Bringing tribal elders back to a tiny, jagged outcrop in the middle of the Bering Sea.
King Island, AK
Air & Marine Charters
King Island looks like something you only see in the movies. Sheer, windswept cliffs rising out of the sea. An invisible mountaintop perpetually shrouded in cloud.
And always, the fog.
About the only hint that people had ever lived here are the wooden houses perched on stilts that still cling to the side of the mountain.
But their inhabitants had been moved to the mainland over half a century ago. King Island was deemed too remote. Too exposed. Too unsafe.
Yet their abandoned village had survived all the elements. And a team of anthropologists wanted to go back and learn what life used to be like there. They wanted the names and the stories behind the places.
That added another degree of difficulty to the trip that already had its fair share of risk. There was no place a boat could dock, so everything had to come in by helicopter across the Bering Sea. And the only place those helicopters could land was hidden by clouds.
So Polar Field was called in to create a logistics plan. First, we needed a supply of fresh water, so a large water filtration unit was flown in. There had to be enough food for the entire two-week expedition. And as environmental stewards, we had to devise a method to remove waste.
The camp had to be on the top of the mountain because that was the only flat place on the island. And everything had to be constructed so 80-year-olds could use it.
That meant a roped off walkway so they could safely get down to their village. Even the tents were challenging. Typical mountaineering tents are designed for rugged explorers, not tribal elders. But taller tents could easily blow away. Substitutes had to be devised.
But in the end, it was worth it. Because taking people back to their home and the site of their culture, even if only for a visit, was the right thing to do.