Two years later in the Spring, after the walrus and whale hunting, Okfagit announced to his family, “In three days we are going to hunt on the island Sivukuk. We will go for half a moon because there are lots of animals there. We will also visit the village of Sivukuk.”
Then turning to his son said, “And you, Ayit, will accompany us!” He smiled at his youngest son, now 18, who was obviously very excited about this trip, his first time to visit the island. It would be sixty miles by boat, and then paddling miles more down one side of the island, seeking game.
The next three days were spent in preparation, carefully checking the boat, putting in supplies and water stored in a seal skin poke (one could never be sure what might happen on the way—more than one boat crew got lost in fog and were glad they had drinking water with them). And making sure there were extra paddles, plenty of seal-skin rope and pieces of walrus skin that might be needed to patch the boat if it sprang a leak. Each man had his raincoat made from seal intestines, his rifle and plenty of ammunition which they had gotten from trading with a whaling ship.
As it was summer, they had no fear of being lost in the dark; the sun would always be there to guide them. Okfagit, his four sons and a relative left early in the morning, and raising their sail, headed directly East. Within two hours their land, had become just a thin line on the Western horizon while a thin line now appeared in the East.
In the meantime, it was just the sea with wave after wave as Okfagit sat in his customary place at the tiller. He had made this trip a dozen times or more, so knew how to get to the Island following the sun, as he explained to Ayit.
The thin line on the horizon grew rapidly as they sailed on. They arrived on the Northern tip of the Island in the late evening, where they made camp and rested, wanting to be ready for the next days’ hunting, which would be strenuous.
Up early, they paddled along the shore, watching for seals. When one surfaced, they stopped and drifted towards the spot, knowing that others, too, would probably come up in the same area. Soon several others surfaced, and the Eskimos were ready, shooting three.
Out came the spiked wooden floats which were thrown beyond the seals, then drawn to them to pull them to the boat. They had to be careful not to capsize the boat while pulling in the 150-pound animals. Each seal was offered fresh water to keep the spirits from anger against the hunters.
As they continued on, Ayit watched the shore of the island go by, treeless and flat along the coast, with the land going gradually up to small, ancient volcanoes which made the backbone of the island.
They saw no more seals, so began fishing and caught a number of large fish. Then they pulled into a beach where they set up another camp. Ayit and his brother searched the shore for driftwood. Some they would use for a fire, the rest for building a fish drying rack and another for drying the seal meat.
They spent several more days in the area and had a good collection of meat. When it was all hung to dry, they left one man to watch it and set out for the village of Sivukuk.
This village, built on a spit of gravel at the foot of a mountain, had been occupied for at least a thousand years, for it was a good place to live. There was lots of game and in the winter the winds blew the heavy snows off the spit making it easier to get around.
They pulled their boat up on the shore and soon were surrounded by the villagers, who, like them, were all Siberian Yupik Eskimos.
The village elders organized a celebration for their visitors, cooking up walrus, seal and pacific Salmon. They sat on the ground to eat, and then got out their drums to dance. Each dance told a story, often of hunting and the animals they hunted, and each song taught a lesson.
Map showing Sivukuk, marker at the point of the Island showing Sivukuk. Siberia is to the left and Alaska to the right. The international date line passes by.