Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Waiting on the whale
The town is buzzing because the whale is on it's way into town.
Cape Dorset was lucky to be one of the few (three I think) Nunavut towns who have been given permission to hunt bowhead this year. There was a moratorium placed on their hunting in the 60's and they now allow a very limited few to be caught every year. To get the hunt is quite an honour and the town has been excitedly waiting for it to start all summer. The last 2 weeks the crew have been out looking for one and today it all came together.
The talk started around lunch time that 'they got the whale'. Then around 6 we heard that it was in so we excitedly packed up and went out to the beach. Turns out it was a false alarm. The hunters where still quite a ways out and the boats had supposedly run out of gas so some of them came in to get more. We now hear that they should be in around midnight so we sit and wait. I'm not much for dead things but you can't help but catch the fever. Seeing it will be a once in a lifetime thing for most people here. It's been so long since a bowhead was caught in the area that most of the town, even some of the elders, have never seen one. I'm truely excited to add this to my northern experience.
We've decided that no matter how late it is we're going to go check it out because we'd like to see it all in one piece. I'm told that it will take days to get it all butchered it's that big. They are also going to be on polar bear watch because the smell of the carcase is sure to attract them. Maybe I'll get lucky and get to see my first bear too.
Hopefully tomorrow I'll have pictures for you.
A few quick facts about bowheads:
-They can grow up to 20 meters in length and can weigh up to 136 tonnes.
-They have the record for the larges mouth of any animal in the world.
-They can stay under water for as long as 40 minutes at a time.
-New born calves weigh approximately 1000 pounds.
-These whales can live up to 150 to 200 years and are believed to be the longest living mammal on earth.
-Their only real predators are orcas and humans.