Whaling Trail Mapping
Monitoring shorefast sea ice during spring whaling at Utqiaġvik
Each spring Utqiaġvik hunters build trails across the shorefast sea ice to access bowhead whale hunting sites. Since 2007, the whaling community, NSB personnel, and scientists have mapped the trails to make sure they are safe for travel.
These annual surveys reveal the average thickness of level first-year shorefast ice, which is controlled by local freeze-up processes and timing, as well as weather, ocean, and ice conditions in the region throughout fall and winter.
This project was initially inspired by the efforts of Utqiaġvik elder Warren Matumeak and biologist Craig George to document the trails using GPS and hand-drawn maps in 2001.
Making the maps
The team maps trails using GPS, and continuously measures ice thickness. This information is added to a map with radar imagery showing the general ice type. Maps are provided to the community in paper and electronic formats during the hunting season (late April–late May).
For more information
AAOKH supports scientists Matt Druckenmiller and Josh Jones to continue this important work. Questions? Contact Matthew Druckenmiller, National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Related publications and resources
- Druckenmiller, M.L., H. Eicken, M. Johnson, D. Pringle, and C. Williams (2009) Toward an integrated coastal sea-ice observatory: System components and a case study at Barrow, Alaska. Cold Regions Science and Technology, 56 (1-2): 61-72
- Druckenmiller, M.L., H. Eicken, J.C. George, and L. Brower (2013) Trails to the whale: Reflections of change and choice on an Iñupiat icescape at Barrow, Alaska. Polar Geography, 36 (1-2): 5-20
- Northern Alaska Sea Ice Project Jukebox of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
- Ice trail thickness data for 2008-2012 available from NSF Arctic Data Center
This work is a partnership with University of Alaska Fairbanks and the National Snow and Ice Data Center, field support from Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation