Most indigenous groups in Arctic Russia do the occasional bit of seal or walrus hunting. However, there are only two groups who live entirely by hunting whales and other sea mammals: the Chukchi and Eskimos of Chukotka‘s settlements on the Arctic Ocean and Bering Strait coasts. These people, just like their ancestors, go out to sea in small boats to spear down their prey and drag it back to their village, where it is shared out among all inhabitants for free.
While the inland Chukchi are nomadic reindeer herders who, the coastal Chukchi are sea mammal hunters, like their Eskimo neighbours. The inland Chukchi use reindeer-drawn sledges for transport, whereas the coastal Chukchi use dog sledges. In coastal villages like Vankarem, Lorino and Novoye Chaplino whale meat is one of the main constituents of the diet. Near some villages you can find whale skeletons jutting out of the sand or mud at the water’s edge, and you can literally walk along an alley formed by a whale’s rib cage.
Although this way of life may seem a little brutal to a sensitive western mind, these communities do limit the number of whales they catch each year so as not to deplete the population. This is not an industry based on killing as many whales as possible: it is indigenous people living in harmony with nature as their ancestors always have, never taking more than they need and allowing the whale population to flourish. There is no other way people in these communities could feed themselves, and whale hunting is presumably the reason people first settled in this area thousands of years ago.
We offer one program that includes a visit to a whale hunting community in Chukotka, along with polar bear spotting, a visit to nomadic reindeer herders and more. Please click the blue link to view prices and itinerary.