Thursday, May 20, 2010

Research Trip, Part II

Yikes, I learned a lot in Alaska. Even as I begin to type this I'm wondering which parts to share with you. I think I could blog for weeks! Just the best, Nic, just the best...

Be Brave
You're looking at a photo of Exit Glacier, taken at 3500 feet from the cockpit of a Cessna 172. To tell you I was scared of flying would be a flat-out lie. I was terrified. I've been researching bush plane accidents and disappearances in Alaska for months now, and let me tell you: a lot of flights go down in Alaska. If that wasn't scary enough, as our pilot, Blair, was calling in our flight plan, the dispatcher with the FAA told him to tune his radio to pick up emergency signals. Apparently a flight had just gone down in the Kenai river. And while we were in the air, a Coast Guard helicopter ran into a snowstorm on the top of a mountain and crashed! The helicopter apparently rolled down the mountain for a while before it stopped. Thankfully, the pilot and co-pilot were okay. However, when we left the tarmac the missing plane on the Kenai river had still not been recovered. Talk about scary. But I did it! I flew! And I'm so glad I did... Oh, I also ate moose burgers and reindeer sausage while I was in Alaska. Also very brave of me. ;)

Ask Questions (Lots of Them!)
See that little strip of land in between the water of the Cook Inlet? Guess what? It's not land. Nor is it sand, which I was quite sure it was. It looked so inviting during low tide that Aaron and I were planning to go for a little walk along the beach... But I'm glad we didn't. Apparently, the soft beach we were so convinced would be perfect for strolling along was really the beginning of the mudflats. As viscous and unstable as quicksand, the mudflats are extremely dangerous and can gobble up an unsuspecting tourist before the Coast Guard has a chance to pull you out! Creepy... And incredibly important to the unfolding of my story. Who knew? Thankfully, we learned about the mudflats within the first day of being in Alaska. My newfound knowledge taught me two things: 1.) Don't walk on the mudflats. 2.) Assume you know nothing. Ask questions about everything. So I did. I probably sounded like an idiot, but I learned so much. What's this? What's that? Why is that moose in someone's backyard? Is reindeer meat really made of reindeer? Why do Alaskans drink so much coffee? What's a snow machine? And on and on and on...

Document Everything & Take Pictures (even of things that don't seem important...)
I took this photo on the pier in Seward because I thought it was cute. But I'm already starting to realize that all the little details I didn't consider important at the time are going to add a depth and authenticity to my story that I could have never acheived by simply researching Alaska online. From the Heart Attack on a Plate and the Veggie Bypass (breakfast platters at Snow City Cafe in downtown Anchorage) to my little evergreen friend, the intricacies of life in Alaska are what is going to make my story feel real. The story truly is in the details and I'm so excited that I was able to experience so much during my time in Alaska.

Your turn: The lesson I took most to heart during my Alaskan research tour was be brave. For the sake of my story I hopped into scenarios that I normally would avoid like the plague. But it was so good for me (in so many ways)! My question for you today is: Does your story require you to be brave? To go somewhere you've never gone? Deal with an emotion you'd rather avoid? Forgive someone you'd like to simply forget? I'd love to know if you're being pushed right now and how you're responding to it.


  1. This makes me want to go back! Alaska has such a different pace to life, even from the "slow" pace of my little town. Traveling there was one of my best vacations. (Okay, so it was a working trip for Mark.) Ever.

  2. If I didn't want to go to Alaska enough after watching The Proposal, then I really want to go now! My Poppop used to fly airplanes, and while the thought of being so high unnerved me slightly, it wasn't enough to completely dissuade me from the experience. I always thought flying was fun. I still have yet to really do any research on my story. I've been so concerned with just relaxing after this semester that it's distracted me from research! I know, that's terrible. ;) I will make a POINT to research court dates that I can go see. Looking forward to more research posts! I really like where your ideas are going so far, even though you haven't really named any ideas, but the structure sounds like it's coming along great. :)