Historical Events

Copy Link

The beluga white whale was valued by the Eskimo for its flesh and blubber and skin.

July 1, 1909


My Life with the Eskimo - Beluga White Whales

Vilhjalmur Stefansson

Man The Fat Hunter
Facultative Carnivore
Carnivore Diet

Delphinapterus catodon ( Linn.). White Whale. Kil- la -lū'ak (Alaskan and Mackenzie Eskimo). 

The White Whale or Beluga, commonly called “White-fish” by white men in the North and Killaluak by the Eskimo, occurs some what irregularly at various points along the Arctic coast. It is generally pursued by the Eskimo only, who value the flesh and blubber highly and use the skin for making boot-soles, rawhide thongs, etc. , and formerly for covering umiaks. One of the best hunting grounds for the white whale is in the estuary of the Mackenzie, east of Richard Island, where the whales appear in large schools in July shortly after the ice breaks up. Eskimo from the whole Mackenzie region assemble here in July for the Killaluak fishery, and about two hundred were killed in July, 1909. The next year, 1910, only a small number appeared . The whales are pursued in whale-boats. The harpooners first strike the whale with a hand iron, and after making fast in this way, the boat endeavors to get alongside the whale so that it can be shot in the head with a rifle. The water is shoal in this region, and the backs of the whales can usually be seen as they plow up the river. Eskimo say that some times the Beluga may be killed with a rifle, but the body always sinks as soon as killed. Another well-known hunting-ground is at the north end of Richard Island, and still another at the “Whitefish Station” between Tent Island and Escape Reef, Mackenzie Bay. In 1908 the fishery was unsuccessful at the latter place, and only two were caught. Beluga are said by the Eskimo to sometimes enter the Eskimo Lakes from Liverpool Bay. In the latter part of July and in August they are usually seen going steadily west, often plunging and splashing, showing half of the body out of water.