October, 1988. Adam Carlson, a reporter for a local Anchorage television station, is currently in Barrow doing a series of pieces on the "local cultural color" of northern Alaska. While out on the sea ice filming a less than promising piece, he spots off in the distance what ends up being three California gray whales - a mother, father and son - who are literally imprisoned by ice which has surrounded them in the earlier than usual onset of winter. They are looking worse for wear as they have been ramming the ice surface to maintain a hole in the ice to be able to breathe and thus survive. The professional and cultural assessment he receives is that the whales, in their current situation, cannot survive for more than a few days, with the ice fives miles in distance to the open ocean with a vertical ice shelf that has developed midway. Adam's piece on the whales not only gets played on his station, but is picked up by news services throughout the States, including the national broadcasters, which brings the plight of the whales to the attention of various different groups. First and foremost is Greenpeace, Anchorage-based Rachel Kramer in particular who will do anything to save the whales, she who happens to be Adam's ex-girlfriend the two having parted on not good terms. Rachel tries to manipulate those who can do something to do those somethings. Those groups include the governor's office, who she wants to request deployment of the National Guard specifically to transport via helicopter tow a privately owned hoverbarge capable of breaking through the ice. The problem for Rachel is that the hoverbarge is owned by her mortal enemy, J.W. McGraw of Alaskan Northern Oil, which wants drilling rights in the northern waters. More and more news services send their reporters to Barrow to cover the story, including Los Angeles based Jill Jerard after who Adam has long lusted from afar. The White House gets wind of the story, support for the whales which they are determined to demonstrate, as public support grows, that White House support especially important in an election year. And the local indigenous group, the Inupiat, initially plan to harvest the whales in their certain death in an effort to protect their natural hunting/fishing way of life, despite the gray whale specifically not being part of their natural diet.