Tomorrow I board the first of three flights out of Boston that will take me to Otaru, Japan on the west coast of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. From here I’ll begin the first of three voyages to explore the Russian Far East, the Bering Sea and Alaska.
The initial expedition will explore the Sea of Okhotsk including Sakhalin Island, the eastern Siberian Coast, the western coast of the Kamchatka Peninsula, and the Kuril Islands. The ship will end up back in Otaru after 19 days cruising around the Sea of Okhotsk. Along the way, I hope to see smoking volcanoes, remote Russian and indigenous cultures, and wildlife like the massive Steller’s Sea Eagle, Arctic foxes, and sea otters.
The second voyage will take us back up through the Kuril Islands and then outside the Kamchatka Peninsula to begin island hopping across the Bering Sea through the Aleutian island chain. We will visit Attu, the western most point in the United States, Dutch Harbor (well-known to fans of the “Deadliest Catch” TV show), and finally the stunning Katmai National Park. This second voyage ends in Seward, Alaska.
The final two weeks in the North Pacific Ocean will take me even farther up the Alaskan coast, almost all the way to the Arctic Circle, and into the Chukchi Sea. This expedition should reveal calving glaciers, bears scavenging the shoreline at low tide, and thousands of seabirds. The ship will also call in at Big Diomede Island where Russia and the US are separated by about one mile of open ocean, and by the International Date Line. I’ll literally be able to look into yesterday on Little Diomede Island – one mile to the west and 23 hours behind. But right now, this is making my head hurt to think about…
Meanwhile, my camera batteries are charged up, memory cards are formatted, and the lenses are cleaned and ready to go. I’m itching to get out into the Zodiacs and look for rivers full of salmon, whales, wolves, ptarmigan, bears, sea lions, puffins, auklets, and albatross. And unlike Antarctica, where I spent my winter months, these lands are home to both indigenous and modern people who live off the land by herding reindeer, foraging, and fishing for salmon.
I expect to go in with eyes wide open and to learn all I can from the fascinating people and the wild, remote places soon to come.