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Roy and Savik Ahmaogak, Part 1

Roy Ahmaogak and his father, Savik Ahmaogak were interviewed on June 1, 2017 by Karen Brewster at their home in Utqiaġvik, Alaska (formerly known as Barrow). In this first part of a two part interview, Roy talks about the knowledge he has of sea ice conditions in the Barrow area, and using this knowledge to be safe out on the ice. He discusses how he learned about ice, the importance of ice safety, the differences between ice types, the effect of wind and currents on ice movement, and how ice conditions have changed in his lifetime. He also talks about whaling, trail building, and the importance of cooperation for whaling success. Savik appears in the second part of this interview.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2013-25-39_PT.1

Project: Sea Ice in Northern Alaska
Date of Interview: Jun 1, 2017
Narrator(s): Roy Ahmaogak, Lawrence "Savik" Ahmaogak
Interviewer(s): Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Denali Whiting
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Coastal Marine Institute, North Pacific Research Board
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

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Learning about sea ice

Seal hunting, and learning from his grandfather

Multi-year ice (piqaluyak)

Pressure ridges (ivu or ivuniq)

Ice conditions, trail building, and safety at Nuvuk

Safe ice versus dangerous areas, and role of experience in assessing conditions

Ice break-off events

Difference between piqaluyak that shatters and it being a good place to camp

Use of piqaluyak for fresh water, and how to identify it

Past year's ice conditions, flat ice versus pressure ridges, and trail building

Cooperation in trail building

Dangers from pack ice moving in and hitting shorefast ice edge

Effect of climate change and thinning ice on future of whaling

Finding a good place for pulling up a whale


Ice break-offs and determining safe ice

Effect of wind and current on ice movement, and effect of community behavior

Catching a whale in open water in June, and importance of cooperation for whaling success

Bearded seal (ugruk) hunting and knowledge of ice conditions

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KAREN BREWSTER: This is Karen Brewster. I’m here with Roy Ahmaogak in Utqiaġvik, Alaska otherwise known as Barrow and it’s June 1st, 2017. And we’re here for the Sea Ice Project Jukebox.

So Roy, thank you for letting me come visit you today. ROY AHMAOGAK: Oh, you’re welcome. My name is Roy Ahmaogak. I was born in 1960, so I’ve been doing quite a bit of sea obs -- sea ice observations all my entire life.

I’ve -- I’ve never went to a boarding school, so I got to stay home and watch and learn the sea ice while all these other people that have been sent out to boarding school. So I got to attain quite a bit of knowledge of sea ice all my entire life.

And I’ve learned from probably the best people in the world that are -- that were experts in sea ice. So I never got to leave Barrow to go to -- get some education, so I stayed home. And all these other people that left Barrow in their teens into their late teens, they lost a lot of knowledge growing up.

So I got to observe it first-hand, that’s how I -- I attained my knowledge of sea ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And how old were you when you first went out there? ROY AHMAOGAK: I started going out onto the ice in my early teens as -- as young as thirteen and fourteen.

When permitted, I -- I would love to go out and go aġviuq (to butcher a whale and divide it up into shares). Whenever some crews that caught whales, I would be the first one to jump on the snowmachine and go -- and go out there and help butcher the whale.

So that was my first knowledge of, you know, helping learn how to butcher whales and those kind of things.

I got to learn not only wind and currents and those things at a early age, I -- I got to learn some of those things going out there. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Which way -- which way is the camps and which way do I need to go I -- you know, I -- I was taught that at a younger age.

KAREN BREWSTER: Are there certain elders who taught you? ROY AHMAOGAK: It was -- there was a lot of crews back then and, you know, there was people that knew more than most crews combined.

There's one person that, you know, we wouldn’t speak against a certain individual because he -- he knew more than everybody else that -- we had to respect that individual's wishes. Question of --

KAREN BREWSTER: Who you learned from. ROY AHMAOGAK: I -- Yeah, I learned quite a few of them from the older guys in the crew.

The guys that had -- people like that, they weren’t captains, but they were the captain's first would -- which -- which -- we’d call first mate.

You know, those kind of thi -- individuals that -- that are nonexistent anymore. They -- they -- they have so much knowledge of when to be out there, when not to be out there, when the currents going by. Those guys are few and far between nowadays.

Their knowledge left them when they passed away. Those are the people that we had learned at a -- growing up and those are the people that are no longer here. They’re -- they’re dying off slowly.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh-huh. It’s interesting that you say they weren’t necessarily the captain. In some cases. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: That they were, you know, as knowledgeable and as experienced, so it’s interesting why they wouldn’t have become a captain at some point in their lives. ROY AHMAOGAK: I -- I’m assuming because, you know, financial status.

Those guys are -- they’re out there on behalf of ca -- captain's spokesperson. They -- they knew when to go and when to stay, and those kind of things.

Those guys, you know, it’s hard to say that, you know, the captain may not be down there all the time, but they can call on one individuals and, you know, how’s everything going down there, and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. ROY AHMAOGAK: -- those kind of things.

KAREN BREWSTER: And -- and even when you were a boy, it was like that? I was thinking back then, captains would’ve been out on the ice all the time. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, yeah.

Yeah, they would be out there all the time, but, you know, certain issues may -- may arise that a captain has to come ashore or he’s not down there all the time.

KAREN BREWSTER: Interesting.

ROY AHMAOGAK: He would leave a individual in charge, and that person would be in charge as if he was the captain.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. He was delegated authority. ROY AHMAOGAK: Delegated authority on his behalf. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Because that individual has so much knowledge of the -- the sea ice, the -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

ROY AHMAOGAK: -- wind and the weather and those kind of things that he dictates of which is safe and which is unsafe ice conditions. Whether it’s too -- too thin or --

Those kinds of information that I believe that I acquired and attained for the last thirty-five, forty years. And I’ve gotten to a point where I’m in that boat that I’ve -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: -- attained so much knowledge that people a lot older than me ask for my advice.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, as you say, you grew up going out a lot. You went out seal hunting, too, probably. ROY AHMAOGAK: Pretty much, yeah. Seal hunting pretty much all my life.

Ugruk hunting was one of the first things that a young individual, teenager, learns to do.

And that was one of the few things that I’ve learned as a young guy growing up.

KAREN BREWSTER: Did you learn those things from your dad, an uncle, your grandfather?

ROY AHMAOGAK: My grandfather is the one that really taught me how to -- ‘cause -- You know, my grandfather had all the equipment to do certain things and one of them was to have a crew and take -- take me -- take me and my brothers out boating and --

You know, my dad was working at the time growing up and were -- jobs were just now just being available for everybody, so I got to learn those things through my grandpa.

KAREN BREWSTER: And that was Walton Ahmaogak? ROY AHMAOGAK: Walton Ahmaogak.

He loved to go boating, yeah, yeah. He wouldn’t never miss going out at -- Soon as everybody gets up, he wants to be out there right then and there. He doesn’t want to when -- wait.

If it’s past a certain time, if it's too late, then we don’t go out that day. He wants to go out right then and there. Early as possible. Even six, seven o’clock.

KAREN BREWSTER: Did he tell you why? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, he just wanted to be out there before all the other boats went out that we don't have to go too far to hunt seals. Because -- because they’re closer to town when there’s no boats out there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. Yeah, I didn’t know if it made a difference with weather. You know, some places the morning has better weather than the afternoon.

ROY AHMAOGAK: I think it was more of he didn’t like traffic. There was too many boats out there that they had to go further out to try to catch seals, I guess.

KAREN BREWSTER: And by that point, you were already using powerboats to go hunting? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yes. Yeah. Powerboats in the oceans, yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: He would love to go out early. Early as possible, while there was no other boats out due to, you know, being out there first than anybody else. You don’t have to go too far to hunt seals.

KAREN BREWSTER: So what were some of the things that you were taught in terms of on the shorefast ice?

We’ll get back to ugruk hunting, but on the shorefast ice, about going out and being -- what -- what are you looking for to know it’s okay to go out?

ROY AHMAOGAK: One of the first things that everybody keeps an eye out for is older, multi-year ice. Piqaluyak. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And that's -- the -- the thickness of the multi-year ice gets grounded to the bottom of the ocean floor and that stays, and it’s like a glue to the ice around there.

It would not drift out or it wouldn’t -- You know, it would be stable ice around there that -- Once we find that piqaluyak, and it’s very rare nowadays to find any piqaluyak.

That ice is the one that we always look for was multi-year ice, because it’s so shallow around the Barrow area that once that piqaluyak comes closer to shore then it -- it gets grounded.

And when you have grounded ice then you have safe ice. That creates a sense of security for all the guys that are out there.

Yeah, the ice won’t go out it’s -- it’s grounded to the ground. Now we don’t have that. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Our sense of security has been diminished to a point where I believe it’s no longer safe to be out there. You know, we don’t have any more ice that’s grounded to the bottom of the ocean.

That’s one of the things at a early age that I got to learn, was that once you find piqaluyak, it’s going to be grounded and you’ll be safe around that area.

KAREN BREWSTER: So how is that different than an ivu, a pressure ridge, that goes above the ice but it also goes below the ice? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Can’t that ground? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, it can ground, too, but it’s not solid mass. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: It’s -- it's like crumbled pieces that once the current starts going it’ll -- it’ll just take that crumbled ice away. There’s nothing -- there’s nothing solid that’s glued together, but, you know, if -- if they -- if ivuniqs start piling up on each other, you can -- you can practically, let’s just say shake it, and it’ll -- it’ll dissipate. KAREN BREWSTER: Huh.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And the piqaluyak will -- it’s one solid mass that it would take so much that it -- it would not drift away. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. ROY AHMAOGAK: Having currents that --

You know, the currents that we have now that back in the days that -- they’re a lot swifter now. The currents are a lot faster. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And warmer temperature waters that -- that bring the warm -- warm -- warm currents up that it melts the ice a lot faster now.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. But, yeah, I’m interested that -- that -- You know, I always thought the ivu, you know, that they -- they -- they pile up against the shallow and so they’re grounded. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. What we’re talking about --

Let’s, let’s talk about the ivuniqs back then. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. ROY AHMAOGAK: Ivuniqs back then were big monster pieces -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. Right.

ROY AHMAOGAK: -- that create a pressure ridge. But nowadays the pres -- pressure ridges are paper thin ice that are not capable of grounding totally to the bottom.

The -- the thinner the ice has been the last ten years, it -- it doesn’t create the stability nowadays.

Because this year's ice, last year's ice, were not more than two feet thick in some places. Less than a foot and a half thick of ice, you know.

It -- it -- they -- they -- we may have ivuniqs down there that are kinda high, but they’re not the big thick monster heavy ice that we had in the past. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

ROY AHMAOGAK: So there’s a difference in thickness twenty years ago than the thickness of this year's ice. They’re totally two different stories.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. And so the thick ice ivuniqs back then, twenty years ago, they would ground to the bottom? ROY AHMAOGAK: They would ground to the bottom.

KAREN BREWSTER: And were they as stable as the piqaluyak? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: They couldn’t get pushed around. ROY AHMAOGAK: They wouldn’t get pushed around. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Okay. ROY AHMAOGAK: And --

KAREN BREWSTER: And so the -- the ones that get pushed around you’re talking about are the ones today? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

ROY AHMAOGAK: There’s a difference in the thickness. This year's ice was so paper thin that I’m sti -- still surprised that we were -- we were able to go out this spring. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: We've had a very unusual warm winter, which was -- You know, we never had a cold spell. We never had to plug in our vehicles this winter. That’s how warm it was.

KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. But the ocean still froze? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, ocean still froze. That’s because it would come from further out where it was cold out in the ocean. And that came ashore then.

KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, and froze together? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. ROY AHMAOGAK: We’ve never had a cold spell this winter.

KAREN BREWSTER: So those -- the -- the thin ice now that still crumbles and -- and piles up into the -- those ivuniqs, because it’s thin does it break up more? Is that why the ice gets so rough? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. It -- it’s -- it’s --

I wish that I had taken some pictures this spring of the highest ivuniq that we saw on our trail, which was the Nuvaġaluk (sp?) trail, which is Savik's trail. This spring.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: The highest -- KAREN BREWSTER: Number one, yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. The highest ivuniq that we saw was less than a story high. And it was just all crumbled up ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, and twenty years ago they would be twice that high? ROY AHMAOGAK: Ah, three or four times higher than that. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

ROY AHMAOGAK: You know, it’d take us -- it would take us weeks, if not almost -- almost a whole month, just to make a trail out there.

But this year it was less than a week of ice picking and making a trail. It didn’t take us very long.

KAREN BREWSTER: But it’s interesting ‘cause I’ve heard other people say, "Oh, the ice is so rough this year. This trail building was so hard." And I wondered.

But back in the old days, you had those thirty-feet high ivuniqs to go through. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So why was this year hard? If the -- if the pressure ridges aren’t there anymore? ROY AHMAOGAK: The pressure ridges that were formed this year was due to the fact we had so much west wind this year that it piled up between Skull Cliff all the way up. All the way up to right in front of NARL. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Those pressure ridges were not just one -- one stack. There was another stack behind that. Another stack of ivuniqs out behind that, and another stack of ivuniqs behind that.

So we had probably four stacks of high ivuniqs this -- this winter. And those -- You know, that created so much work that they had to go -- go over one hill -- ivuniq to get down to -- to go and go up to the next ivuniq.

And that was -- they’re talking about their worst trail building. Because they had so many stacks of ivuniqs all the way down to the open water. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: As to where our Nuvuk trail -- We had found a trail all the way down to the ocean.

So we were lucky. I mean, we’ve been lucky for the last several years that we’ve been around at Nuvuk.

KAREN BREWSTER: So it was better ice out there? ROY AHMAOGAK: It was better trail conditions. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Because we’ve always felt safe around Nuvuk. We’ve been there the last fifteen years and we’ve never left the Nuvuk area.

People have their perceptions that Nuvuk is a place that it’s dangerous out there. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: And it’s -- which it's not.

I believe that those were -- my -- I -- I’m assuming were old wives tales that Nuvuk is a bad area to hunt. There’s -- it’s too dangerous, the currents are bad.

And the last ten, fifteen years we’ve been going to Nuvuk and, you know, I felt so safe around Nuvuk these last couple of years that we’ve always gone back to Nuvuk. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Because of -- it’s safer out there. Heavier ice out there is grounded. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And people are starting to realize that. And they’ve -- and they’ve done this this year. They -- the guys that live -- boat around here in front of -- go whaling in front of town and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. ROY AHMAOGAK: -- NARL area. All those guys went to our trail to go up to Nuvuk to move there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Because their trail couldn’t get to water? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, their trail couldn’t get to water.

We had about twenty crews this spring move to Nuvuk. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. ROY AHMAOGAK: Into one trail, and that was our trail. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow.

ROY AHMAOGAK: That’s because it was less -- less work chopping than it was to --

People felt safe out there, because it was grounded. I -- I'm always glad that people are starting to realize that Nuvuk is a good area to hunt.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, it’s interesting -- it’s true. Other people I’ve talked to, people say, "Yeah, Nuvuk is dangerous. It’s where the currents meet and there’s all this moving ice, and -- " Maybe has that changed? Is, like I said -- ROY AHMAOGAK: No, I think -- KAREN BREWSTER: -- what it used to be?

ROY AHMAOGAK: No, I think it’s -- it’s -- it was the perception that they were given at a young age that Nuvuk is a dangerous area that, you know --

They never went to go out there to go check themself. I did. I -- I did for the last ten, fifteen years. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Went to Nuvuk and -- to eliminate the perception that Nuvuk was a dangerous area. If -- it is not.

I had to do it for my sake to find out whether or not Nuvuk was a dangerous place. KAREN BREWSTER: So --

ROY AHMAOGAK: Some people were given the perception that Nuvuk was a dangerous area. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: And they’ve kept -- and they’ve kept that perception all this time.

Older individuals to this day, they don’t go past a certain area. They don’t go past NARL they don’t go past Piġniq. They -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah -- ROY AHMAOGAK: They --

KAREN BREWSTER: And that’s what I wondered, maybe it’s changed. Maybe when they were young maybe it was more dangerous.

You know, as you say, the ice is always changing and who -- and currents have changed. I don't -- You know, I don't know. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: But I also know -- You know, when you say, "Well, it’s a perception." See, like for me, without any ice experience, I think it all sounds dangerous out there. ‘Cause I don’t have the knowledge. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So as you say, you go out there and you have the knowledge.

ROY AHMAOGAK: I believe we were given that perception growing up that Nuvuk is a bad area to hunt. All this time that I was growing up, that Nuvuk is not an area to be in, it’s dangerous. And I don’t know who would give that information out. I had to do it --

KAREN BREWSTER: So why did you decide to go out there? ROY AHMAOGAK: Just to see if the things were true. Whether or not, you know, based upon two things.

It was a lot smoother out there past Nuvuk. They're not as high ivuniqs. That would dictate that the currents were not as strong, because when you have currents they build up ivuniqs, they build these high ridges. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Up at Nuvuk there wasn't no high ridges. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. ROY AHMAOGAK: So it -- it -- it gave that illusion that, you know, that we --

The ivuniqs up there, they -- they only start from probably NARL and the hangar area south. That’s where all ivuniqs are formed. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Up at Nuvuk, the highest ivuniq we saw was less than a story high and that’s -- that has been observed the last three or four years. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And we've been going almost to the exact same spot. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. ROY AHMAOGAK: Last year and this year, we were less than a quarter mile apart from our last year's spot. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. ROY AHMAOGAK: On our GPS coordinates -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. ROY AHMAOGAK: -- that we -- that we marked this year and last year. We were off by a quarter mile.

So we -- we were within the vicinity of our last year's spot.

I -- I -- I real -- and I know that people are going to start moving further north up by Nuvuk from now on, because they -- they can see the success in landing whales out there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I know that some of the last few years you’ve had those big break-off events. And those have happened more in front of town. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So that might be another reason people don’t wanna go out from town. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: I don’t know if there’s a pattern there why those ones happened to happen there? ROY AHMAOGAK: You know, I -- I don’t have a say on the south guys, because I’ve never really been down south.

Like I said, for a while, because I’ve been mainly further north and always will stay north. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Because, you know, we’ve had instances of break-offs, like you say, down -- further down south, and that may be the new Nuvuk perception that it’s dangerous down south now that -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Maybe. ROY AHMAOGAK: You know, that --

KAREN BREWSTER: That’s what I’m wondering, maybe that’s gonna be the change? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. Well, that -- that’s something that we’d have to look f -- look down the next several years whether or not down south is the new Nuvuk.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I don’t know if there’s enough of a pattern. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: That -- that you guys will -- will have to observe and --

I had a question back on piqaluyak, because you mentioned how in the old days those big pieces were grounded, and you looked for them, and they were good places to camp by. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Or that’s what I’ve heard. But I’m confused that I’ve heard people say they’re good places to camp by 'cause it’s solid, it’s heavy ice. But then they also say it shatters really easily. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Which to me doesn’t sound like a good place to camp. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. Because there’s -- KAREN BREWSTER: So which is it?

ROY AHMAOGAK: There’s -- there’s -- Let’s just say this is the -- this is the land, then you have flat ice, then you have piqaluyak, then you have another flat ice, then you have another piqaluyak, and then you have the ocean. You know.

There’s going to be piqaluyaks not just out by the ocean, there’s going to be a piqaluyak closer to shore and closer to shore.

And there -- there -- there is -- there’s truth to that the piqaluyak shatters. But we’re not talking about the piqaluyak close to shore, we’re talking about the piqaluyak closer to the ocean.

And there’s, you know, there’s not the only piqaluyak out there, but that -- there’s piqaluyak from closer to shore, middle of the ice, and closer to the ocean.

KAREN BREWSTER: So the one closest to the ocean can shatter because ice coming in could hit it? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, it could come in with another piqaluyak just to, you know, break them and shatter like ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. And so you want to stay away from that piece of piqaluyak? ROY AHMAOGAK: That closer to the ocean is -- is a lot dangerous than let’s say half way to town.

There’s piqaluyak and then those kinds of things that they’re grounded and they’re not going to move.

So that -- there’s an area that in between the ocean and the land, you know, we could have tons of piqaluyak. We had it back then. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: We have to keep in mind that because it’s not the only piqaluyak by the edge, but there’s also piqaluyak in between the ocean and the land that, you know, we can camp by and stuff like that.

KAREN BREWSTER: Okay, and so, yeah -- So you’re not setting up your camp right at the edge? You set up your camp a little bit farther in? ROY AHMAOGAK: Which we call naŋiaqtuġvik (safe camp), which is setting up camp when the ice close -- closes the ocean. There’s no -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. ROY AHMAOGAK: -- no longer open that we go further inland to go set up naŋiaqtuġvik and we no --

We no longer have that capability of camping half way to -- to the shore, because there’s no more piqaluyak. We’ve -- KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And there’s, yes, there’s one thing that we look for all spring was piqaluyak. We didn’t get to see any -- any this year. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And I don’t -- we saw some quite a bit last year. Last spring, we got to hang out with -- Around the Nuvuk area, we had piqaluyak out there.

I think we were probably the only lucky people to have piqaluyak out there this -- this last spring.

KAREN BREWSTER: And is it different piqaluyak? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, it’s a lot thinner, smaller. It is not massive, as huge as before.

You know, the term multi-year ice is a word that’s going to probably become non-existent in the years to come.

KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. But you guys also rely on it for fresh water, too, don’t you? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yes. That’s --

KAREN BREWSTER: So what do you do, if there’s not so much of it left? ROY AHMAOGAK: We come to other alternatives. We -- which we truck in our water from -- from shore.

That’s one thing that everybody’s doing now that they’re getting water from home already -- that’s already, you know, easily available.

And piqaluyak is a word that will probably become a word that will be hardly used from now on. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: If we ever see piqaluyak, I know that they’re gonna ask, "Is that piqaluyak?" And it’s gonna be, "Yeah, it’s piqaluyak."

KAREN BREWSTER: So how would you teach a young person how to identify it? ROY AHMAOGAK: It’s easily identifiable because of the contour of the ice and we’ve, you know, we’ve made that known to everybody that’s going out that, you know, this is piqaluyak, this is iiguaq which is crumpled up, frozen together small pieces, and sikuliaq, and -- which is the paper thin ice.

Those -- those are taught at -- at a very young age of what kind of ice there is. And everybody that goes out onto the ice is given that knowledge. Whether or not it’s a young kid or first time kids are going out.

KAREN BREWSTER: So, but, so how do you describe piqaluyak? Does it have a certain color or shape or -- ROY AHMAOGAK: Pretty much the size of it. You know, that ice wouldn’t be crumpled up. It’d be just one big massive, big contour of ice and -- it -- it be so high off the regular ice that, you know, we can spot those piqaluyak quite a ways and --

‘Cause the way it’s shaped and formed. You know, I can probably spot piqaluyak if there was one out there from a distance.

KAREN BREWSTER: Is it smoother? ROY AHMAOGAK: It’s smoother, like kinda rolling hills type ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And the color, too. There’s -- it’s a lot whiter. It’s not dirty like this year’s ice it got the water that probably sloshed around this fall gave the discoloration of brownish grayish ice.

But piqaluyak is a certain color that, you know, it -- it’s a different color from all the other ice.

All the other ice nowadays is forming to -- with the color of the ocean, because it turns muddy when it gets rough and freezes and it turns a grayish brown color ice and --

KAREN BREWSTER: Does piqaluyak have any kind of blueish color to it? ROY AHMAOGAK: Blueish white, light blue. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: It comes in all sorts of blueish color. I mean, I can’t give you a definite color of what it is. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. ROY AHMAOGAK: But it’s kinda whiteish blue and --

KAREN BREWSTER: Can you see through it or it’s kinda cloudy? ROY AHMAOGAK: Cloudy. Cloudy ice. And, you know, there’s -- it’s almost like a translucent type white color. But -- KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

ROY AHMAOGAK: There’s different colors of -- depends on if it has so much snow on top of it from the winter that it’s hard to describe. Even from a distance, it’s some --

At the base of the water, you’ll -- you’ll be able to see the blue piqaluyak, but when it get -- when the water level goes up further up it turns a little bit white, and it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s blue or white and stuff like that. Just the contour and the texture of the ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: You’re talking about this year with the four stacks of the ivuniqs, not where you were but in the rest of the shorefast and trail building, is that different from the old days?

‘Cause you’d have -- old days you’d have a pressure ridge and then flat. And then a pressure ridge and flat. And could you go around those pressure ridges?

Is that why it was harder trail building for those guys this year? ROY AHMAOGAK: I believe that those guys had a hard time because -- I wasn’t -- you know, I -- I -- I wasn’t around these guys area, but they -- they’ve taken so much time and effort to make a trail this year, because of west winds this winter that created -- I would -- I would say it created a headache to make a trail.

I mean, it -- it doesn’t -- I should -- I shouldn’t have said that. From -- from the further out -- first ivuniq you go out there, it was all ivuniq. It wasn’t a straight -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. ROY AHMAOGAK: Flat ice.

It was just pure broken up ice. There was not a flat spot out there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right. As I'm saying, in the old days you’d get big ivuniqs. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: But you get flat in between. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So you just had to -- the trail building was hard at those ivuniqs, but then you got a break. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: And -- and this year was just all rough? ROY AHMAOGAK: It was all rough, there was no flat spots whatsoever to those guys out here by NARL and the hangar. KAREN BREWSTER: Right.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Those guys didn’t have any flat spots out there until they got to the edge of the ocean. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Because what -- What we did was, we made sure that we scout around Nuvuk area and we -- we found the flattest ice you can possibly ever find in your whole entire spring whaling.

And people that found out that -- You know, they came and -- came to the house and asked if we can -- if they can help get on our trail. I said, "Go ahead. You guys can go out there and help get to the ocean."

And we only had to break less than a half a mile of ivuniqs this spring. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: As to these guys by NARL, they had to go two and a half miles out. And we had to break trail for only half a mile.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. So, when they switch trails like that -- so you’ve now finished your trail, and then they wanna come and use it, how does that work? ROY AHMAOGAK: Just cooperation. I ask that everybody work together.

KAREN BREWSTER: Do they have to come and work on the trail or -- ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, they came and asked. They came and -- They came to the house and asked if they can help and get on our trail. And we -- we told them, "Go ahead. Just as long as you guys do -- do it on one condition, that you guys work together with everybody else."

And we call that the Joyful Trail, because it was so nice out there that -- once you get on that flat ice, it was just pure joy out there.

And they -- and they -- and it, like Billy said, they landed eight whales this spring just on that one specific trail.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. And you said, there were like twenty crews going back for -- How did the trail stand up to that? ROY AHMAOGAK: It took a beating, but everybody got to fill in the rough -- rough spots, the dips with all the extra -- extra ice, so it -- it -- it worked out to where, you know, more crews came further -- further north.

And that’s one thing that I -- that I always stress is that you’re gonna have to work together to accomplish one thing and that’s -- that’s to get to the ocean.

And that’s something to see that -- when everybody works together they accomplish one task. And that’s to get to the water.

That didn’t make one person sad this spring out there. Just everybody was so happy to be out there. There’s something that I hope it -- it -- and pray it continues that everybody works together and -- and that is to go out whaling.

KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. Well, one of the things on being what’s a safe place and not a safe place is, you know, I always thought, you know, thinning ice and the -- the -- the ice you’re on moving. You know, a crack forming and you get drifted out. I always thought, "Well, that’s the most dangerous."

But I’ve heard people talk about in the old days the ice moving in and hitting the edge of the ice where you are and it crumpling. Is that something that you’ve seen, experienced? ROY AHMAOGAK: I’ve -- in my early days that -- once we saw the ice coming in from -- from further out that we’d pack up and leave now, because we don’t wanna rush and get caught in that.

‘Cause once the ice start coming in back in the days, it was heavy, there was nothing that could stop it. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. ROY AHMAOGAK: Nothing in the world could stop that ice coming in.

That was our first -- first sign of getting out of there was that ice was coming in and now -- now -- now in this day and age that -- there’s nothing heavy coming in.

There’s nothing that’s just gonna possibly endanger our lives. You know, it's not all one solid mass, it’s broken up ice here and there. It’s -- it’s not as powerful as it is -- as it was.

It’s not one big gigantic piece anymore. It’s broken up small pieces of pan ice that is -- is no longer a threat.

Back in the old days, we were scared of ice the size of sky -- sky scrapers. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: Those were the dangerous ice.

But now we don’t have but small floating chunks. KAREN BREWSTER: So -- ROY AHMAOGAK: Nothing -- nothing that is a threat, you know.

If it -- if it’s just small pieces of small ice coming in that’s -- it doesn’t -- it doesn’t have such a force to break up any of the shorefast anymore.

The shorefast ice no longer breaks off like that anymore. There’s nothing to break up the shorefast ice now.

KAREN BREWSTER: Uh huh, okay. So if you see ice coming in nowadays, do you move back from the edge? ROY AHMAOGAK: Not necessarily now -- now because there’s nothing -- nothing they -- that big of a ice to get us in trouble. There’s nothing more -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. ROY AHMAOGAK: Heavier -- there’s no more heavier ice to pose a risk.

KAREN BREWSTER: Right, so that risk of it coming in was 'cause it was heavy ice hitting up against -- ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: -- the thinner shorefast ice? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

There’s no longer big ice to make us move back. And we can watch it go back and stuff like that, and, you know, there’s -- there’s no longer a threat of heavy ice coming ashor -- beating the --

KAREN BREWSTER: So what does make you scared out there? What is a threat? ROY AHMAOGAK: The threat is nothing grounded. There’s currents that -- that'll take the ice out, because it’s -- it’s --

Nothing really frozen together ice. That’s something that once the current starts moving, then everybody gets, you know, leery of. They don’t want to be out there, the current is strong.

And one of the other things that we have to keep in mind that with warming temperatures and warming currents that the ice will start melting a lot faster and making it more difficult for us to even pulling up a whale onto the ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: I believe whaling will become difficult in the next several years because of thinning ice. Shorter season.

It -- it may be that we will no longer hunt from the ice from now on, because of the warming temperature.

The global -- global warming thing is real. It’s something that we’ve observed the last twenty -- twenty years.

So, I believe that my way of life of whaling is -- is in jeopardy due to the fact that global climate is -- is real and, you know, thinning ice is really something that’s real. It’s nothing that we can do about it.

That the -- we don’t have any more safety net any longer out there.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, yeah, and I have wondered if the ice gets too thin or you can’t get to the ocean, the whales are going by, what do you do? ROY AHMAOGAK: There’s nothing much we can do other than get further north or, you know, take our chances. Whether or not it’s thin or not.

There’s things we do not do and there’s things we do do. And one of them is always, always try and take a chance. There’s -- there’s a possibility that we may no longer camp out on the ocean.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, one thing you were talking about, a place to bring up the whale. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: And what -- how do you find a place?

What makes a good place for pulling up a whale? ROY AHMAOGAK: As long as we find a flat area to pull up a whale that’s one area that we always look for is -- The first thing is that, is there -- is there a place where you can pull up a whale.

And that’s one -- one of the things that we always look for other than heavy multi-year ice. We find a place where it’s thick enough to pull up a whale.

That’s one thing we always look for out there on the edge. And that’s to find a place to pull up a -- a big whale regardless of the size.

And is it safe enough to hold the -- hold the whale up onto the ice to butcher, you know.

And that was one area that -- where I was observant on is whether or not -- will this hold -- hold a whale up to butcher it and --

You know, there’s -- there’s a few spots this year that, you know -- in -- in fact, one area that we were on that -- that site butchered eight whales, because the thickness of the ice out there.

KAREN BREWSTER: So how thick was that spot? ROY AHMAOGAK: Because it was all crumpled up and frozen together, it -- it was in some areas several meters thick.

Because it -- it had coming off from the far off ocean out there, it came ashore and it froze and that -- that created stability.

KAREN BREWSTER: I was going to say, how thick does it -- When you say you’re looking for thick enough for a whale, how thick is thick enough? ROY AHMAOGAK: As long as it’s over six feet thick. Six feet thick is -- is by any standard enough to butcher a whale.

But in -- there’s some instances where the ice wasn’t more than four feet thick and that held up a whale. KAREN BREWSTER: Really? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: As long as it’s in some areas thicker than five to ten feet thick, you know, we can butcher a whale without any complications.

You know, we had to drill holes for the anchor to hold the block and tackle and that was pretty thick ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. You mentioned the currents, so I want to get back to that. That they’re swifter now? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, the -- the current’s a lot faster, because there’s no deterrent of slowing down the current, you know.

Back then, you had big ice that would slow down the current. And that -- and that created the slowing of the current.

KAREN BREWSTER: That makes sense, yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: But now -- Then you no longer have that. You have current that’s coming in so fast that there’s nothing to slow it down.

One -- The current is -- is a lot faster than -- than it has been before. Because the -- Back then, you had things to slow it down. Which was other ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Right. ROY AHMAOGAK: And heavy -- KAREN BREWSTER: Right. ROY AHMAOGAK: -- heavier ice. That would slow down the current.

KAREN BREWSTER: And so what are you looking for when -- I know you guys test the current. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So what are you looking for, what’s --

ROY AHMAOGAK: How do we observe the -- how the current’s going? KAREN BREWSTER: Uh huh. ROY AHMAOGAK: Well, we look out on the horizon, we’ll see the ice drift out and slow down. Or whether or not it’s going fast. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: You know, one thing that I -- we always watch is the ice further out on the horizon. Is that going by real fast or is it going by real slow?

‘Cause one thing -- one of the things we do observe is -- which is the -- the sarri, which is the other side of the ice out there. KAREN BREWSTER: It’s the pack ice. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. Whether or not it’s going by real slow, whether or not it’s going by real fast.

And in between, you got floating ice, whether or not that’s zooming by this way or zooming by that way and, you know --

KAREN BREWSTER: So when you’re out there, what’s -- what’s -- what’s dan -- what do you see that tells you this is dangerous, we better get out of here in terms of current and -- ? ROY AHMAOGAK: Whether or not the ice is coming in at a real fast rate, you know.

That we can see ice in between, in the open water, or whether or not it’s coming in at an angle or whether or not, you know, at a -- at another angle. Or whether it’s coming straight in.

Then we know that just because it does -- it -- there’s no current on the other side of the pack ice, it may be pushing it further in, you know.

Just because we got no current doesn’t mean the ice will not come in. Because you have other factors we have to put in account is that there’s another force behind that pack ice that’s bringing that ice in slow or fast. You know, the current is something that -- that -- Stop it. (recording paused)

KAREN BREWSTER: So are there different currents? You said there’s something -- something pushing the sarri on the other side. ROY AHMAOGAK: I wouldn't say there’s other currents. We have -- we have two currents. Qaisaġnaq, which is coming from the south -- south up north, and piruġaġnaq current, which is hitting from east to west. And those are the two main currents that I observe.

You know, I don’t really kinda observe currents that are coming from the pack ice inwards, but that’s based upon maybe winds or currents further out that is bringing the ice in.

The only two currents that I -- I kinda keep an eye out is qaisaġnaq and piruġaġnaq currents.

KAREN BREWSTER: If it’s a qaisaġnaq current, what is that? ROY AHMAOGAK: That’s coming from the west towards the east. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay. ROY AHMAOGAK: That’s heading --

KAREN BREWSTER: What does that do? ROY AHMAOGAK: That brings in the ice that’s further out comes in -- it brin -- comes in. I don’t know why it does that, the qaisaġnaq current comes from the south to the north, it brings in all this other ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And it brings -- and it rubs against the shorefast ice. KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.

ROY AHMAOGAK: And we have the piq -- piruġaġnaq, which is the east to the west. And that opens up the ocean.

KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. And that -- that qaisaġnaq, what brings it in it pushes it along the side, it kind of grinds -- ROY AHMAOGAK: Yup. KAREN BREWSTER: -- the edge? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: Which is probably a place you don’t wanna be when that’s happening? ROY AHMAOGAK: No, don’t want to be there.

The qaisaġnaq current is -- it -- it -- it’s what you call -- it closes up the ocean. Qaisaġnaq, that means that, oh, it’s going to be closing up because of the current. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. ROY AHMAOGAK: And that brings in the ice.

KAREN BREWSTER: And is there any time when you’re out on the ice where you’re afraid you’re going to get drifted out because of current or wind? ROY AHMAOGAK: Later in the season, that’s when we really start worrying about the ice breaking off.

Because the -- the -- the freezing of the ice that’s been there all winter and when it starts melting and starts warming up, that becomes -- it -- it -- it becomes unglued.

And that’s where we -- you -- you feel unsafe, because that is no longer glued together.

That ice that was froze together, it’s now starting to melt real fast and it’s starting to break off in some places where, you know, we thought -- we thought we were safe enough.

And most -- most that’s happened in the last several years that people thought they were safe because they were in -- in an area that they deemed safe.

Those guys got drifted out. Or some of them have barely made it across the cracks, you know.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, that’s what I'm trying to figure, is how you know that it’s safe. Like if you cross a crack, how do you know it’s still okay on the other side?

ROY AHMAOGAK: The question was how do I know that it’s safe? KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: Once we find a crack then that, you know, we’ll -- we’ll -- we’ll keep an eye on the crack whether or not it’s safe or not. And if it hasn’t moved for --

We may find a crack last week and then we go check on it again this week, and if it hasn’t moved or it -- it froze together. Because within that time, we’ll have strong winds either from the east that the winds didn't take it out -- and whether or not that crack is safe and that’s one of the factors that, you know, you have to keep an eye on.

Oh yeah, it -- it blew all last week and it didn’t blow out the ice even though it had a crack. And -- and some places where there was several cracks that never got -- you know, they've never broke up because of the wind or the currents.

KAREN BREWSTER: So which moves the ice more, the wind or the current? ROY AHMAOGAK: Both. It -- it takes both to do that. I -- and -- I know that for a fact that it doesn’t just take the current, it also takes the wind. It -- the wind gives it a little bit more push and edge to take the ice out.

KAREN BREWSTER: Does it happen that you get the wind going one way and the current going the other way? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Then what? ROY AHMAOGAK: Then there’s nothing we can do about it. There’s --

As long as we have -- You know, as long as we’re watching and observing the current and the wind starts to blow the other way, you know, we’ve had ice been documented -- even though it’s blowing the east, you still had currents moving the ice the opposite direction.

Even though that -- the wind’s blowing from the east and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Which should open the ice? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, it -- it -- it should. It’s already opened, it’s just that ice in the open water was moving against the wind. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh. ROY AHMAOGAK: The current was moving the ice against the wind.

KAREN BREWSTER: Hm. ‘Cause there was one year, I don’t know, three or four years ago, where the ice like barely even opened all spring. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah, four years ago.

KAREN BREWSTER: Four years ago. And that -- didn’t you guys have east winds, but it still barely opened? ROY AHMAOGAK: We had tons of -- we had tons of east wind, it never opened up.

KAREN BREWSTER: So what happened? ROY AHMAOGAK: We just had to wait a little longer, and later in the season.

KAREN BREWSTER: But, so, as I say east wind normally opens? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: But, so was there a strong current keeping it in? What was going on? ROY AHMAOGAK: That I -- I believe it was in -- in -- in our -- in our beliefs that because Barrow’s been a "bad" community in creating ruckus and -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: That we were punished by God Almighty that Barrow doesn’t deserve open water, because it had a rough year of bickering and fighting amongst ourselves. And that’s my belief, you know. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: It’s -- it’s nothing to do with the wind and currents, but it's -- it’s my belief that because Barrow had been fighting and bickering amongst ourself that we weren’t -- we weren’t gonna get anything from God Almighty because we were bad people. That’s my own belief.

KAREN BREWSTER: Well, that fits with old stories of -- You know, Qupaaq used to say, you know, the whale gives itself. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: You have to behave properly. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yup.

KAREN BREWSTER: And those are the old stories. So -- ROY AHMAOGAK: And that’s why I believe that it was them that -- because we were bad people that God’s not gonna bless this community until we behave and work -- work together.

And that’s what accomplished this spring was that we got to work together this spring.

KAREN BREWSTER: Was that year -- the four years ago, was that when they got that whale like in June? ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. It was the latest whale that ever was caught in --

KAREN BREWSTER: But they caught that from -- in open water? ROY AHMAOGAK: They caught it right here in front of town. KAREN BREWSTER: Wow. ROY AHMAOGAK: In open water.

The ice finally went out and, you know, it was too late to go out. It was too late for anybody to go set out camp, and it was too late in the season.

But now that the shorefast ice went out, people went out and they watch whales that were going by and sure enough they -- crew was already still put -- they had not put their stuff away. So they went out and harvest it. KAREN BREWSTER: Hm.

ROY AHMAOGAK: Because it’s -- it’s my belief and I -- I know for a fact that if Barrow acts the way it did in the past, we’re not going to get any open water. But this year that we worked together so well that -- KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm. ROY AHMAOGAK: You know it’s -- that’s what I keep telling people.

You guys keep bad mouthing everybody else, you start bickering against, amongst yourself that -- that’s what’s going to happen.

And I've told them over and over and before that because Barrow’s been a, you know, bickering and fighting amongst ourselves that it’s gonna be like this from now on. You guys have to stop fighting and bickering amongst ourselves. KAREN BREWSTER: Uh huh. ROY AHMAOGAK: And that -- that’s what it -- it amounts to.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. Well, this morning David Leavitt told us a story about when he was young. They were camping out at whale camp into June. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: They were still out there in June. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: So that shows the differences. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: That four years ago in June it was broken ice. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. We had our open water, shorefast ice had gone out during Nalukataq. And that’s around the 24th, 25th we’ve had open water.

KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah, I mean, I remember in the, you know, '90s when I lived here it wasn’t ‘til after Fourth of July. ROY AHMAOGAK: After Fourth of July. KAREN BREWSTER: That you guys went ugruk hunting. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. Yeah.

KAREN BREWSTER: So I kinda wanna get back to seal hunting, ‘cause you said, you know, when you were young you went out ugruk hunting and that’s broken up ice. ROY AHMAOGAK: Yeah. KAREN BREWSTER: Which is --

Is that learning about ice in a different way than being out on the shorefast or are you using the same knowledge? ROY AHMAOGAK: Pretty much the same knowledge, you know, that we’ve always made sure that we don’t get closed up whether or not we’re out boating, whether or not the ice is gonna come in and close up our way back to shore.

Because that -- the ice is melting further and faster, further out, that we only have a short time season of ugruk hunting now that the ice is no longer around.

It’s further out and it’s making it difficult to harvest ugruks now. Because that ice is already gone and melted by July.

KAREN BREWSTER: And the ugruks need that ice? You can’t go hunt them in open water? ROY AHMAOGAK: You can hunt them in open water, but it’s a lot difficult. It’s -- you can’t pull it out onto the ice to put it in the boat. KAREN BREWSTER: Oh, right.

ROY AHMAOGAK: It’s just -- just difficult to do that now. You have to have ice around to put the ugruk onto the ice and put it from the ice into the boat and you know, you need that ice to haul it into the boat.

KAREN BREWSTER: Do the ugruk hang out on the ice and so they’re easier to hunt ‘cause they’re on the ice? ROY AHMAOGAK: Well, not necessarily easier to hunt, it’s just that it’s -- it’s --

You know, when you have ice around that it’s not as rough in the ocean. It -- it creates a calming -- KAREN BREWSTER: Yeah. ROY AHMAOGAK: -- environment that --

You know, we don’t go out when it’s rough and windy and it’s -- waves are huge. When you have the ice around no matter how -- if it’s little bit windy, you know, the ice is -- it creates a safe environment. It’s not as rough and it’s not as dangerous.

KAREN BREWSTER: Have you ever been caught out there where the ice closed back in around you? ROY AHMAOGAK: Once or twice, but it wasn’t -- You know, we just had to get out of the boat and push the boat over to the other side of the open water and --

You know, it’s something that some people have lost their boats and lucky they’ve never lost anybody’s life yet. So far. KAREN BREWSTER: Mm-hm.