I missed it the last two years. We HAD Whalefest for the last two years, but it was virtual, on zoom. We got great lectures at the science symposium that is always the center of Whalefest, but we missed the social activities, the performance, the maritime marketplace, and all the other things that make it a festival and not just a symposium.
People living “Outside” ask me if I miss the cultural stimulation of living in a city. “What stimulation can there be in an isolated rural Alaska community?” While there is not the choice of concerts or lectures that there is in a metro area, I attend more of such events here than I ever did living in a city. Why? Because they’re here, something new to do.
I can’t imagine me attending a science symposium living in the Twin Cities or Anchorage, it is just not in my wheelhouse. But here it’s happening, it’s organized by my friends, and what else can I do this weekend? (Actually, this weekend a lot). So, I go and I look forward to going. I love the stimulation of learning new things, stretching the possibilities. And because of the Symposium I also know more about current issues, like the affects of climate change on our oceans, than I would reading the newspaper. This year’s theme was “How it’s Made, Courting, Babies and Growth.” There was a lot of information and cause for concern giving our changing ocean environment.
Along with the Symposium we have some first-class whale watching. There is also an art exhibit of maritime themed art,
Maritime themed films and performances of maritime themed music and dance, with, of course, a drawing for Whalefest swag door prizes.
And a marketplace where craft’s people sell things and where different science or advocacy groups have displays and answer questions, like are “Sitka beaches safe to dig clams?” Or “Is the mercury in my seafood?”
Indigenous people share their traditional knowledge, including traditional whaling dances and a discussion on the nutritional value of native foods gathered here.
Local high school and science students attend the lectures and have parallel classes that give them school credits.
And there is a chance to mingle with scientists at receptions, on the cruise, and at a science trivia night. Scientists even are identified with “Miss America” type sashes.
When I went to college, we talked a lot about the “two worlds” of science in conflict with the humanities, or arts or religion. Whalefest is an integrating experience that encompasses both worlds and, perhaps, worlds beyond.