Every year, Melissa Rogers and her family go out to their whaling camp near East Whitefish station.
But this year, the family of four’s whaling season has been disrupted, and with the rising costs of food and fuel, it nearly didn’t happen at all.
“We are actually late this year,” Rogers said. “We usually head down July 1 and stay till mid-August, but this year we were undecided and trying to figure out ways to save a few dollars. This year with the high costs of food and gas it cost for one trip already I’ve spent $2,400 and that didn’t include everything — most of that cost was gas and food.
“It was a let’s go tomorrow decision — so power shop day before packing everything, then load the boat and take off first thing the next morning.”
Normally, a trip to the camp would set the family back roughly $2,000 — including food, fuel and everything else.
Rogers said her family was able to afford the trip with On the Land funding made available by the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Inuvik Hunters and Trappers Committee and Inuvik Community Corporation, for which she said she was grateful.
Both a family and Inuvialuit tradition, harvesting beluga whale in the summer is a highly involved process. Aside from the hunting of the whale itself, the logistics of running a camp for a month or longer are immense. Keeping hunters fed, warm and clothed takes fuel, food and supplies. Additional fuel for a power generator is a must, as well as having a solid chainsaw on hand for a variety of purposes. Fish nets need to be checked regularly, as families often make dry fish while at camp to stock up for the winter months.
Even after a whale is harvested, it takes another four to five days to properly butcher and cure the meat. And that’s assuming the weather cooperates. Rogers said over the course of a month and a half, the family would harvest a single beluga each year, which provided enough meat to cover them until next season.
While the costs are hard to absorb, Rogers said the family intends to keep going to camp each summer regardless of the expenses. The experience was enough that no amount of money would make the trip not worth the time and effort to do it.
“We don’t look at making the trip worthwhile,” she said. “It’s a tradition that has been passed down to us from our parents and grandparents, so rather than going south for vacation we prefer to go to our whale camp.”