cleaning out the ice cellar
by Mary Virginia Anniagruk Lum Sage
The Akootchook Whaling Crew is preparing for it's annual whale hunt. The crew is led by Captain Roy Nageak (photographed with son, Ernest) who has a lifetime of experience in Inupiat whaling and hunting. Photographer Joseph Sage is also a member of the Akootchook Crew.
Each whaling family usually has one shared ice cellar. Every spring, we clean it out to prepare for spring whaling season. We remove all of the whale, ducks/geese, seals -- everything that we stored down there -- and either share it with others or eat it.
Then the dirty snow and ice is picked off with an axe by young crew members and hauled up by bucket from the ice cellar. Clean, fresh snow is brought down to the ice cellar and spread over the floor. A whale will not give itself to you unless there is a clean place for it to rest.
Aluiqsi Gerke and Ben Roy Sage, are young members of the Akootchook Whaling Crew and we are so proud of their hard work! Aluiqsi is 14 and Ben Roy is 16.
There are about 18 inches of ground; below that is the permafrost, which goes down about 1,000 feet. You can see the permafrost in these pictures.
Photos copyright Joseph Sage
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