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Oceanographer treks to Alaska

Volunteers with the Inian Islands Institute on Hobbit Hole, an island in Alaska. Zachary Brown, who recently walked through Del Norte County, is raising funds for the school. Submitted
 Heavy clouds hung over Zachary Brown’s head as he wended his way down an overgrown part of Coastal Drive. 

He had left U.S. Highway 101 behind, plunged through stands of old-growth redwoods and came upon an overlook along the unpaved road.

“It had just stopped raining,” he said last week. “I could see different storms and a rainbow. It was quite awe-inspiring.”

Brown, who recently earned a Ph.D. in oceanography at Stanford University, had set off on foot from the school 27 days previous to his experience in Redwood National and State Parks. He passed through Crescent City last Wednesday and hopes to reach Port Angeles, Wash., at the end of June. Brown was near Cape Blanco in Oregon on Monday.

From Port Angeles, Brown said he will take to the water and kayak the rest of the way to Alaska, arriving at a remote archipelago sandwiched between the Tongass National Forest and Glacier Bay National Park called the Inian Islands. He said the object of his trek is to find a “visionary donor” for a non-profit field school, the Inian Islands Institute, that he is establishing at a piece of property on one of the islands called the Hobbit Hole.

“I’ve been meeting a lot of people along the way and handing out cards and leaving letters in mailboxes,” said Brown, whose hometown of Gustavus is nearby. “I’ve heard from a lot of people who are expressing a lot of support but still nobody who’s got the means to help purchase the property.”

Brown grew up visiting the Hobbit Hole. It’s the only piece of property on an undeveloped island that is completely off the grid, he said. Its owners, commercial fishermen, are selling the place and moving away, Brown said.

So far, Brown said, the school has raised $25,000 through the crowd funding site, IndieGoGo.com. That money has helped pay for a promotional video and a professional appraisal of the property.

“We’ve got a lot of pieces in place, (including) an advisory council and a business model,” Brown said. “Once we purchase the property we’ll keep the program moving with a combination of foundation grants and tuition.”

Once it’s established, the field school will educate college and high school students, Brown said. Several high schools in the Bay Area have already expressed interest. The curriculum will be hands-on and will focus on the local ecology and geology, as well as how to subsist in such a remote area, he said.

“We can’t just look at the natural sciences; we have to look at the social sciences,” he said. “How we can meet the needs of people and the environment? By integrating the social sciences and natural sciences, we can help make (students) better leaders.”

For more information about the Inian Islands Institute, visit inianislandinstitute.org

Reach Jessica Cejnar at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 


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