Wild Man Islandby Will Hobbs
After fourteen-year-old Andy slips away from his kayaking group to visit the wilderness site of his archaeologist father's death, a storm strands him on Admiralty Island, Alaska, where he manages to survive, encounters unexpected animal and human inhabitants, and looks for traces of the earliest prehistoric immigrants to America. See more details below
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After fourteen-year-old Andy slips away from his kayaking group to visit the wilderness site of his archaeologist father's death, a storm strands him on Admiralty Island, Alaska, where he manages to survive, encounters unexpected animal and human inhabitants, and looks for traces of the earliest prehistoric immigrants to America.
- HarperCollins Publishers
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- Product dimensions:
- 5.12(w) x 7.62(h) x 0.38(d)
- Age Range:
- 8 - 12 Years
Read an Excerpt
I was pushing the limits. My kayak was out in front of the others but still within shouting distance. So far they weren't calling me back.
It was the sixth day, the last full day of our trip, and this was the area where we were supposed to have the best chance of seeing the humpbacks. Gimme a whale, I thought. I'm ready for forty tons of breaching humpback whale just like on the postcards.
My eyes were locked on the horizon. The last thing I expected was action right under my nose. Whooosh! came a fountain of water and an explosion of breath as something huge burst out of the water only a few yards away. There, right next to me, was the head of what might have been a giant seal. Big eyes, little ears, long whiskers -- I didn't know what it was. The animal looked me over for a second, snorted, then slipped back underwater.
�Wow!� I said under my breath. �Come back and give me another look, big fella.�
For a minute, nothing. I was sure it was gone for good when, suddenly, the sea erupted with fountains and whooshes. This time five of the critters were bobbing up and down and snorting. Their large eyes were dark and mischievous. A furry water polo team with attitude, that's how they struck me.
I waved. In response, they swam straight at me. At the last second, point-blank and enormous, they slipped under my kayak.
When they popped up again, they were back where they had first appeared. Still checking me out, they snorted at me, almost comically. �Cool trick,� I called.
Two, three times, I whacked my paddle on the water, hoping they would repeat their stunt so I could get another close look atthem.
Same as before, they headed straight for me. Same as before, they passed right under my kayak.
�Andy!� came a voice from behind, and there was Monica, paddling toward me like there was no tomorrow. A ski racer in the winters, Monica was the trip leader even though she was the younger of our two guides. I was basically in awe of her.
�Stop! Stop!� she cried, as she reached out and grabbed hold of my kayak.
�What's wrong? I wasn't doing any -- �
�Those are Steller's sea lions, Andy. They can be dangerous! They weigh close to two thousand pounds. Did they snort at you?�
�It was amazing. They wanted to play.�
�Maybe,� she said, raising her eyebrows, �but they can play rough. They were more like charging you, challenging you. A couple of years ago one of them tipped over a kayak. It happened to one of the other compan -- �
Suddenly Monica's eyes went big, and I saw why. Not very far away, an immense whale was bursting out of the sea. Its enormous white flippers flailed as it rose twisting into the air.
For a second the whale seemed to hang suspended, water streaming off its sides. With a resounding splash, it fell on its back into the sea.
Behind us, cheers went up from the group, and someone hollered, �First whale!�
With a huge smile, Monica reached for my shoulder and gave me a forgiving pat. �Humpback whales, Andy! This is what we came for!�
With a sudden pivot, she sped toward the others.
It was going to take me a while to recover from the sting of Monica's reprimand. I was fourteen, as young as Adventure Alaska would allow on these trips, and the only kid in the group. For six days, I'd been trying so hard.
As I paddled on, I thought about what Monica had just said, that we'd come for the whales. In my case, that was only partly true.
Mostly I had come all the way from Colorado to Baranof Island to make a pilgrimage. My father had died on Baranof. Of course, Monica didn't know anything about that.
A few minutes later, with all seven kayaks paddling together, the group witnessed a second breach, and then a third. A little while after that, two humpbacks at once rocketed out of the sea.
�Okay, guys, let's quit paddling,� Monica instructed. �We're about as close as we should get. Let's raft up. Grab on to the kayak next to you.�
She began to tap on the hull of her kayak. �Let's let them know where we are, so they can steer clear. I'd rather not go airborne on a whale, or find myself underneath one when it falls, thank you very much.�
I started tapping on my hull, and so did the paddlers in the four tandem kayaks. Our other guide, Julia, pointed excitedly to the right, where the seagulls were all worked up about something. Julia was my mother's age and our naturalist. We watched as the gulls circled, screaming, over a spot suddenly churning with fish. By the hundreds, small silvery herring were leaping out of the water, frantically it seemed, and we soon found out why. �Bubble net!� Julia cried, as four feeding humpbacks in a tight ring, jaws wide open, exploded through the surface.
I was mesmerized. My father had seen this up close, had told my mother all about it. It was on account of my father that Alaska had always been a magic word for me, a powerful magnet. The older I got, the more strongly I'd felt Alaska's pull.
My father had been convinced that the islands of southeast Alaska were hiding deep, dark secrets from the past. When I was five years old, he died trying to find those secrets.
Flanked by whales breaching in the strait, we paddled across the narrow mouth of Cosmos Cove. Our last campsite was in sight at the foot of the cliff. All my feelings about losing my father, growing up without him, were breaking through the surface.Wild Man Island. Copyright � by Will Hobbs. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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