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Digital Nomads Taylor Rees, Chris Burkard, Renan Ozturk and Eugene Kaspersky on a 14 days mission to create awareness for a remote, unprotected landscape.
There are not many spots left on earth that create genuine desire. Most places are well documented, researched and easily reached, even for non-adventurers. But then there are spots that are close to legendary. For Taylor Rees, Chris Burkard and Renan Ozturk, these are a few rock formations on the Kuril Islands. They dreamed for a long time to be the first people to stand on top of these rocks.
It's a region that is difficult to reach, geopolitically disputed, and not accessible without setting up a proper expedition. Their ultimate goal is a rock formation off Ushishir island. But they wouldn't do such an expedition for the purely hedonistic goal of being the first on a rock. "This is a unique opportunity to study a remote ocean ecosystem that is affected by both pollution and climate change, especially with impacts in region still poorly understood", says Rishi Sugla, an oceanography PhD-student joining the expedition.
While the Kuril Islands are a remote, untouched paradise, they are not a national park or an environmentally protected area of any kind. "I explored the Kuril Islands on a ship-based excursion back in 2014. I was stunned by their wild, untouched beauty, and tranquility," said Eugene Kaspersky. "This is a part of the world that deserves protected status, and our expedition will ultimately be calling for that."
Appealing to protect one of the least explored regions on Earth
In April 2018, Felicity Aston, an accomplished explorer and adventurer, assembled a group of 11 European and Arabic women to march to the North Pole together. Besides the adventure, it was a march for peace and cross-cultural understanding and collaboration.
The project attracted the interest of software entrepreneur Eugene Kaspersky, who decided to finance the expedition as the main sponsor, having supported Felicity on a South Pole expedition in the past. Extreme photographer Renan Ozturk joined to capture some of the moments before the group left in stunning photography and through powerful storytelling. An adventurer, expedition climber and explorer himself, the idea of the project fascinated him.
A conversation in Svalbard prior to the expedition take-off suddenly focused on the Kuril Islands. With some islands virtually untouched by modern human civilisation and others featuring impressive rock formations with potential for first ascents - each contributing to a unique and beautiful landscape - the first seed for a future expedition had been set.
"We want to show the beauty, but also the fragility of this remote strip of land", says Renan. "But to cut through the noise and create an impact in public awareness, we can't just go on a boat and take beautiful pictures and hope a few media would cover it. So we put together a group of filmmakers, photographers and environmentalists, to make a meaningful representation of this place with wide reach. And we will produce a documentary about it all, including first ascent climbing and true boots on the ground exploration, as that is the kind of content that really creates awareness these days."
15 months of intense planning and logistical ninja moves later, the expedition is about to start. With a high calibre team of film makers, photographers, science communicators and athletes we will document the beauty of the Kurils, shine a light on some of the environmental challenges in the region, and explore in the purest form of the word; though observation. On the 7 July the adventure begins: documenting one of the most remote islands chains in the world: the Kuril Islands in the sea of Okhotsk.
It is one of the least explored regions on Earth and yet one that is endangered by over-fishing, ocean pollution and other environmental threats.
They will leave from the Kamchatka coast on the 7th July and are planning to be out there for 12 days. Weather will play a big role in determining what they will achieve. With an oceanographer, environmentalists, photographers and film makers on board, everyone has their own objective. And yet, all the expedition members have one thing in common: they want to help bring attention to a nearly forgotten, outstanding part of the earth which needs support to stay as unique as it is today.
Ted is a freelance adventure photographer, focusing on rock climbing and alpinism. His work has been published by National Geographic Online, Outside Magazine, Rock and Ice Magazine, The Alpinist Magazine, Escalando climbing magazine and various others.
Ted has worked on assignment for The North Face, covering some of the company's highest profile expeditions in Nepal, Angola and Kenya. He shoots TNF's athlete summits each year. Ted also works closely with Black Diamond Ltd, shooting commercial photo and video projects throughout the year. He is an official ambassador for Goalzero and Boulder Denim. Other clients have
included Columbia Sportswear, DJI, Travel Alberta, Destination BC, ReelRock Films, Royal Robbins, ThermaRest, Cascade Designs, Utah Tourism, Feathered Friends & La Sportiva.
Prior to focusing full-time on photography, Ted worked for nearly a decade in the clean energy industry. He received a masters degree in renewable energy engineering from Stanford University, and a bachelors degree in Physics from Colorado College.