Saturday, 6 September 2008

Update from the Field 3: A Change of Plans

And yet another update, minutes after the last. My fingers, unused to typing by now, are still aching!

Yesterday I had to make a big decision; one that was really tough to take. As mentioned earlier, I was hoping to visit Katmai National Park and Preserve, being invited by Chris and Ken Day of Emerald Air Services, to learn about the grizzlies there and, even more important, about the grizzly hunt that was reinstated there last year. This was a story that I really hoped to be able to add to the project because there is so much in it that shows how people treat their fellow species in the community of life and how every species other than humans is not much more (and not seldomly less) than a commodity.

Honestly, I have looked forward anxiously to this for months. However, to my great regret I had to cancel the appointment. Problems with internet and e-mail made making a final appointment with Chris and Ken very difficult and that is why it was not entirely certain if the meeting could happen as planned until a few days ago. But then, after some careful calculations of the costs of the kilometres, the available time and especially the available money, it became clear that travelling to Homer, where Chris and Ken are based, is just out of reach.

The lack of money is by far the biggest culprit. The last few months before this Fieldwork Period, things went rather bad financially. A number of photography assignments that I was counting on were postponed – hopefully to be picked up soon after I return home - and a few unexpected large-ish sums had to be paid for this and that. In the end it got so bad that during the last two months before the journey started I had to take up a temporary job filling shelves in a supermarket in the extremely early and late hours of the day. Some nice colleagues aside, I found it a terrible job. However, it provided me enough material to hopefully one day soon write an article about supermarkets. Believe me, there is LOTS to think about!
Regardless, I had to let Chris and Ken know that I could not come. I will do my best to interview them soon by phone to learn as much as possible that way, regrettably without the great advantage of actually seeing the bears in the park, and hope that it will be possible to meet them next year!

That leaves us with about three more weeks though. Rest assured, it will be spent usefully! There is a new plan already, which in a way merely extends a part of the journey that we already really wanted to make: the Dempster Highway. We planned to do only a few kilometres, but now we will be able to make that a bit more, if conditions allow it.

This highway, supposedly, is much less developed than Highway 37 (see previous posts) and according to some books it is a destination on its own (fitting nicely with the idea that life is not about destination, but about the journey). It leads roughly from Dawson City all the way past the Arctic Circle to Inuvik in Northwest Territories. The road leads through mountains and tundra and permafrost supports much of the Highway. Or it used to… Since climate change is picking up, the permafrost is melting in places and this affects the road surface heavily in some parts. With care, it should be possible to travel on it for at least some distance though.

How far we will be able to go North is uncertain and just as much limited by financial reasons as the trip into Alaska would have been. But travelling through such a remote place will certainly be a great learning experience and hopefully it will give opportunities to meet Native people, because so far I have not had real contact with any during this trip.

Internet will be even rarer there, so when the next update will be published is far from certain, but I like the idea that I have no idea what kind of story it will be when it comes!

Until then,

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