The Kamchatka Project: Is this the Wildest Place on Earth?
Oh, Kamchatka Project, how do I envy thee? This just-completed kayak expedition, based out of Hood River, Oregon, ventured deep into Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula “in an effort to raise public awareness of the complex relationships between the place, its people, and its fisheries.” The Project’s kayakers/explorers/scientists succeeded in bombarding the web with content. They also succeeded in making me an exceedingly jealous armchair explorer.
As a college kid, I burned many hours trying to etch Russian verb conjugation and the language’s fiendish dative case into my brain. All that survives is a two-year-old’s rudimentary vocabulary in what Vladimir Nabokov dismissed as “How are you? / I am fine” Russian. As a youthful traveler, I made it as far as Moscow, which is super-rad. But the Kamchatka Project seriously got its Russia on, making first-time source-to-sea treks down some of the world’s wildest, most salmon-rich rivers, in one of its most remote and unspoiled places.
As a Gary Snyder fan, I’m totally into the whole Pacific Rim ecology thing. Here in Oregon, our wild salmon runs teeter perpetually on the brink of extinction. Kamchatka spawning grounds, meanwhile, produce between one-sixth and one-fourth of the remaining wild salmon in the world. The remote peninsula is also home to a population of brown bears so dense that the place must be Stephen Colbert’s worst nightmare.
The lucky people on the Kamchatka Project expedition got to see it all. En route, they produced a bumper crop of audio updates and stunning photos, they dodged bears and generally made good on a daunting logistical challenge. On a meta-level, the Kamchatka Project provides a fascinating glimpse at the life of a modern-day, media-savvy, high-tech explorer.
It’s inspiring to know that even in the hyper-connected 21st Century, there are still places worth exploring. Just, please—take me next time?
Photo courtesy of the Kamchatka Project