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Harriman Expedition Retraced

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 Elizabeth Litwin

Williston Northampton School
Easthampton, Massachusetts


Elizabeth Litwin
Reflections on the Harriman Expedition Retraced

"I like to travel," says Elizabeth Litwin, and it's a good thing, since she has, at 14, visited not only Alaska but also the Domican Republic, Costa Rica, Canada and many spots in the United States. "I like to be on boats, and I like the water, especially when it's warm." Perhaps this affinity with bodies of water was a factor in her choice on onboard project during the Harriman Alaska Expedition Retraced: a test of ocean salinity at various points along the route.

Her interest in water extends into other parts of her life, sports, for example. At Williston Northampton School in Massachusetts she plays water polo. Her favorite subjects are English and Civics, and her favorite author is Roald Dahl.

Reflections on the Harriman Expedition Retraced

Before the voyage, I had no idea I would meet so many new people with different cultures and lifestyles. The world is a much larger place than I thought and is full of things I never even dreamed about. To say that I learned many new things does not begin to explain my experience.

Many people have asked me what was my favorite part of the trip. This is a very hard question, because everything I did was so new and interesting. On Little Diomede Island the people eat walrus and make boats from walrus skins. The same food that we get everyday from the supermarket has to be flown into them by helicopters from Nome.

Seal grease, herring eggs, fried "hooligans," whale meat, and seaweed were all new foods that taught me about Alaska's cultures, people, and animals. I now have a much bigger view of the world and think about the many lifestyles that people can have.

But, that still doesn't answer the question about my favorite part of the trip. After I think about it for a little while I keep coming back to Russia. When I got to Siberia, I knew I was a very long way from home. In the villages of Lorino and Itygran Island everyone in the village came to the beach to welcome us. For the Bering Sea, the weather was unbelievable. Bright sun, blue sky, and the water was very calm. Landing our zodiac boats was easy compared to rougher landings we had experienced. It was a great feeling coming ashore to see many people who were so happy to welcome us.

When we got on shore and walked into a large crowd of Native people. I felt very out of place. I did not speak their language, wear the same clothes, or live in the same type of community. It was a great experience to meet with people who were so nice and so different. I even learned a little Russian.

My favorite moment was when three girls my age walked up to me while I was walking along the beach. They only spoke Russian and I only spoke English. It took a lot of thinking for me to figure out what they wanted. Using hand signs and the words we had in common, I finally figured out that they wanted me to take their picture and send a copy to them. Of course, I did not know their address so I had them write it down in my notebook. It was wonderful for me to talk with girls my age that lived in a world so different from mine. I can't think of a better way learn about different ways of life than jumping into the middle of it. If I could do one part of this trip again, I would definitely go back to Itygran, Russia, and visit with my new friends.


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For information on the Harriman Retraced Expedition e-mail: harriman2001@science.smith.edu

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