Nuiqsut lands first whales of fall
Crews from the North Slope village of Nuiqsut have landed the first bowheads of the fall whaling season.
The Ipalook Crew, lead by Captain Herbert Ipalook and his wife, Vera, harpooned the reportedly 47-foot, 10-inch female on Sept. 1.
Word traveled like wildfire on the VHF and Facebook. Village residents hurried down to the shore to help haul up the great agviq, while words of congratulations and exclamations of "Yay Hey Hey!" made the rounds on social media.
Two days later, the village brought in a second bowhead. This time, the lucky crew was the I?ugruaq Crew, lead by Captain Eric Leavitt and his wife, Dora. Their agviq was said to be 35 feet, 3 inches in length.
While Nuiqsut is not a coastal village, it has retained its traditional whale hunt over the generations with crews based out of Cross Island.
Later that day, the luck carried north as Kaktovik celebrated the gift of its first whale, which locals said was a 35-foot, 4-inch female, landed by the Silver Star Crew, lead by Captain Glen Solomon and his wife, Alicia.
Both the Solomon and Ipalook crews were also some of the first to land agviqs during last year's fall harvest.
After a whale is landed, family and friends of the crews work day and night to salvage the edible parts of the animal and prepare special treats and foods to hand out when they distribute shares to village residents.
Since the start of the month, the smell of frying donuts and bread filled the air in homes around the villages as ulus hit cardboard, slicing through the cherished fat, skin, and meat.
Some of the food will be put away to be distributed during the fall and winter holiday feasts while other portions will carry forward to the spring and Nalukataq.
As the animals continue their migration along the coast, the other communities that participate in the fall hunt will turn their eyes to the sea and hope the bounty of the whale will land on their shores, as it now has for Nuiqsut and Kaktovik.
Shady Grove Oliver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.