Imagine spending two months on a glacier in the Alaskan wilderness, away from shelter and modern conveniences, looking for signs of climate change and documenting what you find. Now imagine bringing your baby and toddler along, carrying them and all your gear, food, and diapers every step of the way.
Scientists and authors Erin McKittrick and her husband Bretwood Higman conceived and carried out this audacious plan in the fall of 2011, and will be in Tacoma tonight and in Seattle on Monday, December 3, to give a presentation about their experiences. (See below for event information.)
McKittrick and Higman will share breathtaking photography and tell stories from their expedition (get a preview of their photos here). You can expect to hear how they dealt with the major logistical challenges of carrying over 45 pounds of children plus gear and food to keep the family fed, dry and safe. They set up base camps to make the journey more feasible, and had to take into account how to deal with grizzly bears and other dangers of life on a glacier.
Taking young kids on such a trek also brought them some unexpected pleasures. As McKittrick says, “Traveling with two young kids forced us to take everything much more slowly than we would have on our own. As a result, we saw so many incredible things we'd never have noticed if we'd been moving at adult speed. Not just the delights in seeing things through their eyes, but for ourselves as well."
Higman and McKittrick followed in the spirit of the early explorers of the area, making observations and taking note of their environment. They found that some locations of the Malaspina Glacier’s dynamic landscape had altered drastically due to climate change; maps of the area were obsolete and useless.
This was not the first inspiring wilderness trek for the couple. In 2007, they left on a human-powered journey from Seattle through British Columbia to the Aleutian Islands, finishing in the winter of 2008. McKittrick’s book about their experience, A Long Trek Home: 4000 Miles by Boot, Raft and Ski, was published by the Mountaineers in 2009. They run the non-profit Ground Truth Trekking, which is dedicated to educating the public about natural resource issues in Alaska.
If you go ...
Mckittrick and Higman will are giving two free upcoming talks on "Life on Ice."
- Thursday, Nov. 29, 7 p.m. (today!) at University of Puget Sound, Wheelock Student Center, room 101, Tacoma
- Monday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. at the Mountaineers Program Center, 7700 Sand Point Way NE in Seattle. The program is free and open to the public.
Photo credits: Erin McKittrick, Bretwood Higman, Ground Truth Trekking