by Craig Zwolak
San Antonio, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Philadelphia… and St. Paul Island, AK. Most of the cities I’ve been to for World’s Toughest Fixes are easy to find on a map, but St. Paul Island, AK took some time — not to mention good eyesight.
The journey to St. Paul Island started off with some slight problems. The first flight from Washington, DC to Seattle was supposed to leave at 8am, but due to mechanical failure I sat at DCA until 4pm. Once we took off it was smooth sailing, which is more than I can say for our producer Todd Wendel’s experience. Unfortunately Todd was already on location in Dutch Harbor. The plan was for him to traverse the treacherous Bering Sea with the boys of Magone Marine. The problem was that an ice storm had just surrounded the small island of St. Paul. With no chance for boats to enter the harbor Todd was stuck in Dutch Harbor and the rest of the crew continued onward to St. Paul in the air. Seattle to Anchorage to Dillingham to St. George Island… and finally St. Paul Island! Stepping off the plane the bitter chill in the air hit my lungs in an instant.
The crew faced obstacles everyday while on the island. The first four days we waited for our producer, Todd, to arrive via the Redeemer (Magone Marine). Unfortunately for us Todd had purchased all of our food supplies while in Dutch Harbor. With no restaurants on the island it was home cooking throughout the project.
After shooting in the freezing cold each day the crew would split chores at the apartment each night. Peel, bake, boil, and toast. It wasn’t exactly gourmet meals every night but it worked. The night before Todd and the rest of Magone Marine arrived on the island the crew decided to shoot some footage from the shoreline. Icebergs crowded the shoreline breaking on the rocks that in a few short weeks would be inhabited by fur seals. I ventured down to the edge of the rocks with several layers of clothing to get a close up of the icy water. I quickly learned that Mother Nature was unpredictable when she decided to send an ice swell right at me. Needless to say I used every bit of hot water in the apartment that night to warm up.
Through the cold, rain, sleet, snow and even Riley’s frostbite it was easy to keep a good perspective on the challenge ahead of our team. This wasn’t simply a World’s Toughest Fix — it was an opportunity to showcase part of the world that outsiders seldom get the chance to visit. Eventually Todd arrived to the island on the Redeemer and the fix was completed in less than two weeks, but some of my favorite memories of this project happened before filming even commenced. Not many people can say they got to walk down the span of the Bay Bridge as it was completely shut down to traffic, but I can!
Video Preview: “Riley Freezes His Butt Off” — Riley is about to find out just how icy the Bering Sea feels.
Don’t miss World’s Toughest Fixes “Alaskan Salvage“ premiering September 30th at 8P et/pt.