In coastal Inupiaq culture, the bowhead whale is "both symbol and sustenance," according to Brower, and the spring whaling season – which starts in late April and extends through May -- is a time of work, celebration and abundance.
The Aalak crew has landed three whales: two 28-foot long ones and the behemoth 57-foot, 4-inch female. Two more have gotten away.
The hunt, which Brower has participated in for many years, is being reshaped in some ways by technology – a mix of tradition and technology
"It's changing," he says.
Now crews use VHF radios to communicate, largely in Inupiaq, with other crews down the coast -- alerting them to passing whales.
Brower has been using a camera to document moments of the hunt, including when whaling captain Eugene Brower ran into a young polar bear. It's not uncommon for whaling crews to run into polar bears during the course of a hunt, since scraps and blubber tend to attract them to whaling sites.
Brower snapped an image of the polar bear heading to the water's edge, where it "sort of belly-flopped in."
"It looked like a big flying squirrel," he said.
Brower has also been sharing the action on Facebook – uploading photo albums that tell the story of the hunt's dramatic moments. Fifteen people have "liked" his last album and more than a dozen have posted to congratulate the crew.
Most of the crew members are descendents of the original Charles Brower, a legendary whaler and New Yorker by birth who came to the Arctic on in the 1880s and never left, opening a whaling station, marrying a woman from Shishmaref and eventually penning a book called "Fifty Years Below Zero."
This year, several North Slope crews including some from Wainwright and Point Hope have landed whales, and the weather has been "just beautiful," according to Brower: plenty of sunshine, light wind and a few snowflakes.
But this season has also been characterized by an ice condition called "Ivu" in the local Inupiaq dialect: giant blocks of jumbled ice that can make movement difficult.
"This year the ice pack is rougher," he said. "It's also much thinner and crumbles more easily."
Brower says that crew members have been spending hours flattening spots on the ice to launch the traditional umiaq skinboats used for the hunt.
His crew hopes to snag a few more whales this spring.
"If we're lucky, we'll get two or three more," he said.
The rest of Barrow's quota of 22 "strikes" – which includes anytime a harpoon strikes a whale, even if it doesn't kill it – will be used during the fall whaling season.
For now, the crew plans to head back out on the ice Monday, taking advantage of favorable winds.
Over the course of the migration, biologists have counted 2,500 whales near shore.