Wednesday, August 4, 2021


Where the Chuckchi Sea meets the Beaufort Sea
My whaler friend pointed to two whales in distance and told me that those whales do a threesome in the Arctic, where a wingman whale helps the male lead whale to mate with his female. It sounded evolutionally impossible. Why would a whale help another to mate, losing his chance? I did not question him, as I do not usually challenge the experts unless I am an expert myself. Who am I to question one who has the wisdom of the land and has come from a generation of whalers for millennia? Today I decided to look it up. This article concludes that that is false information. Now, who should I trust - the one who had his entire life revolve around whales or these scientists with domain expertise? These could also be local wisdom that scientists are yet to discover. Now I don't really know. 
Iñupiat Heritage Center, Utqiagvik

Do I care about how whales mate? Certainly not. Do I respect how the native whalers treat whales when they hunt for meat? ABSOLUTELY. It was nice to see how the cultures respect the animals that become their food. There are policies (both international and native) in place
on how many whales each community can hunt per season. It is a quota. No one is strictly observing - but the hunters respect that. It is a community. Your catch belongs to the whole village. There is a pride. The one who hunts the whale is respected. The whales who "sacrificed" (yes, it is believed that the whales willingly "offered" themselves) their life to sustain the community for one more season are respected. After all, whales are considered the most sacred animals.
In the Nuvuk peninsula, we walked passing whale bones and several tree logs floating from far regions pushed to the Arctic in summer. More concerning were artifacts. My friend said, as a kid, he collected "treasures," all coming from China, Japan, Russia, and EU on the shore. Ocean pollution is a global problem, but Arctic is explicitly impacted that it can be observed by anyone who lives there beyond doubt. n a community sustained by whaling, whale bones are expected. But the Arctic tundra has no trees. The logs and artifacts are foreign. The Northwest Passage is clearing up with the Arctic completely melting in the summer. Governments are even preparing for a Transpolar Passage that cuts through the north pole by 2050 summer or even as early as 2040 summer. The Nuvuk peninsula now has a serious tide problem, which the locals try to mitigate by placing large bags of sand along the shoreline. There used to be a thriving community in Nuvuk, which does not exist anymore. But Utqiagvik has this lovely Iñupiat community that has been living there for 10 millenniums.

No wonder Alaska has become my most favorite state in the USA. I always loved traveling and finding myself in new places, especially with new cultures. When I was young, going on an annual school trip was so exciting. We would go on a day trip in March every year - but it was enough for the young me to get all excited for weeks in advance, starting from January. As I grow old, to get the same level of excitement, I have to go to random corners of the world. Each new place adds something to my identity. Memories make my identity. It is like searching for something I have no clue of. Regardless of the scale and the distance, I see travels as searching for myself. With my continuous migrations since 2012, the lines of traveling and migrations are blurred in me. Although I have not moved since June 2018, I still feel the same nomadic self I was between 2012 August - 2018 June. The pandemic has clipped our wings. Yet with the vaccines, there is some hope, and we may live again.