We are on our way back to port in Sakhalin. Maybe three or so hours to go. The crew is packing all the gear up.
There is an assembly station for all the tech toys on the rear of Afina and it in itself is very cool to watch. The places that these cameras have been, and the things they have seen and shot, words can’t describe. Remember that more than 30 bags were loaded onto Afina 12 days ago.
We are approaching the port area.
Apparently we won’t disembark Afina at the port, but instead we will ride the zodiacs to the shore. To transport all the people and equipment and bags will likely take a few hours.
Back on land we wait for the buses to take us to a hotel. A mountain of bags and gear lays motionless at the edge of the pier where we were dropped off by the zodiacs.
This amazing adventure ends here, but the story surely will continue.
However… we go to Korean bbq. That was absolutely delicious. Every kind of meat and vegetable we could possibly have we do. Speeches. Good ones. Some drinks. Club maybe? Sure why not. There is a club at the bottom floor of our hotel. And trust me, it’s a place you want to be at with some friends.
#fromkurilswithlove essentially is a film production trapped on a boat. That means that there are enormous amounts of gear on board and they are spilling everywhere. There is a gear room in cabin number one – but quickly the gear started spilling over into any free area on the boat (which is totally not appreciated by the crew).
The actual gear room
Below is the impressive list of items we had on our carnet. The losses were low so far. We lost to DJI Mavic drones and had probably nearly 20 near misses as the guys are pushing their tech to the absolute limit. That is a surprisingly good result, taking into account that we are hauling the gear in and out of zodiacs, shooting in boats, on cliffs, carrying the stuff over slippery rocks all the time. Well – we brought 251 items an still have 249. Not bad.
The worst loss by far was for sure Vladimir’s HD time lapse camera which was buried below ash after the volcanic explosion at Raikoke. A total tragedy.
Sebastian has other issues meanwhile: all his chargers, GoPros and a drone were in a piece of luggage that didn’t arrive in Kamchatka in time for the start of the expedition. Luckily there are enormous amounts of equipment on board, so he is now borrowing cameras on a constant basis. Solidarity helps.
Dr. Vladimir Burkanov “hitchhiked” on our expedition. It was a great coincidence that made our film makers change plans and follow his work. They also made him change his Instagram handle to @bigdaddyvladi. In this video he talks about how technology changed his work in the last 30 years.
Burkanov is co-founder of and Chief Scientist at North Pacific Wildlife Consulting (NPWC) and needed a lift to his HD camera traps around the Kurils and to Raikoke, the volcanic island near the center of the Kuril Islands where he observes a seal population.
After the enormous eruption of Raikoke volcano on 22 June 2019, he fears that the seal pups suffered a great deal. Our vessel is the only one going in the right direction, therefore – besides raising awareness about this remarkable place that deserves protection – our expedition team has added another mission: bringing Vladimir to Raikoke to find out what has happened to his seal pups.
Raikoke shortly after the eruption. The island used to be lush and green.
Vladimir’s areas of expertise include ecology and conservation of marine mammals in the Far-East Seas of Russia and the North Pacific. Hence his interest and scientific investigations in the marine mammals that inhabit the waters and coastal areas of the Kuril islands. For his research he earlier placed several HD camera traps to observe the seal population on Raikoke.
Today’s camera traps sense warm moving objects, like animals, through a connected infrared sensor. They can be left on the spot to observe an area for weeks or even months, to record all activity of animals. With the data scientists are able to identify whole communities of species, how they are structured and interact. Plus, they are ‘wildlife’ friendly, so not bothering the animals in any way.
Although no human beings were hurt in Raikoke’s eruption – the island is uninhabited – the wildlife, like the seal pup population, was most likely not so lucky. An island that was once lush and green, is now a big rock covered with ash. At first sight no seal rookeries were to be seen, but Vladimir and the team will take a closer look today.
Volcano roaring back to life
Raikoke 22 days after the eruption.
One might think what an unfortunate habitat to raise your seal pups, why-oh-why chose that location. However, unlike other volcanoes in the region, Raikoke seldom erupts. The last time the volcano erupted was in 1924 – after 146 years of no activity. Last June, 95 years later, it roared back to life sending a plum of ash up to 17 km high. The latter was observed and captured by several satellites as well as astronauts on the international Space Station, resulting in some dramatic photos and videos.
Curious about Raikoke’s seal population and what Vladimir will find at island? Follow the expedition #fromkurilswithlove and find out!
What’s becoming quite obvious is how, constantly close to the edge, we are of losing the technology we depend on to not only document #FromKurilsWithLove, but also to share the story as it unfolds with the world. The dependency is as tangible as its nerve wrecking. Being on a boat and near water almost constantly, while pushing the limits of the technology that is being used – even the smallest mistake can mean loss of production gear, which is replaceable, but what’s worse: losing an important part of the story.
Yesterday the team was in a constant state of awe for the beauty that presented itself before them – Onekotan showed off, and we were there to capture it, and it put the drones to the test… first casualty came early in the morning under relatively non-dramatic circumstances.
The second one added some drama:
…standing at the rim next to the Krenitsena volcano, we lost contact with one of the drones, with a memory card full of epic footage. This part of the caldera is covered in almost impenetrable waist-high bush, losing contact with a drone that is 1500m away from your position, as the darkness sets in, is literally like finding a needle in a haystack. Renan, Chris, Ryan and Ted spent hours looking for it, before finally realizing that it had dropped beyond the rim, several hundred meters below their location.
Attempting to reach it was not only risky in itself, adding the isolation of these islands would mean official rescue would not be an option, if something were to go wrong. These are the options that need to be weighed into every decision, even if every instinct tells you to retrieve – and in this case it meant we lost a valuable piece of storytelling equipment.
Everybody needs a home. Most people would agree with that. Homelessness is amongst the worst turns a life could take for many. And yet – the definition of home changes. In a time of increasing mobility demands, many of us see their home a temporary place, until the next home.
Same for our work life. Not only are we changing jobs often, but we also do not necessarily need a workplace anymore. Shared workspaces are skyrocketing, in a city like London, you can barely walk three blocks without seeing one. All many of us seem to need are a table, Wifi and a mobile phone.
This new mobility is liberating for some, stressful for others. And then there are those, for whom this opens up the opportunity for a completely new lifestyle. If my workplace is mobile, can my home also be mobile?
New media channels also create new forms of income opportunities. Who would have thought ten years ago that influencer would be a proper job today? That may get you much more money than a traditional job? How would it have been possible for extreme climbers, kayakers, base jumpers to earn their living from their passion, before Red Bull and GoPro and so many others discovered this field as a marketing playground and kicked off a never-ending wave of exciting extreme sports content?
In our “Nomads” section, we are portraying people whose lives changed through the mobility opportunities they got. People who are living a lifestyle unknown 15 years ago. We discuss what this digital nomadism, in all its forms, creates: opportunities? New dependencies? Challenges for social life? Total freedom?
Everything that is connected to the internet can be hacked. Social media have become a battleground for political influencing and populism. Fake news are everywhere. Digital freedom is under scrutiny. Artificial Intelligence is out of control. Big tech companies own the world.
That all sounds dire.
And while it all is partially true, it also isn’t. As with everything in life: when humans interact, there will be frictions. Not everybody has good intentions. So we have to be vigilant, and we need guardians, protectors, heroes or just ordinary people with a good sense for what is right or wrong.
The smallest things can have a massive impact. A young man registers a domain and shuts down a global cyber attack. A sports star kneels and provokes a national discussion about values. A power outage in the middle of nowhere disconnects millions of people from the internet – and an electrician saves the day. A retired policeman stops someone from taking money from an ATM and thus delivers the crucial clue to halt a global ring of digital bank robbers.
We all can be heroes and can be forgotten the next day. This section tells stories of average people saving our digital world. By creating policies, by maintaining infrastructure, by stopping criminals and by protecting children. These are stories of you and me — the real heroes of today – the guardians of the digital world.
Born in the Central Valley of California, raised partially on the coast of South Africa and finding a long term home on the Central Coast of California Ryan’s upbringing was anything but “normal”. Shortly after graduating college from CalPoly San Luis Obispo Ryan found himself employed full time with adventure photographer Chris Burkard as his photo editor, 1st assistant, and then studio manager. Over the last 3 years Ryan has worked beside Burkard on shoots for Coors Light, AirBnB, The North Face, Prana, FitBit, Travel Lodge, The Surfers Journal, & Cliff Bar.