Beautiful sea ice, amazing Bowhead Whales, Eskimo Culture, and Whale Harvest (Craig George)

Video Shot in: 2002

An enthusiast of climbing mountains in the western states of the Lower 48, Craig found a similar sense of fulfillment when he came to the North Slope and in his decades-long exploration of the sea ice. He is passionate about the untouched, pristine nature of the ice and how it creates a feeling of being part of a renewable wilderness area. As a member of the close-knit Utqiaġvik community of whalers and scientists, Dr. George focuses on bowhead whales, emphasizing their extraordinary characteristics. Bowheads are massive creatures, known to reach lengths of up to 60 feet, and potentially even larger based on historical records. They possess thick blubber, long baleen plates used for filtering prey, and remarkably large heads that continue to grow throughout their lives. Bowheads captivated even Charles Darwin, he says, who recognized the uniqueness of their baleen structure. Additionally, evidence suggests that bowheads live exceptionally long lives, potentially exceeding 150 years. Various techniques, such as chemical aging and baleen analysis, provide insights into their slow growth and delayed maturity in frigid Arctic waters. The bowhead whale’s longevity and reproductive patterns contribute to their cultural significance among Eskimo communities, where whaling plays a central role. The act of hunting and sharing the harvested whale is a cooperative endeavor that brings joy and happiness to the community, highlighting the selfless nature of their sharing network. The experience of witnessing the communal celebration and the deep connection to this important resource leaves a lasting impression on Dr. George.