A Land Time Forgot

“Alaska is a land time forgot.” -Nathan Meadows, my dad. He’s right. If you ever have the opportunity to visit Alaska, take it. It’s an adventure you would never forget. My dad has been going on adventures and photographing sharks as long as I can remember. As a child, I remember going up to Alaska a few times, either for vacation, bears, nature in general, visiting friends, or tagging along for Dad’s expeditions. On one particular expedition, we had all gone up to Valdez in our motorhome. At the time, all 8-year-old me knew is that we were in Alaska, and Mom took my brother and I to do a lot of fun things around the area. We went salmon fishing, salmon berry picking, we made salmon berry jam, took hikes, drove around, cooked fish eggs, ate ice cream when the ice cream truck came around, and went swimming for gold nuggets in an indoor pool. I didn’t see a lot of my dad on that trip, however. A few days ago, I asked him to tell me of his trip in detail, and what he did while we were having our little adventures. This is his adventure.

Awhile back, Dad went to college in Anchorage, Alaska for a degree in outdoor studies. While there, he took a marine biology class, and one discussion was about salmon sharks in Alaska. “They’re like a miniature Great White, and I was intrigued with the idea of diving with sharks in Alaska” he says, “I’ve always been drawn to places that are really off the beaten path”. He decided he wanted to dive with them one day, and later, he did. Around ten years later, he started photographing, videoing, and writing about sharks. He was on an expedition in Cabo, Mexico photographing Striped Marlin and Bryde’s Whales when he started talking to John Friday, Doug Perrine, and some others about the possibilities of diving with salmon sharks. Friday had worked on a documentary featuring salmon sharks called Icy Killers, but he wanted to get some still photographs. “I wanted to get some photos for Shark Diver

Magazine” Dad says. So, they headed to Alaska.

Dad, Perrine, and some others found a fisherman named Auto Klum willing to take them out, get them to a good spot, and lure the sharks to the boat. The conditions were brutal. The bitter cold stung their faces and hands, and the water deepened the sting. They used dry suits, but that only stops the water from coming in, not the bitter cold. This expedition lasted for two weeks, finding some success, and discovering that the best way to get closer to them was to snorkel at the surface. “They were very skittish, and the water was so murky” Dad says. This expedition didn’t quite meet their needs, however, so they returned to The Last Frontier for another expedition. Giving plenty of time for them to study, photograph, and video these creatures, they allowed a full month. Of this month, they had sharks for a constant five days, and a couple little adventures occurred on this trip.

“I was down in the water diving with a shark,” Dad says, “and when I came up to the surface, I looked toward the shore, and I saw a massive black bear.” It gave him a sense of awe of the place. The wilderness held its own locals, living in the habitat that had been given to them long ago. Its neighbor held the creatures of the sea, one of them a shark living in such brutal conditions that it takes a toll on anyone who wants to come near it. However, the next adventure is more frightening.

“We developed a new method for luring the sharks to the boat,” Dad says, in which they took a silver lure that was connected from the boat and dangled it around fifty feet below the surface of the murky water. “I was scuba diving around the lure, and the line got wrapped around me, with the lure right below me” he says, “and then I shark coming towards me. I thought, If this shark takes the lure, I’m in big trouble. John started to come help me, but the line started to tangle around him too, so he backed away. I reached for my knife, and I finally cut it all loose. It was kind of a dangerous situation.”

There were around five to six sharks that were consistently staying with them. However, about a week into the trip, a fishing boat showed up next to them. As the day went on, that fishing boat caught and killed one of the salmon sharks. “For two weeks after that, there were no sharks to be seen” Dad says, and when one or two showed back up, “it was never the same. Whatever happens when a shark gets killed, the other sharks can sense that. They’re intelligent.”

Salmon sharks are fast creatures that live in very harsh conditions, one of these conditions being freezing cold water full of jellyfish. “There were schools of thousands of jellyfish” Dad says. “We also photographed and dove with Steller sealions, observed humpback whales, hiked by rivers, filmed the salmon spawning, and saw both grizzly and black bears.”

Alaska is a special place. The Last Frontier is full of stories, culture, nature, wildlife, all of which are seemingly untouched. Alaska provides an adventure for those who seek it, and stories for those who listen. It’s hard to believe a place like that still exists. Our world has domesticated nearly everything, making our perception of places like Alaska even more wild. Alaska is a land time forgot. There, time stands still, keeping the genesis of nature alive and thriving. We came from this wild environment, and sometimes, it’s good to go back and visit.

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