Spruce Tree. Fall time at tree line in Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska. Check out my insta stories today, the last day I'll be sharing behind the scenes snaps by @craigwelch, @kentapephotography and myself from our journey along the Alatna River in Alaska's Brooks Range for @natgeo.
Alatna gang at Circle Lake. Ecologist @kentapephotography, yours truly, Michael Wald guide/owner of Arctic Wild and of course, writer/rafter extraordinaire @craigwelch. This was our 7th day and last night after pack rafting and backpacking the Alatna River. The Alatna flows for roughly 184 river miles through the Brooks Range until it joins the Koyukuk River near the native village of Allakaket. It is known as one of the most beautiful rivers in the United States- which I can now verify! It was an incredible adventure, and an eye-opening look at ecological impacts that are transforming the landscape as a result of a certain species of large-toothed architectural wizard rodents (hint:rhymes with fever). I'll be posting behind the scenes pics on my instagram story today, and stay tuned for more photos when the upcoming @natgeo article is published. And a very special thanks to these three for being so patient with a river rookie like me, and most of all for being kind, fun and inspiring human beings! (and thank you Ken for standing in a hole so I look tall).
Fall time on the Alatna River in the Brooks Range of Alaska. I just got home from an incredible week long trip pack-rafting the Alatna for a @natgeo story with writer @craigwelch. We followed ecologist @kentapephotography and Michael Wald as they looked at the impacts of beavers moving north into the Arctic tundra. These little guys are transforming the landscape at a surprisingly large scale. The trip was not only amazing and gorgeous and, as always, challenging, but it was also seriously mind-opening. More to come from the story and trip this week!
Photo by @elizabethdherman during last week's daily early birthday celebrations. But today is my actual birthday! And so far I have spent the entirety of it inside a sweaty plane on the JFK tarmac eating pringles and peanuts as my birthday dinner, my cake was a packet of those biscotti things that flight attendants call cookies even though they are NOT cookies, sleeping alone in a creepy Minneapolis airport hotel, and waking up a few hours later to get on another flight, and another, and I still have one more to go! But apart from exhaustion, I'm actually feeling pretty great. I had no airport hissy fits or minor hand fractures from punching water fountains. I may or may not be embroiled in some light blackmail with Delta airlines via twitter, but otherwise I've mostly felt positive and content and amused by it all. Getting older has always been stressful for me (my family likes to remind me of the existential crisis I had when I turned 10 because it was "double digits.") But I don't know, so far mid-life seems like it's going to be alright :)
Word on the (Instagram) street is today is National wildlife day, so I'd like to introduce you to some friends, and enemies, I made this past June in Katmai National Park. They are all sub-adult (teenage) grizzlies, and that makes them curious (like the cutie in photos 1-3) and interested in testing limits. We saw the pair in photos 4 and 5 in an incredibly remote part of the park and it's very possible they had never encountered humans before. It was my first experience photographing grizzlies, and I kept a pretty decent distance. Eventually the male made what seemed like a false charge toward me, which is common, but it was definitely not false. He kept on coming! (No photos because the lens was too long-bad, bad sign). Thanks to @montainya and luck and @laura.stelson overall expedition preparation, that day became just another crazy Alaska story. And now a very healthy dose of fear accompanies my love and fascination with these amazing creatures. @natgeo#katmainps
https://on.natgeo.com/2OR8YNT Standing inside the Batagaika Crater on my last shooting day in Siberia, watching and listening to the earth and permafrost as it tumbled down towards me, has affected me in ways I have a difficult time articulating. I wish I could just take everyone there, especially those in political power, to experience it first-hand. But I am grateful that at the very least, I can share some of my photos. More photos, and an important, scary ground-breaking news story by @craigwelch, are online now on @natgeo (link in bio) about how for the first ever, there is ground in the Arctic that is no longer freezing, even in the winter. If this continues, permafrost thaw and the greenhouse gases it will release into the atmosphere will happen much sooner than scientists thought, dramatically accelerating climate change.
Caption: The Batagaika Crater in the town of Batagay, Russia, is known as the "hell crater" or the "gateway to the underworld.” Over 300 feet deep and more than half a mile long, the depression is one of the largest in the world. Scientists believe it started forming in the 1960s when the permafrost under the area began to thaw after nearby forests were cleared.
The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Captured #withgalaxy S9+, produced with @samsungmobileusa using Pro Mode at ISO 50 at 1/11876th f 1.5. This past June I joined a group of scientists and park rangers on a National Geographic Society expedition led by archeologist Laura Stelson @ through the backcountry of Alaska’s Katmai National Park. We were following in the footsteps of botanist Robert F. Griggs who led multiple National Geographic Society expeditions in the early twentieth century to explore the region and study the aftermath of the 1912 Katmai Volcanic eruption. The Nova Rupta volcano displaced the area's mainly Alutiiq indigenous population, filling their surroundings with ash flow we can still see today. Meanwhile the eruption decimated massive swaths of land, including what Griggs named the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, “The whole valley as far as the eye could reach was full of hundreds, no thousands—literally, tens of thousands—of smokes curling up from its fissured floor,” he described. After nearly two weeks hiking hundreds of miles, climbing up mountains, wading through rivers and sleeping uncomfortably close to Grizzly bears, we finally reached the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. But to be honest, after all of the amazing and challenging things we saw and experienced on our way there, as impressive as the valley is, crossing it’s 40 miles kind of felt like a cake walk :)
Yak. Siberia, 2018 on assignment for @NatGeo with writer @craigwelch. This particularly friendly yak is one of the dozens of animals currently roaming around @pleistocenepark. Pleistocene Park is a nature reserve, research station and long-term scientific experiment located along the Kolyma river in the northeast of Siberia. The park was created by renowned Russian scientist Sergey Zimov and is run by both Sergey and his son Nikita. The Zimovs believe that by recreating the ecosystem of the Pleistocene era, which was dominated by grasslands and large mammals, they can slow down permafrost thaw and it's inevitable mass emission of greenhouse gases.
On my layover in Yakutsk, Siberia on assignment for @natgeo we stopped by the "Kingdom of Permafrost" museum, a tourist attraction that entails walking through permafrost tunnels dug into the side of a hill decorated with psychedelic lights and ice sculptures. Yakutsk is one of the only cities in the world built entirely on permafrost, a layer of frozen soil that spans the global North and up until recently remained completely frozen all year round.