Blog | Alaskan adventure
One Scout Leader embarks on a different kind of journey...
You may have heard of Barrow, Alaska... It’s the desolate setting for the horror film (and novel), 30 Days of Night. A small town at the most northern point of Alaska, Barrow is plunged into darkness for a couple of months straight every year (the perfect place for vampires in the aforementioned film and book!).
It’s a bleak place and almost certainly it wouldn’t be your first choice for a holiday destination. But for one intrepid Explorer Scout Leader from Swansea, Barrow is the place – for now at least – that he calls home.
It’s grim up north
‘It looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland; full of dusty corrugated-iron sheds and warehouses and a patchwork of wind-blasted wooden houses. Forget the mountains and glaciers you picture of Alaska; Barrow is extremely flat. On a clear day you can see for hundreds of miles in all directions.’
Meet Owen Hayman: 23 and an Assistant Explorer Scout Leader whose Scout spirit and hunger for adventure has brought him to Northern Alaska.
Though it’s not the most glamorous place for an explorer, there’s a reason Owen has flown out to this remote location – he’s here on serious business. Owen is a field technician intern, working on collecting information for Sheffield University and San Diego State University as part of a long-term project. ‘Our research in Barrow tells us if the tundra up here is absorbing or releasing carbon dioxide and methane, both of which are greenhouse gases.’
Living and working in a remote corner of the world in -40° conditions is the kind of situation Owen is used to. He has adventure flowing through his veins and he’s been exploring the world and seeking excitement since he got his first taste of Scouting: ‘I’ve worked on Scout camps in Washington State, an international camp in Arkansas and volunteered in Sweden,’ says Owen.
Spirit of adventure
Owen has been a Scout since he was six, joining 44th Swansea Scouts as a Beaver; he’s now AESU with Anvil Explorer Unit in Sheffield. It’s no surprise that Owen ended up getting an intern role that takes him to the far corners of the earth – to environments as unique as Barrow. ‘Without a doubt, Scouting was key in helping me identify my strengths and finding ways to work with my weaknesses. Outdoors work and an interest in the environment were fostered in Scouting.’
And Owen’s Barrow experience isn’t all work and no play: ‘During the mid-summer there were many other researchers here from all over the world – as many as 50 – we’d have bonfires on the beach.’
Quad-biking, coastal walks and exploration and bird-watching all feature in Owen’s day-to-day routine, as does getting involved in cultural events like local dances and meeting local Scouts. ‘There’s a Boy Scout Troop here in Barrow,’ says Owen. ‘During the winter the Scouts build an igloo and sleep in it. During summer they may camp locally but usually fly to central Alaska to Lost Lake Scout Camp to meet Scouts from other parts of Alaska.’
Just the beginning
Owen will spend five-and-a-half months in Barrow, adventuring and studying with other researchers and enjoying a fairly surreal way of life.
He’s come a long way since lighting his first campfire as a Beaver Scout and enjoying a memorable meal of toast and marmalade. These are the earliest memories of adventure for Owen and it’s definitely Scouting that started him out on the path to an amazing journey.
‘I remember bonding with Scouts from all over the world around the campfire at Gilwell Park and getting on a plane to go to the USA when I was 19 to work at a Scout camp,’ says Owen. ‘It was the first time I’d been on a plane. I was alone but I knew I had the best summer of my life ahead of me and this was just the beginning of my adventures!’