There’s moments in people’s lives that change their destiny forever. This is photo represents one for me. But before I dive into this story, let me share another moment that leads into this one.
What set me on this course of wild bush life can be narrowed down to two life events. One.. well, that was when I was born and my father named me Daniel Boone of course :) The second event really sealed the deal. As a boy, I grew up in several different states. This was due to my father's nomadic oil and gas business, with Texas as one of these states. During a summer trip to the beach with my family, I had my first encounter with a large animal, at close range. I had been swimming in the surf in 4-5 feet of water on top of an inter-tube, when a wave overturned me. I opened my eyes underwater just in time to see a large Sand Tiger shark cruise by, just a few feet in front of my face. Although not the most fierce-some of sharks, they are still unmistakable easy to identify with a large mouth full of teeth and curious silhouette. I remember the moment quite vividly! (Luckily these sharks rarely attack humans and I think there’s only been 2 fatalities ever recorded.) As a kid, I had faced a denizen of the deep and lived to tell about it (atleast that was my story at 13). At that very moment my curiosity with this underwater world that I didn’t fully understand, was blown wide open. What other animals were out there in murky waters that I didn’t know about or could see? How could something this big have been right next to me without knowing about it? That moment turned into a strong fascination all things "Wild". Fast-forward ahead a couple dozen years and you'll now find me walking alongside monstrous brown bear footprints and swimming in the cold waters of Alaska with sharks.
Now for the above photo. In 2011, I was contacted by a producer for Discovery Channel looking to make up a follow up show for Shark Week. They had made 2 previous attempts at filming salmon sharks but had struck out. Well I had been filming surface sharks for some time and posting them on Youtube. They saw these online and preceded to book time at the lodge. I deal was struck and guiding the crew to the best spots to film. Close to the end of their time here, with a plethora of subjects filmed, some of the crew found themselves with spare time. One such person was a man named Mark Rackley, who has filmed some amazing animal moments for all the big networks. If you’ve watched intense animal moments on tv, it was most likely filmed by this guy. Not only is he an accomplished camera man, fearless and bold, he carries all the qualities that would make a person at the top of their game. He’s also willing to take the time to enrich someone’s life by personalizing an experience. Before this moment, I had never been in the Alaskan water, but always had the inclination to try. He grabs Gina and I and says, “you know, we’ve got two extra wetsuits, you wanna get in?” How could I pass this up when offered a first-hand experience from I consider a living legend. We dawn on the suits, walk down to the dock, jump in and the rest in history!
I hadn’t known what I was missing. There was this other world just under the water, giving me an entirely new perspective on life in Alaska. I had basically been missing 50% of the wildlife here. Towards the end of the swim, Mark turns to us and says, “hey lets got a photo”. And in the moment I thought to myself, this is the direction I want to take the lodge.
Trust me, it hasn’t been easy transitioning the lodge. People come to Alaska to fish, hunt, take photo’s and loads of other things, but diving is an incredibly incredibly small percentage of tourism. I’ve been lucky to befriend some local dive shops in the state, who've helped get this off the ground. And continue to build on each years experiences. But this image will always be when this idea burst into existence.