Life returned to normal here Saturday in the United States’ northernmost community as the last of a crowd of people left town after the rescue of two whales that had been trapped by Arctic ice.
“It’s pretty quiet,” said Connie Kunaknana, desk clerk at the 40-room Top of the World Hotel, which had been packed since mid-October when the plight of three California gray whales drew scientists, other rescuers and reporters.
Two of the whales swam away Friday after a Soviet icebreaker crashed through most of the remaining barrier of ice that imprisoned the mammals for nearly three weeks off the northern Alaska coast. The third had died about a week earlier.
The two whales were swimming west through an ice-free channel in the Chukchi Sea on their long-delayed migration to warm waters.
The whales and the Soviet icebreakers that helped to free them had an open channel of water along the coast, said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials who ran the rescue operation. The Soviets are traveling the Alaska coast with U.S. permission and with American satellite maps and charts.