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Authors: Jean Craighead George

Ice Whale

BOOK: Ice Whale
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George, Jean Craighead, 1919-2012.

Ice whale / by Jean Craighead George.

pages cm • Summary: In 1848, ten-year-old Toozak, a Yupik Eskimo, sees a whale being born and is told by a shaman that he and his descendants must protect that whale, which Toozak names Siku, as long as it lives. • ISBN 978-1-101-61269-9

1. Yupik Eskimos—Juvenile fiction. [1. Yupik Eskimos—Fiction. 2. Eskimos—Fiction. 3. Bowhead whale—Fiction. 4. Whales—Fiction. 5. Human-animal relationships—Fiction. 6. Arctic regions—Fiction.] I. Title. • PZ7.G2933Ice 2014 [Fic]—dc23 2013034090

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Title Page



On The Use Of The Symbols For The Whale Sounds


The Bowhead Whale


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32


A Note From The Editor




n the “In the Ocean” chapters, the author invented symbols that are meant to represent whale sounds. Each whale has its own individual sound, and the author worked out these different symbolic representations for that whale's name.
is the symbol for Siku's name.
is the symbol for the old whale, Tiguk's, name.

The sea is anything but a quiet place, and it was a riveting discovery, more than fifty years ago, that whales make sounds or calls underwater that could be recorded. Scientists capture them through underwater recording devices that pick up the sounds as vibrations in the water and convert them to signals that can be heard through speakers. The sounds can also be transcribed as written symbols, somewhat like music where tone or frequency appears as up-and-down strokes arranged on a kind of horizontal grid that indicates time. The result looks a bit like a musical score.

Undoubtedly whale sounds are meant as communication. The author invented symbols for calls that communicated danger, navigation directions, warning, and more. Toothed whales can echolocate, too, enabling them to find food, objects, and each other. We hope this explanation helps as you encounter the symbols in the book.

he ocean waves rolled and crested‚
rolled and
Ice floes surfed them. The sun shone cold orange at 10:00 p.m.

The day‚ July 23. The year‚ l848. The place‚ the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia.

On that historic day, the whaling bark
a chunky‚ blunt-nosed ship with five whaleboats hanging above her deck‚ set her sails into the wind. She sped due north and became the first Yankee whaler to sail through the Bering Strait. The tall black rocks of the Diomede Islands loomed in her path. Captain Thomas Roys was trying to steer clear of them.

Suddenly the wind died. The bark's sails sagged and the
came to a stop. A gull with no wind to ride alighted on the ship's midmast. Walrus barked in the distance. The terrified seamen gathered along her rail. They stared not at the rocks‚ but at the formidable Arctic Ocean ahead.

Only a day ago they learned that Captain Roys had paid a hundred dollars to a Russian naval officer for his charts of this ocean. Whale numbers had been decimated by two centuries of whaling in the Atlantic and Pacific. Foreign seamen who had sailed the Arctic Ocean had described it as a dangerous ocean of ice‚ fog‚ and blizzards. Frightened by the terrifying rumors of sailors freezing to death‚ the crew talked of mutiny.

Their captain‚ however‚ was not looking at that terrible ocean‚ but landward. Thirteen Eskimo
‚ large wood-frame canoes covered with walrus hide‚ were paddling toward the
In them were three hundred powerful sealskin-clad Eskimo warriors ready to defend their waters and trade routes from intruders. They outnumbered his crew eight to one.

Captain Roys gritted his teeth. There was no wind to carry his ship out of the reach of the
‚ nor were there guns aboard to defend her. He took out his one‚ old revolver knowing it might not shoot. He wanted it at the ready anyway.

Just then a southwesterly breeze sprang up and carried the
away from the
and into a misty fog bank. The Eskimos grumbled—a potential trade lost. More wary of the fog than the foreigners, they turned back.

Alone and wrapped in fog‚ fear made the crew speak out. They complained aloud about where they were—in the dreaded Arctic Ocean! The first mate wept.

They talked of mutiny all through the short Alaskan twilight.

At dawn the fog lifted. The sun came out.

Whales were everywhere‚ blowing and breaching‚ splashing and waving their flukes. Some spy hopped or poked their heads straight up‚ thrusting themselves high out of the water to look at the ship. Whale footprints‚ whirlpools on the water made by the fluke of a whale swimming near the surface‚ pocked the ocean. All hands leaned against the rail‚ staring. They forgot their plan to mutiny.

“Lord in heaven‚” shouted Tom Boyd‚ the cabin boy. “Will you look at that!”

Captain Roys saw the whales and thanked his Maker. Leaning against the ship's wheel‚ he smiled. He had steered the
into a fortune.

The seamen lowered their whaleboats onto the water and rowed off to hunt the gigantic mammals that were swimming everywhere just beneath the ocean surface.

The heaviest whalers sat in the center of the twenty-eight-foot whaleboats and managed the longest oars. The other men took the seats before and behind them and rowed with shorter oars. This formation kept the eggshell-like boats gliding toward the whales.

The harpooner‚ Hartson‚ a burly man‚ stood in the bow. He held his harpoon high. A line was attached to it that would secure the whale to the whaleboat when it was struck. Poised‚ Hartson waited for a whale to come up to the surface to breathe.

No one spoke. They had long ago learned that whales could hear a whisper.

Then a whale surfaced. Hartson thrust the harpoon and struck it. It dove out of sight with the harpoon set in its back. A sea-muffled boom sounded. The seamen waited. Finally the great mammal rose slowly to the surface . . . and floated . . . dead.

“She's a right whale‚” cheered the harpooner. “She floats‚ that makes her the ‘right' whale to take.” He laughed and the crew pulled in the line and made it fast to the boat. The whalers now towed the whale to their ship.

When they finally brought the whale alongside the
‚ Captain Roys leaned over the railing and stared. The whale was fifty-five feet long with a massive head one-third the length of its body. Its blowhole sat on the highest part of its bowed head. Black in color with smooth skin‚ it had blunt flippers and large flukes. Captain Roys smiled. It was not a humpback whale‚ or even a Pacific right whale.

“We have a Greenland right whale‚” he shouted. “That's the blasted best!”

Greenland right whales‚ or bowhead whales‚ were the prize of commercial whalers. A bowhead had more blubber than any other whale. When this blubber was rendered into whale oil‚ it would burn in thousands of lamps in America. The whale's baleen‚ or so-called whalebone‚ was used to make umbrella spokes‚ corset stays‚ and hoop-skirt frames for ladies. The Atlantic right whale had helped make the United States rich and world prominent. Now‚ Captain Roys knew‚ the bowhead would do the same.

The whalers hunting the Atlantic Ocean had killed so many right whales that they were now nearly extinct. The hunters had sought new oceans and traveled into the North Pacific. There they found thousands of whales. By 1848‚ they had hunted the right whales in that ocean to low numbers as well.

And now there was this great discovery in the Arctic Ocean—tens of thousands of the most valuable of whales. Captain Roys's gamble had proved him right. The whalers harpooned another and another. They sang and cheered.

The blubber of these bowheads was at least a foot thick‚ the black skin an inch thick. The baleen—long‚ narrow‚ fringed plates composed of the same substance as fingernails that hung in the bowhead's mouth—was much longer than that of any other whale they had hunted before. The sailors looked at the bowhead in wonderment.

The slab of thick blubber was so heavy that it took eight men pulling on the hoist to lift it from the carcass. They sang chanties as they worked. Other whalers‚ standing on the cutting stage, a platform attached to the side of the ship‚ reached down with large sharp knives on long poles to cut more blubber from the whale. When it was hauled on board‚ it was chopped in small pieces for the tryworks‚ cauldrons on the ship that rendered the blubber to oil. When cooled, the whalers poured the oil in barrels.

All day long Captain Roys reaped immense profits for his sponsors‚ the owners‚ his crew‚ and‚ of course‚ himself. He smiled and stared at the bloody ocean and the blue-green ice floes that rode it.

The whalers worked on, hoisting strip after strip of whale blubber up to the ship's deck.

crew killed many bowhead whales that summer. By the end of August‚ they had filled their ship and sped south away from the freezing Arctic‚ through the Bering Strait to the Pacific Ocean and on to Hawaii.

When the ship arrived in Honolulu‚ word traveled from captain to captain‚ seamen to seamen‚ that there were thousands of bowhead whales in the western Arctic Ocean. Captains outfitted their ships that winter and prepared for the long trip back to the Arctic in the spring.

The slaughter of the great bowhead whale had begun in the western Arctic.

BOOK: Ice Whale
6.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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