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Jonas Parker

12th Grade, Sitka High School,
Sitka, Alaska


Jonas Parker

Jonas Parker
Reflections on the Harriman Expedition Retraced
"I love the outdoors, history, geography, the sciences, and computer technology," says Jonas Parker. A wide range of interests, but this 17-year-old has successfully integrated them, both in his school work and out in the working world. Since his sophomore year, he has used Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a computer-based mapping program to explore the history and geography of Alaska. In one project, he created an atlas study of a local watershed. A second project involved GIS mappings of the home range, habitat and species characteristics of the endangered Queen Charlotte Goshawk.

Outside school, Jonas has served as a trail guide for the Sitka Conservation Society, created displays for the Miller Museum and served as a science assistant for the local home school program. "I try to camp at least once a week with my friends. I bike a lot as well, and last year I bought my own kayak," he says. Even with all this activity he has found time to undertake an ambitious study of the Russian language and to serve on the school's debate team. What he doesn't have a lot of time for is outside reading. "As much as I hate to say it," he admits, "I really don't read a whole lot. Even in winter, when it's dark all day, there's always something better to do -- usually outside. But I do like the Clive Cussler adventure series, stories in which the hero has to save the world and rescue the girl. The books are all pretty much the same, but they're a lot of fun."

His favorite spot in Alaska is the South Baranof Wilderness, just to the south of Sitka, a place he explored last year during his family's annual hunting trip. "We hiked the mountain ridge line, and looked out across a broad glaciated area, a beautiful sub-alpine vista that I want to go back and see again."

Reflections on the Harriman Expedition Retraced

The Harriman Alaska Expedition Retraced was an extraordinary experience -- one that can never be duplicated. The sole disadvantage to me was that I was a participating member on the first leg of the voyage in Southeast Alaska. One may ask "what's wrong with that?" This is where a majority of the cultural and social interactions of the voyage occurred. My reasoning is simple: this is the area where I live -- Sitka, Alaska to be exact. Granted, some of the locations we visited were new to me: Glacier Bay, Prince William Sound, and Cape Fox. However, much of the geographical and cultural landscape was familiar. The more lasting impression I took from the Harriman Alaska Expedition is that of the scholars and passengers on board the Clipper Odyssey.

When I first arrived in Seattle and met up with Doug Penn and Salah Aboulhouda, everything went well. We pulled into the Four Season's Hotel in a limousine and checked into a wonderful room. However, that very afternoon there was a "Scholar's Meeting." This particular meeting was intimidating, but I was ready for it: I had brought a suit and tie! Still, as the meeting progressed, I became overwhelmed. The magnitude of intelligence in this room was astounding! While the group talked primarily about the logistics of the upcoming trip, I resigned myself to being quiet for fear of sounding like a mere high school student! My only confidence came from the fact that I managed to make the group laugh during introductions. That was enough of an accomplishment for me.

The next morning, the expedition boarded a bus to the airport and immediately the ice was broken. I began discussing Alaskan politics with one of the expedition scholars, which turned out to be far more informal, compared to the evening before. By that afternoon -- before the group had even boarded the ship -- I was making friends. It seemed that all the expedition scholars where extremely outgoing, friendly and while being extraordinarily intelligent, they remained relaxed and informal in the presence of their very new and very young colleague.

As Young Explorers, Salah and I, under the watchful eye of Doug Penn, began an informal lunch session during which time we would invite one of the scholars to talk with us about his or her profession. These lunch sessions were by far the most beneficial portion of the voyage. The scholars became more relaxed, less politically correct and in general, simply had a good time with us. These lunch sessions allowed us to dig deep into the issues at hand, whether they were eco- tourism in Alaska or gold mining in the Klondike.

Without a doubt, being in the company of these tremendous minds from all over the continent was the most fantastic event of the entire expedition for me. In the future I hope to be as lucky as I was this past summer, because in truth, how often does one share a scientific expedition with thirty PhDs?


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

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