Jon Bowermaster’s OCEANS 8 project spanned a decade and took him and his teams around the world by sea kayak—and six of the expeditions turned into feature stories for ADVENTURE. One, "Storming the Islands of Fire and Ice," is featured in our (great) just released anthology, The New Age of Adventure (order a copy). We asked the contributing editor a few question while he was (appropriately) on some tiny, nearly unpronounceable atoll in the South Pacific.
How did the OCEANS 8 begin?
I asked the National Geographic Expeditions Council for funding for the Aleutian Islands trip in 1998. This was soon after the EC had been formed, and I was among its initial grantees. We went to the Aleutians in the summer of 1999.
What were you looking for in each trip?
Essentially we used adventure—in this case sea kayaking—as a way to get places that would be difficult to reach otherwise, in order to bring back stories about bigger issues, including environmental, cultural, and political stories. Of course, having great adventures along the way—from the Aleutians to Vietnam, French Polynesia to the Altiplano, Croatia to Tasmania, Gabon to Antarctica—that was a personal lure, too.
How did you pick the locations…specifically the Aleutians? How did that trip come about?
Scott McGuire, one of my three teammates on that expedition, went to a lecture given by a man named Derek Hutchinson. Hutchinson has long been regarded as the grandfather of modern day, long distance sea kayaking. Someone in the audience asked where he would go, right now, where he hadn’t yet been. He reponded that he'd done a trip out of Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians, and remembered seeing the Island of Four Mountains 50 miles away, through his binoculars. That’s where he said he would go. We decided we should bring him there.
Have you returned to that area since?
I’ve been back a few times. A couple of years after the story ran in NGA, a French TV host saw the pictures and contacted me, wondering if I could take him—and his 15-person film crew. We flew over the Islands of Four Mountains—a first for me—and then lived on a 100-foot-long fishing boat with a helicopter. We spent four days kayaking among the islands and didn’t see a cloud. They became convinced I made all the bad weather in the ADVENTURE story up.
Photograph by Barry Tessman. See more photographs from the Aleutians assignment here.