Archive for the travel Category

My job

Posted in alaska, antarctica, icebergs, photography, sea kayaking, travel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 7, 2013 by polarguide

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I have a unique set of skills that don’t lend themselves to consistent employment.  As a result my life is diverse and adventurous. I can’t always predict what will come next and I like it that way. I flow from one season, one country, one job, to the next. Like the tide rushing in to meet land again, then retreating slowly, floating away every stick or stump that has been ditched on the beach by the tide before, for the sake of memory, then abandoning them again on some other distant shore.

Sometimes it feels very insecure.  I don’t make much money and I travel often. This strains my relationships and sometimes makes finding work more difficult. People are less willing to commit to me personally and professionally because they know within a few months I will be leaving. That lack of commitment goes both ways.

I have been a massage therapist for fifteen years.  Massage makes up at least fifty percent of my annual income.  I have worked at sports clubs, fitness centers and chiropractic offices from philadelphia to Alaska. I’ve done massage while sailing through Beaufort 9 storms on ships in the Norwegian Arctic, through the legendary northwest passage of the Canadian Arctic and Antarctica.  Surprisingly, massage has carried me across the sea to some of the most remote parts of the world.

I have been a wilderness expedition guide for almost as long as I have been a massage therapist. In the summer I guide mainly sea kayak expeditions into remote parts of south east Alaska.  Guiding has allowed me to experience and learn things about the natural world that I always dreamed of as a child and gives me the opportunity to share and teach. It allows me  to follow another one of my passions, wildlife photography.

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Paddling below Mt. St. Elias. Wrangell St. Elias national park, Alaska

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Wrangell St. Elias national park, Alaska

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Me and co-guide Ken with our guests in front of the Guyot glacier.

I recently received my captains license. In between sea kayak expeditions  I captain a thirty foot aluminum boat named Taurus, that acts as a water taxi, delivering people to remote parts of south east Alaska.

The Taurus, loaded with kayaks and ready for a water taxi run.

The Taurus, loaded with kayaks and ready for a water taxi run.

My job working on a ship in Antarctica is the only place where all of my random skills, Massage therapist, kayak guide and boat captain, are unified. I suppose you could say I become complete, in a very narrow sense.

It takes two days for our ship to sail from Ushuaia, Argentina to Antarctica. During those days at sea I’m the massage therapist on board the ship.  I offer a variety of massage modalities to the passengers to meet their relaxation or pain therapy needs.   Arriving in Antarctica we offer two excursions off the ship each day to view amazing landscapes and exotic wildlife.  Passengers have the option of  going to shore via inflatable zodiac or going on a sea kayak excursion through the icebergs.  On these days I split my time between kayak guiding and zodiac pilot.

The Akademik Ioffee in Antarctica

The Akademik Ioffee in Antarctica

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Kayaking through a snow storm in Antarctica

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Zodiac cruising among giant ice bergs in Antarctica

Intertwined with all of this work and travel I am slowly building a home.  for years it’s been my dream to buy a piece of land and build a small home, myself.  Paid for out of pocket, no debt.  I have begun to realize that dream, all my spare time and money is dedicated to seeing it become a reality.

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I’m feeling the need to consolidate my skills and contain them geographically. This gives me sense of peace and anxiety.  The thought of being less diverse and less mobile is unappealing.  Continuing on my current course seems unsustainable.  I’m at a cross road.

More than once in my life I’ve steered into what felt like a dead end, then navigated ninety degrees from everything and everyone in my life.  Its hard to do, but it has its rewards.    Im not looking for anything that drastic now.  Its time for a change, but not a sea change.

I have never been fully conscious of  exactly what motivates me, only that I am motivated.  My best  perspective of the past is found by exploring where I am today.  The consequence of my motivation is in league with coincidence.

I need to meditate on the genesis of my motivation. Distill all of this experience and crystalize it into what comes next.

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Large, small scale building projects 2

Posted in alaska, deer hunting, fishing, hunting, photography, sitka deer, travel, wildlife with tags , , , , , , , on October 25, 2013 by polarguide

The summer has ended and heavy sheets of rain have begun falling from the sky.  The strong winds of fall have blown me back to Juneau and I am finally getting to do a little writing.  I was hoping to write more about my building project but during the summer I don’t have electricity or access to the internet and so I wasn’t able to make regular posts.  Also, I was so busy working and trying to build that by the end of the day I was too exhausted to write.

I’m pleased with my progress.  Considering that we still have no road access and I carried nearly every board in on my back,  I am happy with the amount of work I was able to accomplish this past summer.

I completed the foundation, framed the walls, got most of them sheathed with plywood and the roof is on. I was able to get tar paper on the roof and battened down a couple of tarps.  Unless I get a windfall of money sometime soon, the tin roofing material will have to wait until next spring.

Before I button up the the project for the winter, I will have to finish sheathing all the walls with plywood and wrap the entire structure with Tyvek.  I hope to have this done by the first week in november.

Three framed walls

Three framed walls

The foundations took a long time and was alot of work.  Once I carried in all of the wood, the framing was much faster.

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Building the loft took one afternoon and the front and back walls went up super fast.

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Jeff and Katie enjoying the view from the loft.

My friend Katie helped get the roof on.  When it came time to start the roof construction I was under some pressure to get it done quickly.  The fall rain had arrived and I had to leave town.  I could have constructed the roof alone, but with Katies help it was done in half the time.

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In between bouts of building I guided five, ten day sea kayak expeditions into remote parts of south east Alaska, then captained a small water taxi transporting people across the ocean from Gustavus to the remote destinations of their choice.  Now that summer is over and fall has arrived I have moved back to Juneau and will be making weekend visits to Gustavus to weatherize the cabin before the first snow. In the mean time its hunting and fishing to fill the freezer with fresh food from the sea and forest. here are a few photos from our most recent fishing outings for salmon halibut and black cod.

Hunting day turned into a rescue mission when we found this faun swimming the ocean.

Hunting day turned into a rescue mission when we found this faun swimming the ocean.

Cold and near drowning we pulled the little guy out of the frigid ocean and dropped him on the shore of Admiralty Island.

Cold and near drowning we pulled the little guy out of the frigid ocean and dropped him on the shore of Admiralty Island.

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Jeffie and a big Halibut

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Brocklie and a bucket of salmon

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Amanda loves her some Coho salmon

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Brock reels in a big black cod!

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the big one!

Apathy or ardor

Posted in alaska, photography, travel, wildlife with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2013 by polarguide

Its that time of the year again, when after returning home from months of travel, work and adventure I have trouble motivating to do anything.  This in between time generally involves lounging on the couch drinking too much coffee, talking to my self or speaking out loud to people who aren’t present. I pace. I suffer with intermittent episodes of insomnia.  It seems the more free time I have the less organized my mind becomes and finding one thing to focus on is hopeless.

Its hard to feel inspired to photograph when I have hundreds of files full of thousands of pictures from Antarctica that I still have not organized. I have snapped only 150 images this past month. I feel photographically congested.

So this year I decided to take a new approach.  I quit the coffee.  Coffee scatters my pattern of thinking. It causes my thoughts to reel down uncharted paths that lead my mind no-where.

Also, I started a strict vegetarian diet. No eggs, cheese or dairy of any kind. Ninety five percent of my diet is fruit and  hearty colorful (mostly organic) vegetables and lots of beans. Once a week I have a meal of fresh salmon or halibut caught by local Alaskan fisherman  or deer meat that I shot and butchered myself. I also joined the local gym and I try to work out everyday.

During this phase of my year I usually hole up in my apartment for weeks at a time, rarely answering the phone and experiencing mild anxiety about spending time with friends while simultaneously feeling sorry for my self, wondering why no one ever calls me.  Lately I have been trying to socialize more. My new strategy has been to actually answer the phone and when someone invites me on a hike or to a dinner party instead of mumbling an incoherent  excuse, I bite my lip and say yes.  So far the results have been quite successful and I am remembering that I actually do have friends.

This past week I said yes twice. The first was to an invitation to go on an overnight sailing trip to Saint James Bay with three other friends.  We had a great trip with some real life adventure when we nearly flipped the thirty five foot steel hulled sail boat completely upside down. Luckily, no one was injured.  The second yes was an invitation to a simple walk on the beach on a sunny day with three lovely ladies. Here are few snap shots from both events.

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Kayaking in St. james Bay

Kayaking in St. james Bay

St. james Bay

St. james Bay

Dall's porpoise exhaling

Dall’s porpoise exhaling

Immature Bald Eagle

Immature Bald Eagle

Rowdy Stellar sea lions

Rowdy Stellar sea lions

It seems silly to lament these things, these journeys into the heart of apathy are a necessary rest period.   Soon it will all change. Three more weeks and my sea kayak guiding season begins, then I will be on the move for another three months and life will be a parade of new people, wilderness adventure and wildlife photography.

Falkland Islands

Posted in antarctica, Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island, tourism, travel, Uncategorized, wildlife with tags , , on February 3, 2013 by polarguide

We are in Stanley today, the capital city of the Falkland Islands.  We made two landings yesterday at remote homesteads, one on West Point Island where a family runs a small sheep farm and a large number of Black browed Albatross come to nest alongside Rockhopper penguins. Then on carcass island where a large number of striated cars-cara nest.  This will be my last connection to internet for the next two weeks. I only have two photos to post, enjoy!

Striated Cara-cara

Striated Cara-cara

Mating Pair of Black Browed Albatross

Mating Pair of Black Browed Albatross

Passing through

Posted in antarctica, Leopard seal, photography, tourism, travel, wildlife on January 31, 2013 by polarguide

I am in Ushuia today.  I just finished a 12 day voyage to the Antarctic peninsula.  The entire voyage was sub-chartered by a group of British photographers.  We had great weather and amazing wildlife encounters. The most notable was curious humpback whale that swam with our zodiacs and played with us as if we were toys in a bath tub.

I have some outstanding under water video of the evenr, if I can figure out how to down load it to this site I will.

In the mean time here are a few of my favorite images from the last voyage.

I will be leaving in two hours for another voyage to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and Antarctica.

Iceberg

Iceberg

Leapord seal on ice

Leapord seal on ice

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Leapord seal on ice

Iceberg

Iceberg

Antarctic Ice

Posted in antarctica, icebergs, photography, tourism, travel, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on January 18, 2013 by polarguide

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The ice in Antarctica can reflect some of the most intense shades of blue I have ever seen.  Its a color seen almost nowhere else in nature.  High over cast days are the best to try and capture the deepest blues.  The blue coupled with the textures created by erosion of the ice from water and wind make icebergs limitless subject for photographic exploration. These are two of my favorite iceberg photos from my last Antarctic voyage.

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South Georgia Island Reindeer

Posted in South Georgia Island, travel, Uncategorized, wildlife with tags , , , , on January 18, 2013 by polarguide
Reindeer and king penguin

Reindeer and king penguin

Between 1911 and 1912  seventeen Norwegian reindeer were introduced to South Georgia Island as a food source for whalers working on the Island.  This introduction is one of only two successfull introductions of reindeer to the southern hemisphere.

By the 1950s the population of reindeer had risen to over 3000 animals.  With most of the island being comprised of high mountains covered by glacial ice the foraging area available to the deer is limited.  Over the decades the reindeer have over grazed most of the available food source causing significant erosion.  The erosion and over grazing caused by the reindeer has had a significant negative impact on the native ground nesting bird populations.

The South Georgia government has planned the eradication of the reindeer.  Using traditional Sami’ herdring methods and sharp shooters to kill the inaccessible animals they plan to cull the entire herd by the end of this austral summer season.

Upon landing on South Georgia Island last week I came upon one of the largest herds on the island in Fortuna bay.  I sat quietly as the entire group surrounded me while grazing not far from the beach.

The eradication of the alien reindeer is necessary to return the island to its natural ecological state. But I  admit I have enjoy seeing them share the beach with fur seals and penguins.   I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to photograph these species that are ecological polar opposites thriving in the wilderness and beauty of south georgia island, for the last time.  The ship carrying the eradication team floated offshore as I shot these photos.  I will be back on South Georgia in late january, by then all of the reindeer will have already been removed.

southern fur seal and reindeer

southern fur seal and reindeer

The herd

The herd

sharing uncommon space

sharing uncommon space