Friday, June 17, 2011

#12 Save the Whale (you may be hungry later)

"My mom said not to make it too stinky" the 12 yr old boy from my class said as he handed me a plastic bag containing a chunk of whale fat.

 The Siberian yupik eskimos of St.Lawance Island hunt and eat whale and lying on the ice near the school, where Wendy and I were teaching,  was a 55 ft long, 12 wide bowhead whale.

Opening the baggie after he left I gagged at the smell and tossed it out the door to a sled dog that sat in the snowbank. Making it stinky is the local culinary art of letting it rot, decompose in a plastic bag. (your mouth is watering isn't it?)

The hunters, aboard wooden framed boats with walrus skin bottoms, painted white to resemble ice bergs, turn off the motor and row when a whale is spotted. Upon reaching within a few feet of the surfacing mammal the strongest of the hunters hand throws the bomb laden harpoon into the mighty beast.

We were 200 miles from Nome across the Bering Sea, only 36 miles from Siberia. On an occasional clear day we could see the mountains  (the same probably that Sarah Palin can see from her house in Wasilla nearly 2000 miles southeast)

Every boat in the village was used to tow the  bowhead whale  back to the village. A pathway was chopped in the shore ice and every snow machine of the village along with the front end grader used to clear the runway, the backhoe and a giant block and tackle combined to pull the massive beast onto the land, well onto the ice.

Bowhead Whale Harvest

We had no school for the next few days as the village participated and celebrated in the harvesting of the reverend gift. The most prized part is the fat that surrounds the internal organs. Men standing ontop of the whale using  knifes on long poles  cut one foot deep strips into the body as  other groups of men together pull off the large chunks  of skin and whale blubber.

A few days later I was given a bag of the whale meat and tried to cook it. It had the consistency of jello. It tasted ok but it was hard to accept I was eating meat with a mouthful of jello.

I'll have more post from that time, and some may be harder to swallow than stinky fish.

1 comment:

  1. You have the best stories and certainly a unique talent in the way to tell them and bring it alive. Have a great summer and look forward to more.