My first ever drone photo, shot at 80 degrees north in Svalbard on a borrowed drone (thanks @matsgrimseth!-currently at sea as captain of the Valiente!). Two years ago Sail Norway @seilnorge helped make my dreams come true when I joined a sailing adventure that circumnavigated Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago that lies between mainland Norway and the North Pole (Huge thanks to all the wonderful folks at @seilnorge and merman viking prince @estigarild). Sailing is one of the most sustainable ways to explore the Arctic’s fragile seas, and environmentally conscious travel alternatives in the Arctic are crucial right now. Climate change has already transformed the Arctic, and will continue to do so at an ever-increasing pace, impacting nearly every aspect of life from the environmental to the economic. And one striking example of this is how frozen oceans have melted into safe waterways for massive cruise and cargo ships. As a result the Arctic tourism business is booming. It’s been labeled “Last Chance Tourism”- as sea ice vanishes, glaciers retreat, and wild animals lose their natural habitat, more and more people want to see it all before its gone. Tourism, if done right, can provide economic opportunities that will help Arctic communities transition away from extractive and environmentally damaging industries. However it requires a delicate balance to manage travelers’ increasing desire to explore without further damaging vulnerable ecosystems.
On their way to the USA. I met these 16 and 14 year old brothers in the La 72 Migrant Shelter in Tenosique, Mexico in 2015. They were on their way to meet their mother, already in the United States. These brave children were fleeing gang recruitment and death threats in Honduras, and had already faced incredible dangers along the migrant trail by the time they made it to Southern Mexico. They had such a long road ahead of them. I want nothing more than to believe they made it safely to their mother in the USA. And that they are still here, enjoying this beautiful summer day.
River herring at Woodhull Dam, one of the sites of the @peconic_estuary Program’s river herring project in Long Island, New York. These impressive fishies will migrate all the way from the ocean up miles and miles of urbanized and degraded waterways to spawn in ponds like this. A few weeks ago I worked on assignment with @pewenvironment to document the marine conservation efforts they are undertaking and promoting with partners like @peconic_estuary, who are working to repair migratory runs and protect local species like river herring. (Side note- it was the first time I have ever worked on an environmental/conservation story in my own backyard which was really awesome!)
This is a baby tapir. And no, you are not dreaming, it really is this cute. It is also a crucial part of Central and South American ecosystems. Tapirs are known as “the gardeners of the forest”- they spread fruit seeds through their feces and promote biodiversity and healthy plant growth. However agricultural development, deforestation, poaching, and roadkill accidents are threatening to completely wipe out this endangered herbivore species. Thankfully, there are people like Patrícia Medici @epmedici a passionate and inspiring Brazilian conservation biologist who is dedicating her life to saving tapirs (learn more at @incab_brasil ). I photographed Patricia, and this little guy, last week on assignment for @insidenatgeo in honor of her receiving the National Geographic/Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation at #NatGeoFest this June.
I realize I never officially introduced our pup on Instagram proper! Meet Goose (short for Angus but let’s be real he’s more of a Goose) Dogstein-Orlinsky. He likes literally everything and everyone, and exploring it all with his baby shark teeth! He is a rescue mutt from Virginia and about 4 1/2 months old now. And you better watch out cause if he looks in your eyes you will turn to jello. Also because he’s a little shit. @jesseg1026 and I love him very much.
The Valley of 10,000 Smokes, and our campsite, in Katmai National Park, Alaska. June 2018.
To celebrate @natgeo reaching 100 million followers! (Only 24.3 million less than Beyoncé) and let my followers know about today’s photo contest (swipe up on my story for all the info) I am sharing my most liked photo of all time from the @natgeo Instagram account to get your attention :) Somehow I am not surprised this handsome young man was very popular, and I am glad that his urgent story was widely shared. Photo by @katieorlinsky: A curious teenage male polar bear investigating the hood of my truck in Kaktovik, an Inupiat native village in the Alaskan Arctic. Every fall after the community’s annual subsistence hunt of bowhead whales, more and more polar bears arrive to feed off the whale carcass' scraps and bones. Climate change has affected the migration and diet of polar bears, who have grown increasingly hungry as melting sea ice impairs their ability to hunt seals on the Arctic Ocean ice sheet. Meanwhile, scavenging so close to town brings its own set of challenges to both polar bears and the people of Kaktovik. With a steady stream of tourists and scientists coming to view and study the polar bears year after year, bears grow increasingly accustomed to interaction with humans-the most dangerous predator on the planet. #natgeo100contest
Seismic lines from decades old oil exploration are still visible in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. And today is a good day for the Refuge! And a very happy day for me, with two exciting victories in the places I hold most dear! First, our future evil overlord Amazon is reconsidering having its headquarters in NYC in the face of opposition! (Was it due to the angry twitter rants of @moniquejaques ? Most definitely.) Second, far away in the beautiful Brooks Range of Alaska, seismic testing for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will not be happening this winter as planned. The fragile tundra landscape of the Refuge- home to polar bear dens, migrating caribou and other at-risk wildlife- is already transforming as a result of climate change. Seismic testing would have brought incredible damage to such a vulnerable ecosystem. The news is only a partial victory, as they still plan on opening up the coastal plain “1002 area” shown in this photo to development and begin selling it off this year (something the Trump administration and its allies made possible in quick, shady moves under everyone’s noses). But oil and gas companies will have to do so without any information as to whether there is even oil. Either way, this means we have more time to fight for the Refuge and cause delays until we get new leadership in Washington. I am hopeful.
Father and Daughter. Tenosique, Mexico 2015. I met baby Jenesis along with her mother, father, sister and brother at the “Los 72” migrant shelter in 2015. The family was fleeing extortion and death threats in Honduras.
A Honduran child naps on a hot spring day at a migrant shelter in Tenosique, Mexico in 2015. Her family was fleeing death threats from extortionists; muliple family members had already been murdered. This family had a choice-whether to apply for asylum in Mexico and risk gang members finding them as they await a lengthy, sometimes years-long bureaucratic process for the slight chance that they might cross into the United States and then await another lengthy bureaucratic asylum process- or to risk entering the USA “illegally.” With no work, friends or family in Mexico, and fear gang members might find them, they chose taking the risk to enter the United States. And now with ICE deporting immigrants with no criminal record back to certain death in their home countries, families getting separated, and gross negligence and violence committed against immigrants in custody, even with all that knowledge, I think they still would make the exact same choice- to protect their family as best they can. It is a choice that so many of us are fortunate enough to never truly understand.
Spruce Tree. Fall time at tree line in Gates of the Arctic National Park, Alaska. Check out my insta stories today, the last day I'll be sharing behind the scenes snaps by @craigwelch, @kentapephotography and myself from our journey along the Alatna River in Alaska's Brooks Range for @natgeo.
Alatna gang at Circle Lake. Ecologist @kentapephotography, yours truly, Michael Wald guide/owner of Arctic Wild and of course, writer/rafter extraordinaire @craigwelch. This was our 7th day and last night after pack rafting and backpacking the Alatna River. The Alatna flows for roughly 184 river miles through the Brooks Range until it joins the Koyukuk River near the native village of Allakaket. It is known as one of the most beautiful rivers in the United States- which I can now verify! It was an incredible adventure, and an eye-opening look at ecological impacts that are transforming the landscape as a result of a certain species of large-toothed architectural wizard rodents (hint:rhymes with fever). I'll be posting behind the scenes pics on my instagram story today, and stay tuned for more photos when the upcoming @natgeo article is published. And a very special thanks to these three for being so patient with a river rookie like me, and most of all for being kind, fun and inspiring human beings! (and thank you Ken for standing in a hole so I look tall).
Fall time on the Alatna River in the Brooks Range of Alaska. I just got home from an incredible week long trip pack-rafting the Alatna for a @natgeo story with writer @craigwelch. We followed ecologist @kentapephotography and Michael Wald as they looked at the impacts of beavers moving north into the Arctic tundra. These little guys are transforming the landscape at a surprisingly large scale. The trip was not only amazing and gorgeous and, as always, challenging, but it was also seriously mind-opening. More to come from the story and trip this week!
35 🐋 Photo by @elizabethdherman during last week's daily early birthday celebrations. But today is my actual birthday! And so far I have spent the entirety of it inside a sweaty plane on the JFK tarmac eating pringles and peanuts as my birthday dinner, my cake was a packet of those biscotti things that flight attendants call cookies even though they are NOT cookies, sleeping alone in a creepy Minneapolis airport hotel, and waking up a few hours later to get on another flight, and another, and I still have one more to go! But apart from exhaustion, I'm actually feeling pretty great. I had no airport hissy fits or minor hand fractures from punching water fountains. I may or may not be embroiled in some light blackmail with Delta airlines via twitter, but otherwise I've mostly felt positive and content and amused by it all. Getting older has always been stressful for me (my family likes to remind me of the existential crisis I had when I turned 10 because it was "double digits.") But I don't know, so far mid-life seems like it's going to be alright :)
Word on the (Instagram) street is today is National wildlife day, so I'd like to introduce you to some friends, and enemies, I made this past June in Katmai National Park. They are all sub-adult (teenage) grizzlies, and that makes them curious (like the cutie in photos 1-3) and interested in testing limits. We saw the pair in photos 4 and 5 in an incredibly remote part of the park and it's very possible they had never encountered humans before. It was my first experience photographing grizzlies, and I kept a pretty decent distance. Eventually the male made what seemed like a false charge toward me, which is common, but it was definitely not false. He kept on coming! (No photos because the lens was too long-bad, bad sign). Thanks to @montainya and luck and @laura.stelson overall expedition preparation, that day became just another crazy Alaska story. And now a very healthy dose of fear accompanies my love and fascination with these amazing creatures. @natgeo #katmainps
Barn progress! Early birthday/all hands family roof finishing celebratory weekend complete :) (Check out the last pic to see the barn one year ago!)
https://on.natgeo.com/2OR8YNT Standing inside the Batagaika Crater on my last shooting day in Siberia, watching and listening to the earth and permafrost as it tumbled down towards me, has affected me in ways I have a difficult time articulating. I wish I could just take everyone there, especially those in political power, to experience it first-hand. But I am grateful that at the very least, I can share some of my photos. More photos, and an important, scary ground-breaking news story by @craigwelch, are online now on @natgeo (link in bio) about how for the first ever, there is ground in the Arctic that is no longer freezing, even in the winter. If this continues, permafrost thaw and the greenhouse gases it will release into the atmosphere will happen much sooner than scientists thought, dramatically accelerating climate change. Caption: The Batagaika Crater in the town of Batagay, Russia, is known as the "hell crater" or the "gateway to the underworld.” Over 300 feet deep and more than half a mile long, the depression is one of the largest in the world. Scientists believe it started forming in the 1960s when the permafrost under the area began to thaw after nearby forests were cleared.
The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Captured #withgalaxy S9+, produced with @samsungmobileusa using Pro Mode at ISO 50 at 1/11876th f 1.5. This past June I joined a group of scientists and park rangers on a National Geographic Society expedition led by archeologist Laura Stelson @ through the backcountry of Alaska’s Katmai National Park. We were following in the footsteps of botanist Robert F. Griggs who led multiple National Geographic Society expeditions in the early twentieth century to explore the region and study the aftermath of the 1912 Katmai Volcanic eruption. The Nova Rupta volcano displaced the area's mainly Alutiiq indigenous population, filling their surroundings with ash flow we can still see today. Meanwhile the eruption decimated massive swaths of land, including what Griggs named the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, “The whole valley as far as the eye could reach was full of hundreds, no thousands—literally, tens of thousands—of smokes curling up from its fissured floor,” he described. After nearly two weeks hiking hundreds of miles, climbing up mountains, wading through rivers and sleeping uncomfortably close to Grizzly bears, we finally reached the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. But to be honest, after all of the amazing and challenging things we saw and experienced on our way there, as impressive as the valley is, crossing it’s 40 miles kind of felt like a cake walk :)
Yak. Siberia, 2018 on assignment for @NatGeo with writer @craigwelch. This particularly friendly yak is one of the dozens of animals currently roaming around @pleistocenepark. Pleistocene Park is a nature reserve, research station and long-term scientific experiment located along the Kolyma river in the northeast of Siberia. The park was created by renowned Russian scientist Sergey Zimov and is run by both Sergey and his son Nikita. The Zimovs believe that by recreating the ecosystem of the Pleistocene era, which was dominated by grasslands and large mammals, they can slow down permafrost thaw and it's inevitable mass emission of greenhouse gases.
Almost midnight in the Arctic. (I know it's a sunset. But it's a SIBERIAN sunset.)
On my layover in Yakutsk, Siberia on assignment for @natgeo we stopped by the "Kingdom of Permafrost" museum, a tourist attraction that entails walking through permafrost tunnels dug into the side of a hill decorated with psychedelic lights and ice sculptures. Yakutsk is one of the only cities in the world built entirely on permafrost, a layer of frozen soil that spans the global North and up until recently remained completely frozen all year round.
Climbing back into social media land today, and finally home from Alaska and back in NYC for a while! This is at the top of the small but mighty Nova Rupta volcano last week on day 12 of an amazing (and pretty damn exhausting) expedition through Katmai National Park. More to come on that soon :)
The sun sets on Sergelen and his best friend. Uvs, Mongolia. 2018. Thanks for following along through some of my journey in Mongolia this past winter, it was a privilege to document this amazing country. I hope with enough attention, assistance and planning the disasterous effects of the dzud extreme weather crises can be managed and mitigated and that the people of Mongolia can live a happy, free and peaceful life. @iamcaritas @natgeo
Animals graze along the Mongolian countryside during an extremely cold winter. Local herders worry their undernourished animals may not survive the season. January 2018.
Ulaangom, the capital of Uvs Provence, Mongolia.
Munkhaanan, 4 years old, outside his family yurt in Uvs, Mongolia.
A peak inside the yurts of Mongolian children in the Uvs Provence.
Goats line the hillside in Uvs, Mongolia. The Uvs region experienced a dzud this winter, an emergency related to extreme weather conditions and mass die off of livestock.
The animal pen next to nomadic herder B. Gombojav and family in Uvs, Mongolia. The temperatures in parts of Mongolia lthis past January were around -58, cold enough for animals to freeze or starve because they can’t graze. Meanwhile in the ever increasing heat and drought of the summer, animals struggle to gain the weight they need to endure the brutal winter. I traveled to Mongolia with @iamcaritas to document yet another “Dzud,” an emergency related to extreme weather conditions, and the traditional way of life for nomadic herders. you can see more on @natgeo link in bio.
Davaadorj, 36, herds his animals on sunny -50 day in Uvs, Mongolia. I traveled to Mongolia with @iamcaritas to document yet another “Dzud,” an emergency related to extreme weather conditions, and the traditional way of life for nomadic herders. you can see more on @natgeo link in bio.
This week I will be sharing work from Mongolia recently published in @natgeo (link in bio). Nomadic herder Davaadorg's livestock in Uvs, Mongolia. This past January I had the opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of traveling to Mongolia, however I wish the reason why was under different circumstances. I was there with the aid organization @iamcaritas to document yet another "Dzud”- an emergency related to extreme weather conditions where severely cold winters kill off millions of livestock, and devastate the livelihood and already fragile way of life for nomadic herders.