Families and community members on St. Lawrence Island will be eating Bowhead whale this week after a local hunter caught Gambell’s second whale of the season on Monday night.
Chris Apassingok, a 16-year-old, who would normally be spending his days in high school, was the hunter credited with catching the 57-foot-long female Bowhead.
“Chased it for maybe an hour and a half. The other boats could’ve got it, but they never got close enough to strike,” Apassingok said. “Then it came up right in front of us and I struck it.”
Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commissioner for Gambell, Edmond Apassingok is Chris’s uncle. He says the approximately 200-year-old whale was caught about two miles away from the village, but further out there is significant open water around the island.
“In the past we have pulled our boats on the ice and went through open water where there are whales, but now we can’t do neither. It’s either too thin or too thick to go through or on it. It’s changed, the winds move the ice more quickly and it melts just as fast as soon as the wind picks up to 20 or 30 miles an hour”
Edmond Apassingok believes ice conditions like these have made hunting for whale more challenging over the last five years or so.
Apassingok says the whaling season is going by quickly and the Bowheads are already starting to migrate.