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Alaska's North Slope
MAY 2006
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In some cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.
Photograph by Mark Thiessen

Photo: Caribou in front of truck
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Alaska's North Slope



     The first time I saw polar bears in the wild was in Kaktovik, where the Inupiat had just finished their bowhead whale hunt. At night, as many as 40 bears showed up to feed on meat that had been left on the shore. It was an amazing experience to see them up close. I hung out in my rental van, and sometimes a curious bear would peer into my window and start banging on the van.
    I wanted to do some aerials in a remote area called Eagle Creek, but I got fogged in for several days. On the first day, I walked around shooting pictures of the tundra and the occasional caribou antler, but there wasn't much to do after that. I started getting really antsy. I'm a type-A personality, and I like to stay moving all the time.
    I wanted to show readers how buggy the North Slope is, so I pulled off my shoes and socks and sat around for 15 minutes. After five minutes, mosquitoes were swarming my feet. And after ten minutes, I started shooting pictures. I felt like a doctor was giving me a thousand shots. It was pure torture.
    Later, my feet were a red, blotchy mess, and I had to drive a hundred miles (160 kilometers) back to my hotel. I scratched my feet the entire way. I ripped them up, but it felt so good. This just shows how far a National Geographic photographer will go to get an interesting picture. (Send this image as a postcard.)

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