A Tribute to Arnold Brower, Sr.

Arnold Brower, Sr. was a longtime whaling captain, community leader and well-respected elder.  His father was the “King of the Arctic”, Charles D. Brower.  His father was America’s most northern pioneer, a Yankee whaler who owned and operated the whaling station.   Arctic explorers such as Roald Amundsen, Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Captain Bob Bartlett were common guests at the Brower Whaling Station.

Arnold Brower, Sr. was captain of the  ABC Whaling Crew and the last living child of Charles D. Brower.  National Geographic did a special entitled “Whale Hunters” that depicted the 2008 Spring Bowhead Whale Hunt and featured the ABC Crew.  Sadly, in October of 2008, Arnold passed away at the age of 86.  His snowmachine fell through the ice on the Chip River.  Arnold managed to pull himself from the water and wrap himself in the skin of a caribou he had just shot.  Unfortunately,he was not able to make it back to the warmth and safety of his family cabin some 60 miles from Barrow.  Family and community members were deeply saddened by the loss of such a wonderful man, community leader and hunter.

86-year-old Arnold Brower Sr. (KTUU-TV)

In April 2009, I was a member of the 2009 Bowhead Whale Harvest Crew, along with Victoria Woshner, DVM/PHD.  Weather and ice conditions were not favorable to successful whale hunting so much that I had pretty much accepted that I probably would not be participating in any bowhead whale harvest.  A miracle happened in the early am of May 17th-the ABC Crew,  under the leadership of Arnold’s sons had landed the first whale of the season-a very special whale indeed, given that it was taken by his crew on what would have been his 87th  birthday!  This would be my first time collecting tissues from such a magnificent creature-indeed the whole experience was very sacred.  It took a few hours to get the whale near the shorefast ice.  The community was informed by VHF radio that a whale had been landed and everyone snowmachined out to the ABC Crew Camp to assist with pulling the whale up onto the ice so measurements could be taken, gross lesions could be documented and the butchering could begin.  Victoria and I collected tissues for department research.  I took great care to collect as much lymphatic tissue as possible for my own research interests.  As eager as I am to collect tissues, I must always remember that these animals provide food, clothing and materials for the people and wait until they have gotten everything that they need first!  One must never cut into the liver until the capsule has been removed-the capsule is used to make drums.

Each Whaling Crew Has Its Own Flag and Crew Logo

Ship Strike or Bite Wound?

Aboriginal subsistence whaling is NOT to be confused with commercial whaling!  Alaska’s indigenous people are allowed to hunt gray whales and bowhead whales.  The International Whaling Commission (IWC)  determines quotas for the number of whales that are allowed to be taken by each whaling community.  Every year, the IWC holds a month long conference-this year’s conference started on May 21st.  North Slope Borough scientists and Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission members attend the annual conference.  This year’s conference will be held in Agadir, Morrocco.

When a whaling crew lands a whale, the crew’s umiaq (skin-covered kayak) is brought into town for display.  During spring whaling, motorized boats are NOT used, rather the crews row out to look and hunt for whales in the time-honored umiaq, a wooden structure covered with approximately 8 bearded seal skins that have been sewn together using a special waterproof stitch.  And, later in the summer, successful whaling crews will host a community celebration called the nalukataq.  I will post pictures from a previous nalukataq in another post..

While the buthering was taking place, a pod of approximately 250 beluga whales, including many calves swam right past us.  At the same time a polar bear, interested in a potential beluga meal, came swimming towards us.  The entire community stopped to watch this most magical moment!

    • Ellen Frantz
    • July 11th, 2011

    periodically i browse thru dad’s name and come across such thoughtful stories. i couldnt get his pic to come up tho. i even saw my daughter on the 2nd to last pic. With much appreciation, Ellen.

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