POINT HOPE, Alaska — Fermented whale’s tail doesn’t taste the same when the ice cellars flood.
Whaling crews in this Arctic coast village store six feet of tail — skin, blubber and bone — underground from spring until fall. The tail freezes slowly while fermenting and taking on the flavor of the earth.
Paying homage to their connection to the frozen sea, villagers eat the delicacy to celebrate the moment when the Arctic’s ice touches shore.
But climate change, with its more intense storms, melting permafrost and soil erosion, is causing the ice cellars to disintegrate. Many have washed out to sea in recent decades. The remaining ones regularly flood in the spring, which can spoil the meat and blubber, and release scents that attract polar bears.