A Whale of a Sled
In Alaska, most whale species don’t have teeth. Instead they grow up to 13-feet-long keratin plates, or baleen, which act like a giant sieve to capture plankton. Iñupiaq whalers discovered the wonderful properties of this sturdy, frost-resistant material. They used heat or urine to soften the baleen, then turned it into fishing nets, lashing and sled runners. Sleds like this early 20th century version were used to transport seals from icepack to village.