On a recent weekday 44-year-old Merle Apassingok captained his father's sailboat, hunting bowhead whales in falling snow off St. Lawrence island. His nephew Agra labored to bail water the way Apassingok had as a boy.
"I was telling my crew, I said, 'Hey Agra, you're probably the only 9-year-old boy in the whole world sailing for whales in a walrus skin boat,' and then we started laughing," Apassingok said.
The joke was on them. Nearby, Apassingok's younger brother hunted in yet another handmade skin boat, with yet another 9-year-old crew member learning the same skills. It's springtime in the coastal villages of the Alaska Arctic. As it has for generations, that means whaling season.
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