Sunday, November 25, 2007

Journalism 101

For a very short period in the early 1980's, I was a journalism major. I don't know how much of the curriculum I recall, but I do remember something about facts, and why they were important. Who, What, When, Where and Why: those were the big five.

So I'm going to take it slow, and take the time to go through the basic facts of the trip. By way of a proper introduction, if you will…

My name is Ken Campbell. I have been a sea kayak guide and instructor for nearly 20 years. I have expedition experience that runs the cycle from 3-day guided tours of the San Juan Islands to a 3-month, 1750-mile, circumnavigation of Newfoundland.

I have written several books about sea kayaking and numerous magazine pieces on a variety of subjects, from snowshoeing to canoeing to alpine ascents. At some point along the way, I chose kayaking as my central form of wilderness travel and it has taught me a lot. I have slowly learned, over the course of a very long time on the water, that it is the adventure that matters, the story. For me, the kayak is the best means for me to experience the natural world and to get to where I want to go.

I was co-founder of Azimuth Expeditions in 2003, and it remains the focus of my interactions with nature, adventure and the people who love them both. I hope to use Azimuth as a vehicle to assist in protecting the environment while encouraging the spirit of discovery.

The VI Circle expedition is an attempt at a solo sea kayak circumnavigation of Vancouver Island in winter, something that has not been done before. (Of course, there is always the possibility that it was done centuries ago, by a member of any number of tribes or bands of First Nations along the Vancouver Island coast, but there is no record of it ever having been done. )

Total distance will be between 700 and 800 miles and the expedition is expected to take between 7 and 9 weeks. The planned date of departure is January 14, 2008 and the goal is to complete the journey by March 21, 2008, within the winter months. I am currently planning on beginning the trip at Gooseberry Point, on the Lummi reservation, north of Bellingham. From there it's a straight shot to the northern Gulf Islands and then into the journey around the island, counter-clockwise.

I can think of several good reasons, big-picture reasons, for this expedition: in order, to my way of thinking, they are adventure, discovery and understanding.
The adventure of the task caught my imagination from the beginning. I have paddled some of the areas I'll be going to this winter, but never during the cold season. The dark season. The wet season. Is it different? How? Will it be hard to light a fire? Will the beach landings be safe? What will the wildlife situation be? Bears, raccoons and killer whales? Will the storms really be that bad? I wanted to find out.

Discovery is the notion that maybe it hasn't been done before. After looking into the question as thoroughly as I could, I didn't find any claim from anyone about going around the island in the winter. To be sure, it has been circled by kayakers many times before, but almost always in the summer, when the conditions are more conducive to travel by water. I could be the first, and this is an idea that continues to motivate me.

What motivates me the most, however, is the idea that, by immersing myself in an expedition like this one, I may come to an understanding of the places I go and how the environment shapes who I am and the experiences I have. Whether on matters of kayaking, or on the history of the places I will pass through over the course of this journey, I hope that I can get a better knowledge of the island, its various regions, climes and cultures. I am curious to see the practicality of travel by kayak during the winter. Was it something that could have been done by a paddler from a time long gone? How will my perspective guide my experience? There is really only one way to find out.

That's it. Those are the facts. But facts are not immutable. They evolve and grow over time. I am less two months away from the start of the expedition, and my realities are changing constantly.