Thursday, October 1, 2009

Standing on the tail of a whale

Just after I published my post last night we got the call. Off we went into the cold night to see the whale. I unfortunately didn't reach my goal to see him all in one piece because by the time we heard they had already started the butchering. I'm disappointed that we were not there when the hunters arrived to the beach. I hear that the celebration was very loud with people cheering and they had fireworks and a huge bonfire. There was still lots going on when we arrived and it was an amazing atmosphere. I went down again this afternoon to get a few pictures in the daylight. Here we go.....

The tail was HUGE!!!The whale was almost 52 feet long and approximately 52 tonnes. The feel of the skin is very much like a squishy tire. Very rubbery. I could still smell the fishy smell on my fingers after touching it last night.

Strips of blubber being cut from the carcass

You can see in the red rectangle the part that's actually used. The dark grey (the skin) along with the thin strip of white on top of it is called the muktuk. The thick pink stuff on top of it is the fat. I'm not sure if the fat is used for anything now but in the old days it was used for fuel among other things. The muktuk is eaten raw usually but can be fried or boiled as well. Meaghan, Sonja, Dale and I took a piece of it to share but haven't tried it yet. I'll let you know if I have the guts to actually go through with it.

Teevee, the Fisheries guy cut out the eye to be sent in for sampling. That will also tell us how old Mr. Whale is.

Kids playing in the baleen. The bowhead use the baleen to filter the water to catch food.

Another view of the cutting.

I love this picture. It really shows the size of the whale when you compare the little people to the size of him. On the left you can see the 2o or so people pulling the rope attached to the fin while the cutters up top slice. It's amazing how heavy these pieces are. I saw 2 men really struggling to drag a relatively small(maybe 2 feet long) piece of blubber with a huge rope.

The view from the front. You can see his huge grey tongue inside his month.

This is about 16 hours after the cutting began and they haven't even started on the meat inside. Butchering is going to take several days.

In this shot you get to see how big his mouth is. The part on the sand is the top of his head.

Um.... let's just say it's a BOY!

This was such a fantastic experience. I was so excited when I got home that I couldn't sleep thinking about it. I think I'll head down tomorrow and get a small piece of meat to try. I've been looking up recipes in the last couple of days. I'm a little bit more open to trying the meat over the muktuk.


Anonymous said...

aarigaraa kii muktuk whales are well respected so take care of him very well and store him good congratulations from the north slope

Cynthia said...

Wow, I am a bit sad yet very happy for the honor your community has had bestowed upon them. Congratulations on taking part in this one of a lifetime experience.

Tara Muise said...

wow! that's awesome! you have to try the muktuk...just a little say that you did. since the inuit do treat the bowhead with such respect, it doesn't make me feel bad at all; it's for sharing. be careful, though, for all those polar bears! i hear it takes years to get rid of the smell.


jen said...

Yeah I was just going to say you guys are going to have hoards of bears coming over the next little while.

I can't decide if I am jealous I missed it or not because I'm such a sucker for whales. Everyone is going to eat for a very long time though. You'll need to make whale stir fry and let me know how that goes.

Sarah said...

Wow--that's pretty amazing. Try the muktuk.. it's good dipped in soya sauce!

Thanks for sharing your photos and talking about your experience... if only I was there this week instead of last week eh?

Lindsay Niedzielski said...

Amazing...Kugaaruk's hunt was called off yesterday, so i'm sad I won't be able to see that in person and the town won't have all the meat they were hoping for. I did try bowhead last winter though, and it's...ok....not my kind of thing, but I know lots of people here love it interested to see how you like it!

E. said...

Eating whale meat and blubber, WOW!
This from a maritime girl who won't even touch a lobster. But all kidding aside, looking at the pictures, I can't help but think what a different world the north is. It's an amazing country isn't it.

Megan said...

Oh, this is AWESOME.

Matthew said...

I think I saw myself in one of those photos. :o)

Nice night photos.

Nicole F said...

That is so cool.
I really hope my prize isn't muktuk though. Probably wouldn't keep coming all the way here in the mail.
Enjoy the once in a life time experience honey. See you soon.

Matt, Kara, Hunter and Cavan said...

Amazing! That will be a very happy community this winter with that huge whale.

We enjoyed the muktuk fried. Tasted like pork chop!

Aida said...

thats cool! i've never had muktuk, I am too chicken! Frank had some before. i echo Jen, mr Polar bear will be visiting soon lol

i dont think Arviat has a tag for bowhead, i could be wrong. we saw a few dead belugas washed to shore but that's about it.

Rs To Gold said...

That is so awesome.
I really wish my award isn't muktuk though. Probably wouldn't keep arriving all the way here in the email.
Enjoy the once in a lifetime encounter sweetie. See you soon.
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