Last night, the whalers of Barrow gathered together in the Cornerstone Church for a non-denominational prayer service. At the end of a moving, spirit filled gathering that included much gospel singing and special honors paid to the Alaska State Championship Barrow Lady Whalers basketball team, the whalers sang their official hymn, "How Great Thou Art." The elder Wesley Aiken spoke a few words and then Molly Itta prayed in Iñupiaq for the safety and success of the whalers before they venture out onto the unusually thin and extra dangerous ice of an always dangerous and indifferent ocean.
The Chukchi Sea tonight at about 10:00 PM.
"The ocean he's merciless. He's got no feeling. If he's going to take your life he don't worry about who's here. If we make a mistake we pay heavy... Whaling is a community event, the whole community takes part in preparing for the hunt, not just the captain. The person may be called a captain, but without a crew he can't go anywhere. the captain has to have an able bodied crew to go hunt the great animal the good Lord gave us.
"I was told, never brag that you're going to catch a whale. Prepare a place for it in the ice cellar, a final resting place, fresh snow - prepare everything to welcome that whale home and hopefully that he will come to your spot where you are in the ocean and give himself to you.
"When you're young, full of strength and power, you think you can do anything in the world, but as you get a little older like we are now, you look up to the man upstairs and ask for guidance. He does not quickly answer right there and then but sometimes he does - in serious ways. He does do it. He carries us through good times, bad times, every day of our life we're being carried by Him." - Eugene Brower, President of the Barrow Whaler Captains Association, speaking early in the service.
Eugene is the man in the seal-skin vest.