The 1899 Harriman Expedition Retraced

October 20, 2001

Roberta Foster, October 2001

Roberta Foster is a teacher of gifted and talented students in Mount Olive Township, New Jersey. She won a trip on The Harriman Expedition Retraced expedition by entering a drawing sponsored by the National Geographic Society through their Geography Bee and donated by Zegrahm Expeditions. We asked her for her impressions of the journey.

For two weeks this past summer, I was one of the luckiest women in the world. I had won a ticket on The Harriman Expedition Retraced, a voyage that combined much of the best scenery, wildlife, and history that Alaska has to offer with the reenactment of a historic venture undertaken a century ago. It's easy to come to Alaska and be impressed; it's another thing entirely to be informed at the same time.

A typical day included timely lectures or slide presentations on the historical or scientific significance of the landing we were about to make, wonderful meals and snacks, and trips ashore. Often we went by Zodiac. These nimble little boats provided speedy access to otherwise unreachable areas such as seabird rookeries, intertidal ecosystems, and remote beaches. In towns we generally had a pier landing and bus shuttle service from the ship to sites of interest. We always had choices described to us, all equally enticing: long, medium, or short walks focusing on history or nature and led by the experts on board.

A very untypical day occurred early in the voyage. It was the day that native artifacts, collected a hundred years ago by the original Harriman expedition, were to be returned to their rightful owners, members of the Tlingit tribe. Edward Harriman, in the spirit of anthropological inquiry common in his era, had taken totem poles, carvings, and other artifacts from what he assumed was an abandoned beachside village at Cape Fox. When it became known that the objects had spiritual and ancestral significance to the Tlingits, plans were made to return them. The importance of this repatriation was evident as we arrived at Cape Fox, many of us exhilarated by our first Zodiac ride, to find Tlingit representatives greeting us with stately and moving drum beats and chants. Each of us had the opportunity to add a piece of bread as an offering to the ceremonial fire that had been built on the very beach visited by the Harriman Expedition a century ago.

Later that day we docked in Ketchikan for the actual transfer of the ancestral objects from the ship. Quite a crowd awaited us, many in traditional native garments. Flags were flying, TV news cameras were covering the event, and there was a feeling of excitement. On our deck were many huge wooden crates containing the objects that had been collected from five museums. The crates were removed to the pier by crane where they were opened, inspected, and greeted by Tlingit elders. It was a very emotional scene.

Repatriation was clearly the most significant and solemn event of the trip, but many aspects of the expedition matched it in impact. One cannot exaggerate the stunning natural beauty of Alaska. Each morning brings a new and unexpected view out the porthole, from the startling color of glacial water (like milky jade), misty snow-topped mountains, lush forests of hemlock and spruce, astonishing glaciers of dazzling blue ice, and captivating creatures not commonly viewed in the "Lower 48": humpback whales, sea otters, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, brown and black bears, and a staggering assortment of pelagic and shore birds. I think I doubled my birder's life list during this trip.

Viewing and identifying Alaskan flora and fauna were not left to chance or speculation; expert naturalists were on hand at all times to direct our attention to the air, sea, or shore for a noteworthy sighting and to explain with infinite patience the difference between a seal and a sea lion or a horned puffin and a tufted puffin. Ashore, they led nature walks, and their explanations of sights along the way brought wonder to mosses and flowers and land features that could easily be overlooked without an expert to bring them to our attention.

Certainly one of the most valuable features on this trip was the presence of these naturalists, scholars, and other experts who were readily available to explain what we were about to see, what we were seeing, and what we had seen. This trip provided the unique opportunity not only to view the mountains and glaciers, explore the towns, tour the fisheries and oil pipeline terminal, but also to meet and talk with the native Alaskans, examine intertidal ecosystems at close range, walk on a glacier, and be able to identify wildflowers, pelagic creatures, and geological formations - certainly not the sort of activities associated with the typical Alaskan cruise.

These authorities presented many of the controversial and contradictory issues that confront Alaska: this beautiful and pristine region is also the source of precious oil and timber; the unspoiled nature of the landscape is also the very thing that brings in thousands of tourists; the delicate balance of Alaska's ecosystem is threatened by the industries that provide a livelihood to many of its people; the conservation laws that control hunting and fishing threaten the subsistence lifestyle of the natives who have lived in Alaska for millennia. There are no easy answers, and the editorial pages of Alaskan newspapers make for interesting reading.

As a teacher I will have much to share with my classes this year thanks to my lucky win. In addition to viewing dozens of my slides, my students will learn about the native cultures and wildlife of Alaska, simulate the frustrations and thrills of the Klondike gold rush, and debate the complex issues facing this state. Although I was the only winner of the prize awarded by Zegrahm, many students will get to share my prize.

Nordic Summer: Journey into the Ice

October 20, 2001

Nadia Eckhardt, October 2001

For those of us accustomed to life in more temperate climes, the word "summer" evokes a particular set of images and activities. Among these are trips to the beach, barbecue dinners, and, of course, long, long hours of daylight. Well, if you love the gifts of the season, but want to experience them from a new perspective, we offer summer's bounty in an entirely new setting.

On our Nordic Summer expeditions, departing 27 June 2002 aboard the M/S Endeavour, you will witness beaches as you've never seen them, crowded not with lifeguards, sun worshippers, and swimmers, but with kittiwakes, fulmars, and walrus. You'll enjoy your barbecue on deck in the crisp northern air, and if you love long summer days, nowhere are they longer than above the Arctic Circle. In addition, you'll sail beautifully carved fjords, explore wondrous archeological sites, gaze upon Europe's largest seabird colonies, experience the vast array of Arctic mammals - seals, walrus, whales, and more. Moreover, you'll behold the grandeur of endless ice fields.

Split into two parts, Nordic Summer links our popular Britain and Spitsbergen programs with the exciting destination of Norway. The first leg travels from the Scottish Isles to Norway, the second from North Cape to the islands of Svalbard. Both itineraries introduce a wealth of natural and cultural discoveries to the adventurous traveler.

Our journey began in Scotland's capital city of Edinburgh. After a day perusing the sights of both the city and Perth, the former seat of Scottish kings, we set sail for the Orkney and Shetland Islands. These isles are archeological treasure troves containing some of the best-preserved Neolithic sites in northern Europe.

From the Shetlands, we sailed north, plying the same route as the Vikings of old. Our early morning entrance into Raunefjorden afforded us our first, breathtaking look at Norway's legendary fjords. Tiny cottages nestled among towering pines, all perched on the sides of steep hills that flowed directly into the fjord.

We spent the next six days experiencing the diverse wonders of coastal Norway, including the spectacular Tokagjelet Gorge and Folgefonna Glacier, the picturesque towns of Alesund and Kjerringoy, and the islands of Runde and Rost, home to millions of nesting seabirds. The first leg of our journey ended at Nordkapp (North Cape), the northernmost point of land on the continent.

The second part of our voyage ventured into the sea ice of Arctic Norway. The dense, shifting sea ice allowed us to conduct this portion of the itinerary in true expeditionary fashion. As the ice-hardened M/S Explorer made its way to Svalbard, we kept a sharp lookout in the Arctic light for polar bears. We had seen seals, walrus, fin whales, and more than 230 species of birds, but a glimpse of the much-coveted bears had eluded us.

Then, five days out of port, success. We had just been served the main course at dinner when Tim was called away. He returned and whispered, "We've got polar bears up ahead." Now, would our passengers be willing to forego the highlight of their meal for bears? Of course. I announced that we were approaching polar bears, and the next few minutes were joyous bedlam as passengers grabbed hats, parkas, binoculars, and cameras and hurried to the deck.

Our captain slowly maneuvered our ship forward, our hull crunching through the ice, until we were within 100 meters of our prize, a mother and two cubs. Amazed, passengers took hundreds of photographs. Our only worry, that the chef would be upset at our ignoring his exquisite meal, was allayed when we spied him on the crowded deck, camera in hand, happily snapping away.

Over the ensuing days, we sighted six more polar bears, an impressive total. Spotting animals in the wild is often a chancy affair, but as Louis Pasteur noted, "Chance favors the prepared mind." Our intensive preparations and constant vigilance paid off. The result was one of the special moments that embody the very spirit of adventure travel.

Nordic Summer was replete with memorable images and moments. From the archeological wonders of northern Scotland to the ice-covered islands of Svalbard; from idyllic fishing hamlets to the remnants of polar expeditions; from the stunning profusion of birdlife to the wealth of Arctic marine mammals, Nordic Summer can stand with the very finest expeditions Zegrahm presents.

The 1899 Harriman Expedition Retraced

October 19, 2001 | Tags: Americas

Roberta Foster, October 2001

Roberta Foster is a teacher of gifted and talented students in Mount Olive Township, New Jersey. She won a trip on The Harriman Expedition Retraced expedition by entering a drawing sponsored by the National Geographic Society through their Geography Bee and donated by Zegrahm Expeditions. We asked her for her impressions of the journey.

For two weeks this past summer, I was one of the luckiest women in the world. I had won a ticket on The Harriman Expedition Retraced, a voyage that combined much of the best scenery, wildlife, and history that Alaska has to offer with the reenactment of a historic venture undertaken a century ago. It's easy to come to Alaska and be impressed; it's another thing entirely to be informed at the same time.

A typical day included timely lectures or slide presentations on the historical or scientific significance of the landing we were about to make, wonderful meals and snacks, and trips ashore. Often we went by Zodiac. These nimble little boats provided speedy access to otherwise unreachable areas such as seabird rookeries, intertidal ecosystems, and remote beaches. In towns we generally had a pier landing and bus shuttle service from the ship to sites of interest. We always had choices described to us, all equally enticing: long, medium, or short walks focusing on history or nature and led by the experts on board.

A very untypical day occurred early in the voyage. It was the day that native artifacts, collected a hundred years ago by the original Harriman expedition, were to be returned to their rightful owners, members of the Tlingit tribe. Edward Harriman, in the spirit of anthropological inquiry common in his era, had taken totem poles, carvings, and other artifacts from what he assumed was an abandoned beachside village at Cape Fox. When it became known that the objects had spiritual and ancestral significance to the Tlingits, plans were made to return them. The importance of this repatriation was evident as we arrived at Cape Fox, many of us exhilarated by our first Zodiac ride, to find Tlingit representatives greeting us with stately and moving drum beats and chants. Each of us had the opportunity to add a piece of bread as an offering to the ceremonial fire that had been built on the very beach visited by the Harriman Expedition a century ago.

Later that day we docked in Ketchikan for the actual transfer of the ancestral objects from the ship. Quite a crowd awaited us, many in traditional native garments. Flags were flying, TV news cameras were covering the event, and there was a feeling of excitement. On our deck were many huge wooden crates containing the objects that had been collected from five museums. The crates were removed to the pier by crane where they were opened, inspected, and greeted by Tlingit elders. It was a very emotional scene.

Repatriation was clearly the most significant and solemn event of the trip, but many aspects of the expedition matched it in impact. One cannot exaggerate the stunning natural beauty of Alaska. Each morning brings a new and unexpected view out the porthole, from the startling color of glacial water (like milky jade), misty snow-topped mountains, lush forests of hemlock and spruce, astonishing glaciers of dazzling blue ice, and captivating creatures not commonly viewed in the "Lower 48": humpback whales, sea otters, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, brown and black bears, and a staggering assortment of pelagic and shore birds. I think I doubled my birder's life list during this trip.

Viewing and identifying Alaskan flora and fauna were not left to chance or speculation; expert naturalists were on hand at all times to direct our attention to the air, sea, or shore for a noteworthy sighting and to explain with infinite patience the difference between a seal and a sea lion or a horned puffin and a tufted puffin. Ashore, they led nature walks, and their explanations of sights along the way brought wonder to mosses and flowers and land features that could easily be overlooked without an expert to bring them to our attention.

Certainly one of the most valuable features on this trip was the presence of these naturalists, scholars, and other experts who were readily available to explain what we were about to see, what we were seeing, and what we had seen. This trip provided the unique opportunity not only to view the mountains and glaciers, explore the towns, tour the fisheries and oil pipeline terminal, but also to meet and talk with the native Alaskans, examine intertidal ecosystems at close range, walk on a glacier, and be able to identify wildflowers, pelagic creatures, and geological formations - certainly not the sort of activities associated with the typical Alaskan cruise.

These authorities presented many of the controversial and contradictory issues that confront Alaska: this beautiful and pristine region is also the source of precious oil and timber; the unspoiled nature of the landscape is also the very thing that brings in thousands of tourists; the delicate balance of Alaska's ecosystem is threatened by the industries that provide a livelihood to many of its people; the conservation laws that control hunting and fishing threaten the subsistence lifestyle of the natives who have lived in Alaska for millennia. There are no easy answers, and the editorial pages of Alaskan newspapers make for interesting reading.

As a teacher I will have much to share with my classes this year thanks to my lucky win. In addition to viewing dozens of my slides, my students will learn about the native cultures and wildlife of Alaska, simulate the frustrations and thrills of the Klondike gold rush, and debate the complex issues facing this state. Although I was the only winner of the prize awarded by Zegrahm, many students will get to share my prize.

Nordic Summer: Journey into the Ice

October 19, 2001 | Tags: Arctic, Europe

Nadia Eckhardt, October 2001

For those of us accustomed to life in more temperate climes, the word "summer" evokes a particular set of images and activities. Among these are trips to the beach, barbecue dinners, and, of course, long, long hours of daylight. Well, if you love the gifts of the season, but want to experience them from a new perspective, we offer summer's bounty in an entirely new setting.

On our Nordic Summer expeditions, departing 27 June 2002 aboard the M/S Endeavour, you will witness beaches as you've never seen them, crowded not with lifeguards, sun worshippers, and swimmers, but with kittiwakes, fulmars, and walrus. You'll enjoy your barbecue on deck in the crisp northern air, and if you love long summer days, nowhere are they longer than above the Arctic Circle. In addition, you'll sail beautifully carved fjords, explore wondrous archeological sites, gaze upon Europe's largest seabird colonies, experience the vast array of Arctic mammals - seals, walrus, whales, and more. Moreover, you'll behold the grandeur of endless ice fields.

Split into two parts, Nordic Summer links our popular Britain and Spitsbergen programs with the exciting destination of Norway. The first leg travels from the Scottish Isles to Norway, the second from North Cape to the islands of Svalbard. Both itineraries introduce a wealth of natural and cultural discoveries to the adventurous traveler.

Our journey began in Scotland's capital city of Edinburgh. After a day perusing the sights of both the city and Perth, the former seat of Scottish kings, we set sail for the Orkney and Shetland Islands. These isles are archeological treasure troves containing some of the best-preserved Neolithic sites in northern Europe.

From the Shetlands, we sailed north, plying the same route as the Vikings of old. Our early morning entrance into Raunefjorden afforded us our first, breathtaking look at Norway's legendary fjords. Tiny cottages nestled among towering pines, all perched on the sides of steep hills that flowed directly into the fjord.

We spent the next six days experiencing the diverse wonders of coastal Norway, including the spectacular Tokagjelet Gorge and Folgefonna Glacier, the picturesque towns of Alesund and Kjerringoy, and the islands of Runde and Rost, home to millions of nesting seabirds. The first leg of our journey ended at Nordkapp (North Cape), the northernmost point of land on the continent.

The second part of our voyage ventured into the sea ice of Arctic Norway. The dense, shifting sea ice allowed us to conduct this portion of the itinerary in true expeditionary fashion. As the ice-hardened M/S Explorer made its way to Svalbard, we kept a sharp lookout in the Arctic light for polar bears. We had seen seals, walrus, fin whales, and more than 230 species of birds, but a glimpse of the much-coveted bears had eluded us.

Then, five days out of port, success. We had just been served the main course at dinner when Tim was called away. He returned and whispered, "We've got polar bears up ahead." Now, would our passengers be willing to forego the highlight of their meal for bears? Of course. I announced that we were approaching polar bears, and the next few minutes were joyous bedlam as passengers grabbed hats, parkas, binoculars, and cameras and hurried to the deck.

Our captain slowly maneuvered our ship forward, our hull crunching through the ice, until we were within 100 meters of our prize, a mother and two cubs. Amazed, passengers took hundreds of photographs. Our only worry, that the chef would be upset at our ignoring his exquisite meal, was allayed when we spied him on the crowded deck, camera in hand, happily snapping away.

Over the ensuing days, we sighted six more polar bears, an impressive total. Spotting animals in the wild is often a chancy affair, but as Louis Pasteur noted, "Chance favors the prepared mind." Our intensive preparations and constant vigilance paid off. The result was one of the special moments that embody the very spirit of adventure travel.

Nordic Summer was replete with memorable images and moments. From the archeological wonders of northern Scotland to the ice-covered islands of Svalbard; from idyllic fishing hamlets to the remnants of polar expeditions; from the stunning profusion of birdlife to the wealth of Arctic marine mammals, Nordic Summer can stand with the very finest expeditions Zegrahm presents.

Assessing the Risk: How Safe is Safe?

July 20, 2001

Werner Zehnder, July 2001

Safety is an issue that arises when considering adventure travel. Our far-flung expeditions often journey in or near regions that, for one reason or another, are considered dangerous. Passengers will sometimes call our offices inquiring, for instance, "How safe are we traveling in the Philippines or the Middle East?" These concerns are important and valid and I wish to address them from the standpoint of Zegrahm Expeditions' philosophy and procedures, as well as my personal observations.

First, our passengers' well-being is paramount. We plan our expeditions with the utmost care, weighing a number of factors when selecting destinations. Safety is chief among these. We consult government officials, representatives from the private sector, and even researchers conducting fieldwork. Program managers and expedition leaders conduct scouting trips, both to select optimum routes and sites, and to judge the lay of the land. Obviously, we do not send travelers into war zones or areas where civilization has collapsed. Rest assured, we would never send anyone to a region where we would not go ourselves.

Perceptions can run counter to reality, a situation often abetted by the media and, in this case, by the United States government. My wife Susan and I recently experienced this dichotomy firsthand during a trip to the Middle East, Indonesia, and the Philippines, three areas currently perceived as perilous. Our purpose in visiting the Middle East was to scout for upcoming expeditions. To this end, we visited several countries in the region, including Iran, a nation that has recently opened its borders to tourism. For many Americans, the word "Iran" conjures images of militant protesters burning the American flag. The State Department reinforces this perception; a Travel Warning posted on their web site warns U.S. citizens to "defer travel to Iran" because "...hostility to the United States remains in some segments of the Iranian population."

Let us place this in an appropriate context. The hostage crisis was over twenty years ago; a generation has been born and achieved its majority since then. Times, and governments, change. Furthermore, the State Department's warning is dated 14 September 1999, not exactly an up-to-the-minute report. Hostility? We encountered none. On the contrary, we were very warmly received by the Iranian people.

Departing the Middle East, Susan and I flew to Indonesia to join an expedition traveling through Sulawesi and the Philippines. You may have seen the headlines regarding these countries: "Indonesia Poised for New Round of Turmoil," "Philippines President Says Coup Plans 'Fizzled Out.'" The State Department cautions, "A series of security-related incidents has made travel unsafe in certain areas of the Philippines," and "American citizens resident or traveling in Indonesia are advised to exercise caution at all times..."

I am not suggesting that one disregards these warnings as false. Taking proper caution is essential in adventure travel. These areas are potentially volatile and we take this into account; planning and common sense mitigate possible danger. As an illustration, consider Seattle, where I live. Seattle is a relatively peaceful city. Yet, like any big city, Seattle has its seedier areas. Do I tell my friends that visiting Seattle is unsafe? Certainly not. They should merely avoid unsafe areas at inopportune times.

Apply this reasoning to the Philippines. Yes, Muslim insurgents occupy a couple of islands in its southern reaches. But remember, the Philippines comprise 7,000 islands, the vast majority of which are perfectly safe. We did not put ourselves or our passengers in harm's way by hobnobbing with revolutionaries; rather, we availed ourselves of the wonders offered by the thousands of other islands in the archipelago. The result was a magnificent expedition. Had we avoided the Philippines entirely, we would have denied ourselves a most pleasurable and enriching experience.

We strive to assemble as complete a picture of a country as possible, drawing from a number of sources. When reading media reports or government missives, we always consider their motivations. The media are controlled by large, for-profit corporations. They must make money, and danger sells; their focus will always be on the dramatic. The State Department has an obligation to be overly conservative when issuing advisories. Also, these advisories are often politically motivated to enforce current foreign policy. Let us return to the Seattle analogy. The city has certainly made headlines during the past few years-WTO demonstrations, Mardi Gras riots, an earthquake. A foreign country could very well issue a Travel Warning for Seattle based on these. Would they be correct in doing so? No, because these events are only a very small, transitory part of living in Seattle.

In closing, let me say that Zegrahm Expeditions constantly monitors situations around the world. If you have questions about a region's safety, please call us and we will offer our frank appraisal. It is an important element in our ongoing mission to offer the best in expeditionary travel to the remote parts of our world.