There are five boats towing, and one boat trailing. Each boat is
attached to a long tow rope, and any of them can back off to release
the rope and pull out. The trailing boat is for safety... as this
is one of the more dangerous operations involved in catching a whale.
Note that the lead boat is flying a flag. Each crew has their
own crew flag, and signals they have caught a whale by flying
their flag. Today that is only symbolic as each boat, and half
the homes in Barrow, are equipped with VHF marine radios. The
fact that a whale has been caught is actually signaled by a
public prayer over the radio.
When one crew catches a whale, each crew that is nearby
decides if they are or are not likely to catch their own.
If they are chasing a whale, they probably continue.
Otherwise they go to the assistance of the crew that has a
whale. The share of whale meat and muktuk is larger (or a
better part) for those who lend a hand.