During the summer of 2009-2010, I discovered a summer program that focused on researching marine mammals. When I looked into the camp, I found out that only nine students were chosen to go, and this year the group would be going to Round Island here in Alaska. Naturally, I was intrigued and researched Round Island on Google; Round Island is a walrus sanctuary in Bristol Bay! Just reading about the island had me shaking with excitement. I quickly wrote a short essay about myself and applied for the summer program. After talking with the instructors, I got an email saying that I had been accepted into the program. I was so excited, I screamed at the top of lungs, extremely excited for the upcoming trip; now I just had to wait until the first day of camp.
Wednesday morning, my teammates and I took a flight from Fairbanks to Anchorage, then from Anchorage to Dillingham, possibly one of the smallest towns in Alaska. Our flight from Fairbanks was a standard plane that many of us had been on before; however, our plane to Dillingham was a very small plane, a plane that we often called ‘sketchy’. Before boarding the small aircraft, we found that there was no security check for the flight; this had us looking at each other with unease and bewilderment. We boarded the aircraft and waited for takeoff; the roar of the plane’s engines sounded like nothing I have ever heard before, something between the roar of a lion and the high screeching sound of a car coming to a sudden halt. I was already a little panicky by this point, gripping the seat extremely tightly with both hands. About halfway into our flight, the plane made a sudden drop, my stomach hurling into my chest and a scream emitting from my lips. The landing was any better than the rest of the flight; flinging myself off the plane, I had to restrain myself from kissing the ground. Hopefully, our journey to the island would less stressful.
Upon arriving on the island, we were greeted by five walrus that were basking in the sun on the rocks near the beach. This was the first time I had ever seen a walrus and it was amazing to see them in their natural habitat. After setting up tents and our gear, we traveled a few minutes to another beach, a more popular hangout for the walrus. As we crouched their on the cliff, overlooking the beach, we could see a large group of walrus, climbing over each other and walking up out of the water. This sight was something that I will never forget.
Coming to this island was definitely a once in a life time experience. During my two week voyage, I learned a lot about the controversy between the island and the Native Alaskans. The Native Alaskans, who had hunted walrus on Round Island for hundreds of years, have been denied the chance to perform their customs and traditions. Now, these hunting techniques and stories are not being past down and are fading away. Going on this trip really changed my perspective on our world and taught me that most people do not have as many chances in life as I do.
If anyone is interested in visiting Round Island, the island is actually open to visitors during the summer. These links give all the information on traveling to Round Island and the gear you will need. I highly recommend visiting this site and checking out the island, the experience will be something you will remember forever.
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