The Bering Strait community of Savoonga, on St. Lawrence Island, landed its third whale of the season Monday, marking the first whale taken this year not from a hunting camp but by hunters in the village itself.
Frederick Kingeekuk says he and his brother Floyd Kingeekuk Jr. and his son Miller had been hunting at a whaling camp about 40 miles southwest of the community, but poor conditions forced them to return home.
“(The) snow was melting real fast, and the rivers running. We had to take our gear and the boats back to the village,” he said Tuesday. Back in town, he said the men “were just hunting walrus” when they spotted the whale.
“On our way back from walrus hunting we seen a real big one, we seen this 48-footer,” he said.
Kingeekuk said he and his brother and son gave chase, beginning a pursuit that took 12 hours in rough seas with winds up to 25 knots.
“It just came up real close to us, kept coming up,” he said of the whale’s behavior. “Our creator showed it, we got it.”
Kingeekuk said the three men were alone in just one boat. “My brother, my son, and we got it. Harpooned it, and it didn’t take that long to die. We were just all alone, hauling it back to home all by ourselves ‘till other boats reached us.”
Kingeekuk said it was about two days of work to get the whale ashore and fully butchered. He and his whaling crew shared fresh muktuk with as many people as they could.
“I hope everyone was able to get a taste,” he said.
Kingeekuk thanked all the other boaters and whalers who helped bring the first spring whale caught from the village of Savoonga ashore.