David Akeya says he and his relatives witnessed a pod of about nine Bowhead whales off the village shoreline.
“My uncle came and took out the binoculars. He saw whales popping up about 3500 feet out on the shore down there. And he came back in and told me there was a pod of whales in a pool of water down there,” Akeya explained.
This is not uncommon on St. Lawrence Island, where community members can typically see Bowheads during their winter migration to southern waters. Akeya said it was exciting and reminded him of why he loves living in his hometown of Savoonga.
“There was one whale that was always in open water and the rest would dive. I guess they were going to eat or try to find the trail,” Akeya said. “And the one in the open water, it would signal to the other ones where to come up for air. It was fun to see them, but we couldn’t hunt them because of the young ice.”
That’s the term used to describe the relatively thin sea ice that formed around St. Lawrence Island in December. The young ice is not safe for subsistence hunting. If hunters hauled a whale out onto young ice, it would break apart, Akeya said.
The pod eventually continued west, toward Gambell and the sunset.
Image at top: A pod of Bowhead whales come up for air in a hole in the ice off the northern shore of Savoonga, seen from above. Photo by David Akeya, used with permission.