The Whaling Camp & What the Whales Know and See (Eugene Brower)

Video Shot in: 2009

Iñupiaq elder Eugene Brower shares his knowledge about the design and behavior of sealskin boats in the Arctic. He explains that sealskin boats are intentionally designed to be quiet, allowing hunters to approach seals without being detected. Eugene emphasizes the importance of paying attention to wind direction, as seals have a keen sense of smell and can detect human presence. To minimize any scents, one side of camp on the ice is kept clean, while activities such as cooking, disposing of coffee grounds, and using the bathroom are carried out on the far side of camp, away from passing whales. This careful separation ensures that whales won’t catch any human scent from the camp. The bowhead whale, Eugene says, can even sense the presence of humans underwater and can react by submerging deeper or altering their behavior. Hunters have to remain still and quiet while observing approaching whales. These insights provide a glimpse into the tactics and strategies employed by hunters in sealskin boats as they navigate the Arctic waters and interact with the natural behaviors of whales.