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« Nuiqsut's final dance practices before leaving home to go to Kivgiq; the prayers they said, the prayer they missed | Main | The wedding: high winds, lava, surf, coral, the surprise officiator; we dance to Apache songs »

Logbook entry: I follow the turtles from Hawaii to Nuiqsut and find Hawaii will follow all the way to the Kivgiq dance floor

Earlier on the day that Rex and Cortney wed, Margie was almost desperate to see our grandchildren, so she and I went searching for them. We knew they were playing at a lagoon near Waikoloa Beach and the Hilton Hotel. As we searched, I got a strong sense of deja vu. It seemed as though I had experienced this place before, but during a different time, before any luxury hotels had been built, a time when Hawaii was almost entirely populated by Hawaiians but occasionally roamed through by folks such as Mark Twain.

Damn! I was loving every minute in Hawaii, but I wanted to see and experience the Hawaii that no longer is.

Finally, after a suprisingly long and convoluted search through trappings catering to wealthy tourists, we found Jacob, Lavina and the grandsons. I saw Jacob swimming in the shallow lagoon alongside a good-sized turtle. I shot a few frames, but they were harshly back lit, so I waded into the water to see if I could get on the other side.

I never quite made it to the other side, but I did get in position to snap this frame.

The turtle swam on. Turtles are notoriously slow creatures, but this one soon out-paced me and swam on to who knows where.

During our time in Hawaii, I created great fantasies in my mind. As I noted in my North Shore post, Hawaii bears much of the responsibility for turning me into a photographer as it was the North Shore surfing photos I viewed in Surfer and Surfing magazines as a youth that inspired me to pick up a camera.

I had imagined I would surf all the great wave beaches of the world and along the way I would take great surfing pictures - including in Alaska, a place I knew just had to have good surf and where, even when I was young, I saw as my home.

Obviously, the Hawaii surfing part of my seemingly dead youthful fantasies never came true. Yet, now, I plummeted into deep fantasies that they still could. I imagined future winters, with my  current surgically-inflicted wounds and hernia all repaired and healed, where we would come to Hawaii for months at a time. I would get fit and strong for swimming and paddling. I would yet ride the big waves. I would photograph the big waves from in the waves.

During our time in Hawaii, the fantasy morphed into a grand plan, a scheme, one which would result in me becoming one of those old, fit, grizzled, surf bums such as the one I saw carrying his surfboard at Sunset Beach.

Elsewhere, on a different day, I saw two girls running with a dog.

Mark Twain reported seeing thousands of cats in Hawaii, including this one. 

I was most impressed that a cat could grow to be so old, yet look so young.

Our first two days in Hawaii had been spent on Oahu at a hotel in Waikiki, where I shot this picture from our 5th floor window. We returned to Oahu for our final night and day, but not to this hotel. Just the same, I remembered that the ocean there had been an excellent place to swim, so I swam there again.

As I swam, I raised my head out of the water and was surprised to see a big turtle head about three feet in front of me and a turtle eye, looking back at me.

Next time I come to Hawaii, I must bring a saltwater-worthy camera.

On our final day in Hawaii, we drove around Oahu, back to the North Shore, traveling in the opposite direction we had followed before.

We stopped at the Polynesian Culture Center, owned by the Mormon Church, but they wanted $50 from each of us to allow us to enter, so we did not. Just a bit further up the road, we saw a sign that said, "Laie Temple" - meaning Mormon temple.

So, for the sake of heritage and the personal history that brought us together, Margie and I ventured onto the grounds to take a look.

Soon, as with all things Mormon, the Laie Temple was falling behind me, yet looming ever before me in my rearview mirror.

We did not want to get on this Alaska Airlines jet just yet, but we did. It was supposed to depart Honolulu at 9:55 PM and arrive in Anchorage at 5:00 AM, but did not depart until well after 10:30. I was very tired, so much so I hoped I would be able to fall into a deep sleep and stay asleep.

Of course, even when I am exhausted, sleep seldom comes easy to me and this flight would be no different. At one point, I actually did fall asleep, but I had not been asleep long before I was awakened by the baby approaching toddler stage who sat on the lap of her mother in the aisle seat next to me.

Being woken up by the baby was actually a pleasant and magical experience, because of the way she looked into my eyes from her mother's lap, her own eyes filled with wonder. It was absolutely magical. I wanted to capture the moment, but the light was so low the autofocus on my camera could not lock in. By the time I turned it off and switched to manual focus, the moment was gone.

Even so, right after we boarded the plane, I got a simply wonderful picture of the baby girl in her dad's arms as her mother reached out to her. In fact, I would rate it right up there with the best logbook/inflight pictures I have ever taken. Both parents liked the picture, but the mother told me they want to keep their children off the internet altogether, Facebook included.

This is a quest that is doomed to fail, but one must respect a mother's desire and honor her wishes.

While Margie appears to be sleeping, she says she actually slept very little. She kept kept her eyes closed, but sleep was resistant to follow.

One of my favorite things about being in Hawaii was all the time she and I got to spend together, much of it alone. We don't really spend that much time together. I travel so often and when I am home she is usually in Anchorage, babysitting.

And when we are both home, I tend to spend most of the day from when I first get up to when I go to bed in my office, working or trying to work.

To have all this time together in Hawaii - so rare... so sweet...

Thanks to strong tail winds, despite departing late, we landed in Anchorage a little bit ahead of schedule. I barely had to time to get off the plane, buy an omelette to go at Abby's and a coffee at Metro and then I was back at the airport to board an Era flight to Deadhorse, from where I would catch another to Nuiqsut.

Soon, we were flying over the Brooks Range. It always thrills me to see these mountains - whether from a plane, my feet, a snowmachine or a Nunamiut-owned Argo. It thrilled me this day, too. Still, I longed for Hawaii. In Hawaii, I went eight days straight without ever putting on a shoe or sock.

You can't do that out here.

As is not uncommon, Era got all messed up. It took me six hours to get from Honolulu to Anchorage, but would take me over 11 to get to Nuiqsut. I spent much of the down time at the Prudhoe Bay Hotel, where I ate lunch and used the wireless to edit and place the wedding pictures.

Then I returned to the Era teminal to discover the delay had been extended for a couple of more hours yet.

Daniel and Lillian Akootchook were headed the other way, to Kaktovik, but were also facing a delay that would wind up extending throughout the entire night.

We did some good visiting. Daniel talked about how he sometimes goes out, sits down and patiently waits for caribou to walk right up to him. They look each other right in the eyes. He will do this even when he is not hunting, so he and the animals can appreciate each other. Lillian told me about traveling by dog team as a child with the legendary Arctic John Italook who raised her, often in the very mountains pictured in the previous image.

Daniel and Lillian's stories got me all excited to forget about Hawaii for a spell and get fully back into the north.

I reached Nuiqsut very late. It was Wednesday night - church gospel singing night across the North Slope, so the dancers who will going to Barrow for Kivgiq had gathered at the church to practice their gospel singing in preparation for the Wednesday night Singspiration.

I joined them, took a few pictures and listened. I still missed Hawaii, but it was good to be back in Nuiqsut. Outside, the temperature was -35.

By the next day, it had dropped into the -40's, as seen here from my hotel window. Suddenly, I longed for Hawaii all over again. I wanted to be there, with my family, no shoes on my feet. I wanted to swim with turtles through warm water; to have Rex make me a surfboard like the one he made and brought to Hawaii.

I wanted to be an old surf bum with my surgical wounds and hernia healed, my titanium shoulder not a factor, riding the big waves.

There was but one thing to do. I put on my coat.

I stepped outside and began to walk through the village. The parka Melanie gave me for Christmas was warm. It felt good to be out in the cold air, deadly though it be.

I had not walked long before Nannie Kaigelak came by, stopped, offered me a ride and took me to the house of her parents, Isaac and Bernice. Her mother's truck was parked in the driveway. I was very, very, surprised to see some familiar looking decals adorning the back window.

Turtles! Hawaiian turtles! I recognized them just like that!

As it turned out, they had been to Hawaii - Maui - at the same time we were on the big island.

I took this picture of Bernice's turtle decals later in the day, at the Nuiqsut fire station.

Bernice had brought a bunch of bamboo, cut into strips, home from Maui. Inside the fire station, she instructed some of the young people as to how she wanted them to sand the bamboo down.

Cyrus Ahtuangaruak, sanding bamboo Bernice brought to Nuiqsut from Maui.

In another room, where women were sewing, John Ipalook stretched a cover over a circular frame. I am certain that the moment they see the bamboo in the previous frame, Iñupiat readers will know why Bernice brought it home. For everybody else, this is a pretty strong clue.

Drum sticks! Yes! Bernice brought the bamboo home to make drumsticks for Kivgiq! She knew bamboo was strong and flexible. Normally, the sticks are made of hardwoods, but she thought bamboo might be even better. She had heard of someone else using bamboo and it had apparently worked pretty good.

I shot this image at last night's dance practice.

It was great fun to be there - so wonderful to hear the drums and the songs, to hear the laughter and the happy exchange as the village prepares to go to the greatest celebration of dancing, feasting and gift giving that takes place in the Far North.

Yes, I took lots of pictures. I will take lots more at the next practice and all next week, after I follow Nuiqsut to Barrow and Kivgiq.

I know some readers look forward to me posting Kivgiq pictures. It is possible I might post one or two, but don't count on it. Come Kivgiq, I will be busy from the time I wake up until long after each night's performance ends, as it usually takes me several hours to download, back up and manage the day's shoot and then I barely have time to get a good nap and go cover the next day.

Plus, late yesterday afternoon, it finally became official - I get to make another 120 page Uiñiq magazine on this Kivgiq 2013, slated for release July 2. If time allows, I might post one or two token images on this blog, just to say, "here I am at Kivgiq," but otherwise I am going to save them for Uiñiq magazine.

After Uiñiq has been in circulation for a month or two, I hope to post a series to present many of the images that will not make it into Uiñiq magazine. 

As to my Hawaii surf bum fantasy, it has already slipped into the fading realm where most all fantasies go to die.

And yet...

Reader Comments (7)

And yet... We must always let our dreams put that special twinkle in our eyes...

February 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNancy

From the tropics to the frozen tundra....quite the trip! Hope we get to see more from Hawaii! It looks so much colder now in Alaska!. Have you ever added up all your air miles? Did you get to the black sand beach on Hawaii? So beautiful! When we were in Kona the sand was all washed out to sea and the beach was rocky Lava like at the wedding. I would like to go back and see it covered with soft, warm sand. Saw the pictures of it covered in sand. Never saw any turtles tho. Love walking the beach bare footed! Wonder if the grandsons will surf the waves in Hawaii like their Grandpa did?

February 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMrs Gunka

Hawaii sounds wonderful!

Bill you wrote, "Nunamiut-owned Argo." What is an 'Argo?'

Curious about Uiñiq magazine. Any chance they will be available to purchase by those of us who are not living in Alaska or native to Alaska?

February 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJim

Isn't sad how much time and money is tied up in in-state travel?! Awe! I wish I would have known you were "stuck" in Prudhoe for a little bit.I would have gladly bought you a coffee at the lovely Prudhoe Bay Hotel! I hope you enjoy yourself at Kivgiq! I'm jealous, I wish I had the oppurtunity to go! I'm also glad you were able to enjoy your time with the Mrs. in Hawaii. Congrats on the Uiñiq magazine. How much of your time does it take to produce the end result for Uiñiq magazine? I know it must take forever, but you always seem pleased with the results... granted I know you wish it was much larger than the 120 pages!!! Since you are in one of your favorite elements, please enjoy the company, dance, music and food! Here's to good rest and comfort while working!! Take care sir!

February 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKera

Nancy - yes, gotta keep them damn dreams alive, impractical and illogical thought they be.

Mrs. Gunka - Maybe they will surf alongside their grandpa.

Jim - an Argo is an 8-wheeled ATV that can double as a boat when you need to cross a stream - very popular among the people of Anaktuvuk Pass. Uiñiq is not put on the market either outside or even in Alaska. It is distributed by the North Slope Borough.

Kera - I have absolutely no idea how much time I put into making an edition of Uiñiq. Lots. Time loses meaning when I get into it. Day and night become one and the same. It will take at least a couple of months of work just to do a half-way intelligent edit of the images.

February 10, 2013 | Registered CommenterLogbook - Wasilla - Beyond

What a trek! Turtles all the way from Hawaii to Alaska.
Nice you and Margie had some quality time.

February 12, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLittle Sister

Your journalism just brings life to the actual events! Loving every bit of it!

February 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBernice Kaigelak

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