Linda. LINDA GREENE: Hi. ANDY MAHONEY: Hi, Linda.

KAREN BREWSTER: You’re welcome to join us. LINDA GREENE: : Okay, just -- did you guys want water or coffee? KAREN BREWSTER: No, we’re fine. He already offered us. ANDY MAHONEY: Yeah. LINDA GREENE: : And you are? (recording paused)

ANDY MAHONEY: You’re going out -- the ice in -- in the Sound is already starting to break up, that’s sort of what my notes say. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. Okay.

So I wanted to ask you about the overflow. The water that comes up onto the ice with the tide. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: What about it? KAREN BREWSTER: When does that happen? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Usually any time.

We get the e -- south wind and southeast wind and it brings in the water. And it breaks -- breaks -- breaks up a certain area, and it just -- it just comes out of the water. Out of the ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And does the ice move? Does the -- push up the ice? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. Push -- it usually pushes up the ice. It’s usually -- some of that ice is usually pretty thick. KAREN BREWSTER: Three or four feet thick? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Huh? KAREN BREWSTER: Three or four feet thick? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah.

It just -- it just breaks and the water just comes out. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. And what do you do if you’re out there when that happens? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Make sure you don’t get stuck in that ice. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It’s pretty dangerous. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. ‘Cause that water freezing, going through open water -- FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It’s -- overflow you usually see it on top -- on top the ice. It’s not -- I can’t find -- find the proper words.

ANDY MAHONEY: So -- so the water is sitting on -- on top of the ice. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yes.

ANDY MAHONEY: Can you -- can you always see it or is there sometimes snow on top of the ice that means it makes it difficult to see the overflow? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Sometimes you can see it. You can watch it just come out bubbling. ANDY MAHONEY: Oh, right, okay. Through a crack or something? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Say what?

ANDY MAHONEY: Bubbling up through a crack or does it bubble -- FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. ANDY MAHONEY: -- bubble up just through the ice? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Just through -- through the crack. ANDY MAHONEY: Through the cracks. Okay.

KAREN BREWSTER: Does it happen that the water will be under snow, so you can’t see it? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Sometimes. When it -- it usually happens when it’s close to the beach. It just comes right up between the beach and the ice.

Sometimes you got to just speed up and go as fast as you can and get -- get -- get out of there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Back when you used dogteam, was that overflow a problem? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: No.

KAREN BREWSTER: No. Dogs just go right through it? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Just go right through it. Provided, of course, you got good dogs. Sometimes they -- they not too anxious about traveling on ice. Overflow either. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: But they’re usually light enough where it doesn’t bother them. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm. KAREN BREWSTER: And then you get wet feet. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yes.

KAREN BREWSTER: But I guess wet feet is better than a frozen snowmachine. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Oh, yeah. Snowmachines are usually pretty hard to get out of there. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm.

KAREN BREWSTER: Have you noticed a difference? Is that overflow -- has that happened more nowadays or a long time ago, is there a difference? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I never even thought about that. Of course, I don’t get out that much. KAREN BREWSTER: Well, when you were still going out.

If you noticed -- When you were still going out, if you noticed there was more overflow now than when you were a boy? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I can’t say for sure. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm.

KAREN BREWSTER: And what about storms? Big storms that come in. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: They -- they -- there again, the south wind, southeast wind, usually bring in the -- bring in the -- bring in the water. KAREN BREWSTER: Bring in the water. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. And it usually -- that’s when you get lot of overflow coming through the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Through the ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: And do those big storms break the ice up and move it around out there? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: A little further out, yes. But local -- locally, it doesn’t move very much. KAREN BREWSTER: Even if it -- doesn’t matter which direction the wind comes? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: There again, it depends on what was -- mostly what was -- just like -- just like the west wind, it’ll -- chances are it’ll bring -- bring -- bring it out.

KAREN BREWSTER: Do most of those big storms come from the west? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yes. South and southwest. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

So you used to do ugruk hunting by boat? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah, yes. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I quit hunt -- I -- my son does ugruk hunting now. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And when do they do that? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Well, first of all they -- early fall. They usually get those young ones, the ugruchiaq. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: In springtime, they usually, on occasion you can get a full-grown ugruk if you take your chances and go out there where -- where it’s -- where the ice is kind of thick. ‘Cause that’s when they start coming -- coming into the bay here. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: But most of it is done by boat. Where you fire up the ol' outboards that’s just -- just sitting there all winter and get them on top the ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: So the ice is sort of broken up in pieces and you can get around it in a boat? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yes. KAREN BREWSTER: And the ugruk are on the pieces of ice? Hopefully. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: They -- they’re usually offshore. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: My son recently, he went ugruk hunting with his cousin from Nome. And they were having mo -- motor problems. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh oh. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: And the -- there’s just offshore wind blowing them.

He said some guys found them, but they were -- for some reason, they refused to tow their boat in toward Kotzebue. And they got -- they barely -- barely made it back. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It go so rough. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm.

KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. So was there any ice around or it was all open water? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: No, there’s very little -- very little ice. KAREN BREWSTER: That’s why -- why it got rough? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. They got wet, alright.

Aft -- after those guys left they -- they had their radio. They didn't have the distance. And any -- anyway, those guys didn’t help.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, I’m glad they made it back. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: That’s good.

ANDY MAHONEY: Have you -- have you ever been beluga hunting in Kotzebue? Beluga used to come here quite often? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yes. The old days it seemed like the whole bay used to be loaded with belugas. But there’s not that much anymore.

ANDY MAHONEY: Do you remember the last time that you hunted beluga? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah, I did in Buckland. ANDY MAHONEY: Ah, okay. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Elephant Point. ANDY MAHONEY: Ah, yeah.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: We -- a friend of mine had a Supercub. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm-hm. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: And gassed up and we went way up. And after he gassed up, when he took off, he’d smell that gas. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I told him, Art, I said there -- there’s four of them down there, let’s go back. So we flew back to Elephant Point -- not Elephant Point, Chamisso (Island). He’s passed away about three years ago. So we went -- went back with his brother’s boat and we got one.

ANDY MAHONEY: Okay. And is there -- is there any ice around when the beluga come in or do the beluga wait for all the ice to go out before they come? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Well, years ago the beluga used to come in as soon as the ice is open. ANDY MAHONEY: Mm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: But now they -- they come in, what few numbers they are, they -- they come in -- come in to the bay -- come in to the bays.

KAREN BREWSTER: So they’re coming later? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: They what? KAREN BREWSTER: The belugas are coming in later after the ice is gone? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: After -- after -- after most of the ice is gone, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I got an interesting story. When the belugas are coming in front of Sisualik, we usually keep our dogs quiet.

And one time the belugas were coming in, there was one hanging around by -- by our camp. So I got my uncle's rifle. And I waited for it to come up toward me.

I was about fourteen, I guess. And it came up and came right toward me. I shot it, and I -- I knew I shot it. I killed it.

‘Cause the -- what they call piqauq (PHONETIC), the fins came up. It went straight down toward me.

I ran back and I told my grand -- grandma. And she told my grandpa. But he was watching a different beluga. He said I missed.

Well, that, oh, it hurt my feelings. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I didn’t know what -- what else to do. I couldn’t argue with him.

And like I said, he’s deaf. He just turn off his (gestures toward hearing aide). But it floated up about four days later. Rotten. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. ANDY MAHONEY: Hm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I sure felt like saying, "See, I told you so."

KAREN BREWSTER: When you used to go out seal hunting on the ice, was there -- how did you decide it was safe to go out? Were you looking for -- FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It’s just the ice -- you just look at the ice.

If you see black holes, there’s -- it’s -- it’s dangerous. And if -- if -- if you see nice clean water on top of ice, it’s -- it’s safe.

Sometimes you stop your dogs and just look around. It’s something you learn over the years.

KAREN BREWSTER: How thick does it have to be before you’re -- feel okay about going out? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Well, when it’s freezing you’re looking at only about four or five inches.

And when it’s thawing out, there again, the opposite. You're dealing with thinner ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: I -- I heard that in the old days the elders used to say to not go out ‘til after Christmas. ‘Cause the ice wasn’t stable yet. Did you ever hear that? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Wait ‘til Christmas? KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, after Christmas. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I’ve never heard that before. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. And --

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: But I’ve seen this one dogteam come across from Sisualik. He’d stop his dogs, walk ahead of them, start to take the hook off, go forward maybe a hundred feet.

And my grandma always say he’s crazy. ‘Cause there’s usually ice -- thin -- the ice is thin in front of Kotzebue. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I always watch him, ‘cause -- ‘cause he’d -- he’d get in front of his dogs, look at the ice. Go back to his dogs.

Turned out that was her son. He was coming from camp. My uncle, Amos. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. And he made it? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So between here and Sisualik, there’s a main trail that goes across -- FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: But does it depend on the time of year? Do you ever have to go up to the lake and around? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah, we -- sometimes we get overflow and you got to go around it.

KAREN BREWSTER: I didn’t know if that main trail freezes later or breaks up earlier or -- FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It usually gets water on top there -- on top the ice first. KAREN BREWSTER: First. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: First.

KAREN BREWSTER: ‘Cause -- Are people still going back and forth right now? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: My son was across there a couple days ago hunting birds. He went across through -- by the Noatak trail. Coming back he had to go way around. Go through Sisualik.

KAREN BREWSTER: So what’s the Noatak trail? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: That’s the one from here to the mouth of the Noatak. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. So it’s farther up -- FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- than across?

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Then there’s another one. Jones’s what they call. What they call Jones trail.

KAREN BREWSTER: And where’s that, that goes straight to Sisualik? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: To the right of Sisualik. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

Andy, do you have any more things?

ANDY MAHONEY: We’ve covered a lot of -- a lot of stuff. I think -- I don’t have any more specific questions right now. Thank you for all of your -- all of your memories and stories.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Unless there’s anything else that comes to mind that you think it's important for young people to know about what’s happening on the ice and how to be safe out there. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Uh huh.

KAREN BREWSTER: Do you have anything else to -- about being safe.

What -- what do you tell your boys about being -- when they go out? What do you -- what did you teach them? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: It’s pretty hard to say. ‘Cause a lot of it is, you know, being -- being there. What's that old saying? "Who’s been there -- "

Something about being there and done it and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. It’s hard to talk about it sitting in your living room. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: It’s easier if you’re standing on the ice and you can show somebody. Is that what you mean? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I’ve -- Me, I’ve -- I've -- I wouldn’t call it taking chances, but it boils down to that. I take chances. Looking at the ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so when you took those chances, did you learn something to use the next time? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah, I usually check the thickness of the ice. Wind. Stuff like that.

KAREN BREWSTER: And you took those chances and did you ever get into trouble? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: No. KAREN BREWSTER: You always made it home? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I always make it home.

KAREN BREWSTER: You’re right, there’s something about testing what you know. You tested, oh that worked, so now the next time I can do it again. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Right?

FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Just like when you’re seal hunting. You look at the color of the ice and it’s getting black, then it’s dangerous. You got to -- but if it’s nice white ice, light colored, chances are it’s thick. Safe.

KAREN BREWSTER: So the black is because it’s thin? The -- the black ice is dangerous ‘cause it’s thinner? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Thinner. Thinner. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Thinner ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: Aarigaa. Is there anything else that you've thought of that -- When I said I wanted to talk to you about ice, is there anything else that we haven’t talked about that’s important? FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: I’ll think about it in the next few days.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Quyanaqpak for your time. I appreciate it. FRANK “OBBIE” GREENE: Okay. ANDY MAHONEY: Quyanaqpak.