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People packed it away in their freezers for special occasions.They carried it with them when they flew out of the village, to Nome and Anchorage and places down south to share with relatives.Then everything rests on the acuity of the striker in the bow, who holds a darting gun loaded with an exploding harpoon.Daniel works as the maintenance man at the village school, supporting Susan, Chris, Danielle and Chase, 13.A few animals taken each year bring thousands of pounds of meat to the village, offsetting the impossibly high cost of imported store-bought food.A hundred years ago — even 20 years ago, when Gambell was an isolated point on the map, protected part of the year by a wall of sea ice — catching the whale would have been a dream accomplishment for a teenage hunter, a sign of Chris’ passage into adulthood and a story that people would tell until he was old. His parents, his siblings, everybody worried about him.Alaska Native communities in the region each take a few whales a year, following a quota system managed by the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission (AEWC).The total annual take is roughly 50 animals, yielding between 600 and 1,000 tons of food, according to the commission.

Then as now, a boy started young, mastering one job, then another, until, if he was talented, he could try to make a strike. The village was still recovering from one in 2016 that damaged 60 structures on the island, including their house. The animals were hunted commercially by Yankee whalers from the mid-19th century until the beginning of the 20th century, decimating the population.

Before his story made the Anchorage paper, before the first death threat arrived from across the world, before his elders began to worry and his mother cried over the things she read on Facebook, Chris Apassingok, age 16, caught a whale.

It happened at the end of April, which for generations has been whaling season in the Siberian Yupik village of Gambell on St. More than 30 crews from the community of 700 were trawling the sea for bowhead whales, cetaceans that can grow over 50 feet long, weigh over 50 tons and live more than 100 years.

But today, in a world shrunk by social media, where fragments of stories travel like light and there is no protection from anonymous outrage, his achievement has been eclipsed by an endless wave of online harassment. In mid-June, as his family crowded into their small kitchen at dinnertime, Chris stood by the stove, eyes on the plate in his hands.

Behind him, childhood photographs collaged the wall, basketball games and hunting trip selfies, certificates from school.

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An article from The Nome Nugget about Chris’ whale catch is pasted up on the wall with other family mementos.

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