A couple of years ago Adam Shoalts set out to explore the little known Again River. With the help of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, he was going to canoe the river, mapping it as he went. The expedition spawned global media coverage, inclusion in Canadian Geographic’s greatest 100 modern-day explorers, and a book about his adventures called Alone Against the North, which is due out October 6, 2015. Here, the author and 21st century explorer discusses the adventure of writing about his adventures.
What was your goal in writing this book?
I just tried to share a bit of my world with readers. But I wanted the book to be more than just an adventure story or narrative of my expeditions, so I tried to weave in a lot about other explorers, not only from Canada, but all other the world, to shed light on the true nature of what it means to explore and to be an explorer.
What surprised you most on your journey?
First, how wild the river was, in every sense of the word. A pristine wilderness, but also a river laced with dangerous rapids and hidden waterfalls. Second, the media attention I received. I'd been quietly canoeing wilderness rivers alone for years and no one ever paid much attention. Then one morning I woke to find myself famous; the Guardian had published a story about me, which spawned coverage all over the world. It was definitely strange.
If you could recreate the journey, what would you change?
I probably wouldn't change a thing. The bad weather, the lightning storms, swamping in a rapid, going over a waterfall… all those things just add to the adventure. Well, ok, I would change one thing: I forgot to pack sunscreen and ended up caking myself in mud — I might change that!
What advice do you have for young Canadians who dream about exploring the north?
I always say anyone can be an explorer—you don't need to travel to some far-away place or do extreme journeys. You can start by just taking a closer look at what's in your own backyard-pull up some rocks, start making a list of different plant species, go fossil hunting, look for different types of birds or animals. There's so much right in our immediate neighborhoods we never see or don't know about.
What's next for Adam Shoalts?
My big project right now is training and preparing for a five-month solo journey across the Arctic in 2017.