This summer, Adam Weymouth and Ulli Mattsson canoed over a thousand miles across Alaska, following the course of the Yukon River as far as the Arctic Ocean. The purpose of the journey was to investigate the recent crash in king salmon numbers, and to explore how the decline is affecting the many communities that depend upon it.
On their way downriver they spoke to Alaskan natives of many different tribes, to the fishing industry, and to those living in cabins in the middle of nowhere, all dependent on salmon as a vital part of their culture and economy. They spoke to biologists, to tourists, and to state troopers enforcing the fishing ban. The aim was to explore the range of factors threatening the salmon, and to question whether such an animal, dependent on cold water, unsullied landscapes and vast migrations, has a place in the modern world.
For weeks at a time they saw no one, camping at the river’s edge on gravel bars, watching the bears and the eagles. And they stayed in native villages, where subsistence hunting is still integral to the life style, and where fishing for salmon is something that holds the communities together. Many of the villages have no connection to the road system, and the river is the highway that joins them, traversed by skiffs in summer and snowmobiles in winter. By the time the Yukon reaches the Bering Sea, it is over four miles wide.
Adam’s book, The Kings of the Yukon, will be published in Spring 2018, by Penguin in the UK, by Little, Brown in the US, and by Random House in Canada.