Published: December 2006
Kenneth Garrett

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

After living under the Soviets for 50 years, Bulgarians now show so much hope in their faces. They were in the shadow of the Soviet Union for so long. Then in 1989 when the introduction of glasnost allowed more open expression and discussion of political and social issues, they were finally freed of the Soviet yoke. But the Bulgarians were so angry at the Soviets that they didn't want to have a trade relationship with them—and the Soviets were the main clients for copper, manufactured electrical goods, and agricultural products such as fruits and wine. So most of their factories closed, and the country lost its economic base. But now they are rebuilding the economy and the tourist industry, and you can see the hope in these people. The cloud has lifted, and it's a great period of optimism in Bulgaria.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

There wasn't a great deal of looting or excavating when Bulgaria was a Soviet state. Today, however, there is enormous pressure from looters on all of the country's archaeological sites. Every winter more and more of these large burial mounds are destroyed, and artifacts are lost to the art market. It's very difficult to crack down on who is responsible for the looting. Archaeologists are racing against the clock to beat the looters and save Bulgaria's treasures.

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

One day I hiked down a narrow cobble-strewn beach with Earl Kingick, the pony-tailed, camouflage-clad director of wildlife and parks for Point Hope. The 800-foot-high (240-meter-high) bluffs of Cape Thompson towered above us on one side, while on the other a small lead separated us from the ice-covered Chukchi Sea.

We were both on edge. Earlier we came across the tracks of a large coastal brown bear and her cub, a potentially lethal combination. Earl carried his rifle loosely in his hands as we walked. When we came to a blind corner, Earl fired a warning shot into the air, hoping to scare any bear that might be lurking on the other side. Seconds later the sky darkened as millions of common murres took flight from the cliffs. But there was no time to enjoy the spectacle. The birds triggered a torrent of stones the size of patio pavers that sent us fleeing faster than any bear.