Real-Life Adventure Stories From Early Whaling Days (Eddie Bodfish)

Video Shot in: 2009

Eddie Bodfish, who was born (May 17, 1941) and raised in Wainwright, Alaska, and who worked many years as airport manager for the North Slope Borough, shares his adventures growing up in a small town and living a traditional lifestyle centered around hunting, fishing, and whaling. When he was young, there were no jobs so he grew up spending summers at Fish Camp, where he trapped red fox and hunted ptarmigan, ground squirrels and as many as 40 caribou in a summer in order to feed the family for the whole year. He took his homework from school and remained at fish camp until the day before Thanksgiving. They had dogs at camp but he remembers walking 25-30 miles in a day to check 14 traps, set far apart. At 9 years old Eddie started whaling. He and his brothers would leave school and walk 9-18 miles out on the ice to their family whaling camp and come home days later. (Wainright whale camps are farther out from land than camps in Utqiaġvik because Wainright was built on a bay and not a point jutting into the ocean). He describes becoming a harpooner at 13 or 14 years old and eventually running his own whaling crew. Whaling with sled dogs in those days was a whole different situation than using snow machines as whaling crews do today. Eddie’s story offers a captivating glimpse into Alaska’s wilderness and the rich cultural heritage of indigenous communities.