Steve Weileman & The Ikkatsu Project Collecting Samples Across Alaska
Steve Weileman, professional wilderness guide, and award-wining filmmaker and environmental advocate has teamed up with ASC on the Ikkatsu Project's latest endeavor.Steve's photography has been featured in The Forgotten Shore: A Photographic Journey Through Alaska’s Snug Harbor and his film debut, Ikkatsu: The Roadless, won multiple awards, including best environmental film at the Waterwalker Film Festival in 2013.
THE INTRODUCTON - For the past two years my partner, Ken Campbell, and I have been helping track marine debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami event. We call it The Ikkatsu Project. Ikkatsu roughly translates as ‘in this together.’ We felt this was appropriate, as this event truly brings both cultures on either side of the Pacific together. Last year, we traveled down the Washington Coast by kayak, which allowed us access to beaches unavailable by any other means. In addition to looking for specific tsunami debris, we conducted marine surveys for NOAA (you can see our report here). We also released an award-winning documentary entitled Ikkatsu: The Roadless Coast, which you can watch in its entirety here.
For this year, we chose an even more arduous task: take our kayaks and research methods to a remote island in Alaska. Augustine Island, located at the entrance to Cook Island, hosts the most active volcano in Alaska. With the exception of a few geologist from the Alaska Volcano Observatory, it receives almost no visitors. In order to maximize our contribution to science, I contacted the staff at Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation and asked if they had any projects that would benefit from our location and ability. They put me in touch with Abby Barrow, Coastal Monitoring and Outreach Coordinator for the Marine Environmental Research Institute. One Skype conversation and a few emails later, we were set to collect water samples for Abby as part of her micro-plastic program.
Climbing Kilimanjaro Searching for Signs of Life - Dead or Alive
Michelle Prysby is an ecologist the Director of Science Education and Public Outreach at the Univeristy of Virginia. After years of dreaming and planning, Michelle and her partner, John Woodell, climbed Africa's highest peak, Mount Kilimanjaro, collecting wildlife observations - both dead and alive - along the way.
Step…pause….step…pause…step…pause. It’s 2:00 am and that’s the rhythm you are experiencing as you focus on slowly putting one foot in front of the other, climbing ever higher. You’re wearing five or six layers of clothing, including both a wool hat and a balaclava that cover so much of your face that you are unrecognizable to any other than your closest loved ones. You’re wearing mittens so thick that they render your hands useless except for hanging on to your hiking poles. Up ahead, you see a long line of bobbing lights and you realize they are the headlamps of all the other people also working their way slowly to the Roof of Africa, looking like a procession of giant fireflies. It’s still dark when you reach Gilman’s Point on the rim of the crater, and you only have 500 meters to go to make it to Uhuru Peak, the very top of the mountain. Those 500 meters take you over an hour, though, at your trudging pace. You feel that your life is dependent on the skills and decisions of the two guides who have led you the whole way and have already accomplished this feat dozens of times or more, and will do it many dozens of times more. With luck, you make it and see the most beautiful sunrise over the glaciers, above the clouds, with the moon still hanging in the sky. You are breathless from the beauty and the happiness at achieving the summit after more than seven days of hiking – not to mention the low level of oxygen. And you’re sad about having to leave the summit so soon, even though both your guides and your queasy stomach tell you it’s time to go down.
That was our summit experience on our recent trip to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s tallest mountain at 19,340 feet. In celebration of my partner’s 40th birthday, he and I decided to join the 25,000-plus people who make this climb each year. He had dreamed of making this trek since age ten, after seeing a PBS documentary on it, and he spent nearly two years planning the trip – doing extensive research to choose the best guiding company, route, and timing for us. On May 31st, led by our excellent guides Leo and Felix from Team Kilimanjaro, we started our trek up the mountain. We were joined by a Canadian friend of ours currently living in Kenya, as well as twelve extremely capable porters (which sounds like a lot of support staff, but is fairly standard for a group of three climbers).
Learning to Eat Ants with Students in the Desolation Wilderness, CA
Gregg Treinish is ASC's founder and executive director and has been named National Geographic Adventurer of the Year (2008) and National Geographic Emerging Explorer (2013). Gregg recently led a group of students from Marin Academy on the "High Sierra Climate Change Traverse" in the Desolation Wilderness.
We are sitting 3000 feet above the valley floor on a ridge and have been searching for rare plants for more than two hours. If there is any hope of reaching the summit of Dick’s peak today, we need to move.
We yell for Albert, our “leader of the day”, to join us on the cliff’s edge.
“What do you think about wrapping up here?” I ask,
“But, we haven’t finished counting plants yet.” he responds, “we’re only at 3,000”
This is in a nutshell why I love working with students on adventure-science expeditions. They always seem to bring an unrivaled enthusiasm for the task at hand and an unwavering curiosity about the world around.
“One great experience that we shared with Nikki and Jeff [our ASC guides] was when Jeff demonstrated how bears eat Thatching Ants out of the nest and we all joined the feast!” – Alberta Born-Weiss, Marin Academy Student
Luce & Dex in the Colorado Wilderness
Lucy and Dexter Harding are spending a year exploring the world around them and taking that opportunity to participate in data collection and research efforts through ASC. For July and August they are trekking in the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado searching for signs of pika and yellow monkeyflowers.
From Luce & Dex:
The Weminuche Wilderness area of the San Juan National Forest is the largest in Colorado and we've just toured a portion of it in the last ten days. It is about the moments - not the miles, probably less than 100 - and there have been many, really beautiful moments. Other hikers at the trailhead asked us where we were headed... we told them we weren't sure, but that we planned to explore and get back to the car in nine or ten days. And that we did. Let curiosity be our guide.
Seaside Marmots and A Family's Trip Around the Cook Inlet
Erin McKittrick and Bretwood Higman (Hig) are Alaskan adventurers with a love for coastlines and many thousands of miles of Alaskan wilderness under their belts. They founded the organization Ground Truth Trekking to educate and engage the public onAlaska's natural resource issues through human-powered expeditions and scientific data collection. They are accompanied on expeditions by their two small children. Erin is the author of two books on their journeys: A Long Trek Home and Small Feet, Big Land.
I've heard them called whistle-pigs. Or bear milk duds. Marmots are responsible for the piercing whistles that burst out from boulder piles along many an alpine ridge. They are the fuzzy, chubby guinea pig-like rodents, posing on rocky ledges. They are almost unreasonably cute. And we spent our whole trip searching for them.
Of course, the marmots were only a footnote. We walked and packrafted for three and a half months, tracing a line of 800 miles along the shore of Cook Inlet with our two-year-old and four-year-old children. Cook Inlet is the heart of modern Alaska. It has Native villages and Russian villages, hippie towns and tourist traps and Alaska's biggest city. Cook Inlet is our home. It's also home to oil rigs and natural gas plants, coal mine proposals, wind turbines and tidal power proposals not to mention endangered whales, abundant bears, salmon and melting glaciers. Lastly, it's home to most of Alaska's population, and hundreds of miles of nearly unpopulated wilderness.
And, quite likely, coastal marmots.
Why did we care? Truthfully, I wasn't sure at first.
Hig: "There's a researcher who's really excited about us looking for coastal marmots around the inlet. Says our trip is perfect for it."
Erin: "Is there even any such thing as a coastal marmot?"
Hig: "Well, I know there was one that lived at White Rock Beach when I was a kid, but I always thought he was kind of a fluke."
Erin (shrugging): "I guess we can keep our eyes out."
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