A letter from the Lost Sea Expedition Wagon
May 29, 2018

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter
A letter for you, straight from the Lost Sea Expedition wagon (Otero County, NM)
Polly’s tied up in the wind to a road sign that says “Pinon Creek Rd” – a road that leads from dust to more wind.

That’s how the letter started.

Traveling from Canada to Mexico with my wagon for the Lost Sea Expedition TV series, I kept in touch with friends largely through letters – occasionally a phone call. Toward the end of my voyage, crossing the parched expanses of the Chihuahua Desert, sending these letters got tougher. There just weren’t any post offices in this land of choya, prickly pear and wind. Forget about phone booths.

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter
Day’s end. Here mule Polly and I knock off for the day. We’re camped way off the road in the New Mexican desert. That didn’t mean the filming stopped. On this particular evening, I broke out my dulcimer and serenaded mule Polly with a 3-string concert. Okay, it was one song. It was just good enough to include on the Lost Sea Expedition TV series. You can stream the series on Amazon included free with Prime and Vimeo. Or you can buy the DVD here at the RiverEarth.com General Store
bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter
Can you see my tiny home? You may have to look reeealllly hard. It’s the yellow speck toward the middle of the picture just above the century plant, the aloe-looking plant with all the spines. This is where I wrote the letter you’re about to read.

These simple paper and pen missives reeked of wind, the dust and the alone-ness.

Here’s a letter I wrote to my dear friend M. Looking back on it now, through the lens of all the electronic communications that’s eroded my attentions span since that voyage, I like how it feels better than ever before.

From Crow Flats, New Mexico, I wrote:

Dear M,

Polly’s tied up in the wind to a road sign that says “Pinon Creek Rd” – a road that leads from dust to more wind. I haven’t been able to call for over a week now so decided to write you a note and have one of the road construction guys mail it on his way home.
In the past week we’ve climbed and rattled down 2,500 feet of elevation. More important, we haven’t heard from the outside world, the “crisis” having a way of filtering into our every day lives.

With 2+- weeks left in the voyage, I’m already looking forward to returning home to spring, complete with fingers digging in moist soil, making tiny bed holes for even smaller roots.

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter

I must bring you something home from this desert, something that a little water and prosperity won’t kill. Oh, wait, that could be me…
Well, better run. The gravel truck is heading this way.
Now this letter’s adventure begins. Please note the postmark so we can see where it was mailed from.
See you soon! Give my regards to J and W.
PS: Hope school’s going well. I couldn’t send you a cactus for your garden but I could draw one for your letter.

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter

So that’s what I wrote. Now I just had to get that letter in to the US Postal system.

On board the Lost Sea Expedition wagon, I carried a few stamps. I stuck enough postage on my letter to carry it to its destination. The only traffic I’d seen were the occasional gravel truck I’d mentioned in the letter. It got me thinking.

Then I just waited. And waited. And waited some more.

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter
Waiting is a big part of wagon travel. I’m good at it, having had lots of practice. This is a skill that’s easily eroded by social media. That’s why I regularly go offline. Just to keep my waiting skills honed.

Finally, a cloud of dust on the gravel road I was traveling. A gravel truck.

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter
The gravel truck that appeared out of the desert road dust cloud. It belongs to the Otero County Road Department (New Mexico)

I flagged down the driver. Gave him my letter. Asked him to post it when he got home.

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter
The hand off. You can see by the grin on my face that I’m mighty happy to be seeing someone way out there in the desert. Thanks Otero County Road Department!

That night, alone in my wagon, I thought of the new journey my letter had begun. How that letter, entrusted to a flagged down stranger, would be making its way back to civilization. Outside, the desert wind blew. I felt a little less alone knowing word of my existence would reach the outside world.

Mule Polly and I are home now. Here’s how you can watch the entire Lost Sea Expedition series:

Public TV:

-Rocky Mountain PBS (Colorado)
June 7, 14, 28 and July 5 / 7p


- Amazon included free with Prime. If you enjoy the series please leave a review on Amazon. These really help.

- Vimeo


- available at the RiverEarth.com General Store.

PS: I have a hard wired need to mail folks letters and cards. Oh, and to pay for my travels as I go. To help finance my half-year journey around Tasmania on a $10 bike, there was the Postcard from Tasmania….

bernie harberts mule wagon tiny home vardo lost sea expedition letter
The Post Card from Tasmania

That series sold out but here’s some of the cards I sent from:
- the southern-most pub in Australia.
-wallaby-thick Flinders Island, Tasmania
Yes, I discovered you can even send a beer can postcard from Tasmania to anywhere in the world

Posted Tuesday May 29, 2018 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

Three Lanterns
April 24, 2018

A good kerosene lantern makes you wish the power would stay off a few more lamp lit meals. A bad one makes you choke and hope like hell the power company gets the lights back on as soon as possible. The truth lies somewhere between the romance and the smoke.

bernie harberts mule rider unct tv public television tiny home vardo
Wagon life with a kerosene lantern on a good evening. From UNC-TV’s “Mule Rider” program about one of my wagon trips through eastern North Carolina. You can view the program at the end of this piece.

Over the years I’ve messed with a bunch of lanterns in my wagon travels. Three stand out. They are:

- the Dietz No 8 Air Pilot
- the Cheap Chinese lantern
- the Ever Bright lantern

Dietz No 8 Air Pilot
This is my good lantern. It’s big. It throws a lot of light. I put a match to its inch-wide cotton wick when the lines go down and the bulbs go dark. I also use it for short trips in my Newfie wagon, the wagon mule Polly toured Newfoundland with. bernie harberts  wagon kerosen lantern
The Dietz No 8 hanging in the Newfie wagon, the wagon I traveled Newfoundland aboard. It throws off enough heat to warm the wagon on a cool night. Only trouble is it makes the wagon smell like an airport. Should I be burning lamp oil instead of kerosene?
bernie harberts  wagon kerosen lantern
The Newfie wagon in Newfoudland. I built it in my barn. Mule Polly and I ended up spending half a year traveling Newfoundland together in this rig.

The Dietz holds a scary amount of kerosene. It’s what I imagine Misses O’Leary used to burn down Chicago. I’ve had this lamp 20 years and it’s survived sailboats, parties, my Alzheimered mother and multiple wagon voyages.

The only thing about this lantern is it’s big. Really big. So mostly it hangs on my cabin wall, waiting for some tree to fall on the power line and plunge us in to darkness. I sometimes use it in the Lost Sea Expedition wagon, the wagon I used for the Lost Sea Expedition TV series. (You can read plenty more about the series at LostSeaExpedition.com.)

bernie harberts  wagon kerosen lantern
The Lost Sea Expedition wagon toward the end of mule Polly and my 14 month voyage from Canada to Mexico. I filmed the journey with the solar powered gear I carried on my wagon. The series premiered on Rocky Mountain PBS. You can stream it on Amazon free/w Prime and Vimeo. Or you can buy the DVD here at the RiverEarth.com General Store. (Hudspeth County, Texas)
Cheap Chinese kero lantern from Walmart.

A few years after I traveled from Canada to Mexico for the Lost Sea Expedition, I decided I’d visit Newfoundland with mule Polly. I knew the big Dietz was too large for my wagon. I needed something smaller. Funds were tight so I went to Walmart and bought this cheap lamp. I paid $5.67. It’s called the Florasense Hurricane Oil Lamp.

bernie harberts  wagon kerosen lantern tiny home vardo rocky mountain pbs
The Florasense Hurricane (Tourism Newfoundland & Labrador / Walmart photo)

The name inspired equal parts patsy and badass. The “Forasense” made me think of scented oils. The “Hurricane” made me think this lamp could survive Newfoundland. I should sue for misrepresentation.

I bought this lamp because I wanted something cheap, something sacrificial, something I wouldn’t mind breaking.

My new purchase didn’t disappoint.

The day I brought the lantern back to my wagon, before I even fired it up, I sat on it. Broke the glass. Not the lamp’s fault. I hadn’t even left town yet so I drove back to Walmart and forked out another $5.67 for a replacement lamp. Walmart doesn’t sell the glass globe for this lamp. You have to buy the whole lamp.

This second lantern traveled with me 6 months across Newfoundland by mule. It leaked. It stank. It spilled kero at the lightest bump. The glass fell out of the holder. The burner assembly jammed. The top unscrewed. All. The. Time. But it survived. A real piece of junk that was supposed to be a sacrificial lamp so I didn’t destroy my good lamp.

I finally broke it by…. sitting on it. Again.

I didn’t replace it.

bernie harberts  wagon kerosen lantern
A scene from my wagon journey across Newfoundland. The Chinese Hurricane lantern is hanging from my writing desk. The lamp lived up to its name. The day this photo was taken, a hurricane was passing over top of us. Look closely and you can see a soaked mule Polly hunkered down outside the wagon door.

That lamp did achieve a sliver of immortality. It appears 42 seconds in to this short piece filmed by Tourism Newfoundland and Labrador. Check out the video for a great recap of our voyage.

Yellow Ever Bright

After my trip across Newfoundland, UNC-TV and “Our State” magazine wanted to join me for one of my wagon rambles through eastern North Carolina. Their film crew would join me for a week on the road to give viewers a look at the wagon life.

bernie harberts  wagon kerosen lantern
A scene from “Mule Rider”, the piece UNC-TV did about my trip through eastern North Carolina. The yellow lantern I used on that trip appears a few times

A few days before the guys with the big cameras and microphone booms showed up, I smashed my cheap lantern. My buddy Kieth Smith of TownDock.net in Oriental loaned me this lantern. He’d used it for years as an anchor light on his sailboat Heatherbelle. If memory serves, that yellow lamp ended up going to Cuba with Keith and then up the East coast to Nova Scotia.

It proved a great wagon lamp. The narrow wick didn’t throw a lot of light. No matter. After half an hour of lamp light, your eyes get used to the dark so it was plenty to see by. It was tough, too. Strong enough to get jostled around the wagon without breaking.

UNC-TV put together a great piece about that week long wagon trip. It’s called “Mule Rider” and won a regional Emmy for director Morgan Potts. You can see the yellow lamp in the opening scene.

The only hitch in the whole thing was I forgot to return the yellow lantern to my buddy Kieth after I got done using it. I think he was grumpy about it. We’re good friends so that shows you how much he thinks about that lamp. I finally got it back to him. I saw it on his shelf last time I visited. We’re all right now.

Here’s the full UNC-TV / “Our State” magazine piece. Watch for the lantern.

The verdict
Do I have a favorite wagon lantern? Not really. Turns out the big Dietz that throws all the light is too big for long term wagon use. And the cheap lantern threw off enough light but gassed me. And the one I liked the best, the Ever Bright? It’s sitting on my buddy Keith’s shelve, hundreds of miles away. I may have to pay him a visit.

Posted Tuesday April 24, 2018 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

Where, When and How to Watch the Lost Sea Expedition Series
December 30, 2017

bernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition tiny home rocky mountain pbs adventure documentary
Enough viewing options to stop a mule in her tracks….
It’s enough to confuse a mule that’s walked across America: where to watch the Lost Sea Expedition series. Here, in terms even mule Polly can understand, is the schedule.

Rocky Mountain PBS

bernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition tiny home rocky mountain pbs adventure documentary

The Lost Sea Expedition made its Prime Time premiere January 4, 2018 at 8 pm on Rocky Mountain PBS. A new episode airs every Thursday in January.

Amazon Video Direct

dvd bernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition tiny home rocky mountain pbs adventure documentary

FREE with Amazon Prime. Stream one episode. Binge watch your merry way across America. Start streaming right here.


vimeo bernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition tiny home rocky mountain pbs adventure documentary

Stream a new Episdoe Vimeo every Thursday in January. You can check out the snazzy Vimeo page we’ve set up right here.


riverearth general store dvd bernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition tiny home rocky mountain pbs adventure documentary

Lost Sea Expedition DVDs are available right here at the General Store and at LostSeaExpedition.com. All pre-ordered DVDs will be signed by me (Bernie Harberts). DVDs ship after the series airs on Rocky Mountain PBS. Shipping date Feb 19, 2018 (tent).

See, that’s simple enough even mule Polly can figure it out!

We look forward to sharing the series with you. Feel free to us drop a line with any viewing questions.

Posted Saturday December 30, 2017 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

The Lost Sea Expedition on Rocky Mountain PBS January 4, 11, 18 and 25
December 5, 2017

bernie harberts lost sea expedition rocky mountain pbs

I’m super excited to announced the airing time and dates for the 4-part Lost Sea Expedition documentary on Rocky Mountain PBS (Colorado). You’ll also be able to stream the series on Amazon. That link will be up shortly (in the General Store).

The Lost Sea Expedition on Rocky Mountain PBS

Starting January 4, a new episode of the Lost Sea Expedition will air each week in January. Each episode will air twice. Airing times and dates are:

Primetime (8pm)
Thursday, January 4 at 8 pm
Thursday, January 11 at 8 pm
Thursday, January18 at 8 pm
Thursday, January 25 at 8 pm

To make it easy, just remember that’s the first 4 Thursdays in January at 8 pm.

If you missed the series or are a night owl, you can catch it 5 hours later.

Overnights (1am)
Thursday, January 5 at 1 am
Thursday, January 12 at 1 am
Thursday, January 19 at 1 am
Thursday, January 26 at 1 am

Be sure to tell all your friends that live in Colorado to tune in to the series.

bernie harberts lost sea expedition rocky mountain pbs
596,000 weekly viewers throughout Colorado tune in to Rocky Mountain PBS delivering an unmatched 98% reach into Colorado homes (Source: Nielsen November 2016).
It will air on all the Rocky Mountain PBS affiliates. They are:
KRMA - Denver
KTSC – Colorado Springs/Pueblo
KRMJ – Grand Junction
KRMU – Durango
KRMZ – Steamboat Springs

What if you don’t live in Colorado…?

Don’t live in Colorado but want to check out the series? No worries. Here are some ways you can watch the documentary anywhere.

Streaming the series

Starting January 4, you’ll be able to stream each of the 4 episodes after it airs on Rocky Mountain PBS. We’ll have that link up in the General Store. For those who generously donated to the Lost Sea Expedition, we’ll get up a link where you can stream the series for free. Stay tuned.

DVDs are coming

We’re fitting special shoes to mule Polly’s hooves so she can stomp out Lost Sea Expedition DVDs the pioneer way. Just kidding. We will have factory pressed DVDs available after the series premiers so you can enjoy the journey. We’ll let you know when they go on sale.

bernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition fort collins rocky mountain pbs
A scene from mule Polly and my fundraising trip to Colorado this June. Here she’s hanging with Tuesday and Oakley during an earlier jaunt in to Ft Collins. Thanks for the purple carrot guys! For a fun story about plant decapitation and fundraising gone awry – check out the story about Pat’s Palm.
bernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition fort collins rocky mountain pbs
The Lost Sea Expedition DVD. With a bit of mule power, we’ve transformed mule Polly’s wagon voyage across America in to this snazzy DVD. It will be available for pre-order and ships after the series premiers on Rocky Mountain PBS.

In the meantime, you can catch up on all the Lost Sea Expedition series news and updates here at LostSeaExpedition.com.
Or you can preview the full length series trailer right here.

The map below shows where the mule Polly was hanging out in the photo above.

Posted Tuesday December 5, 2017 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

Pickle Barrel Raft
May 15, 2017

bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
Some voyages include dolphins off the bow (Falkland Islands, Southern Ocean). Others entail pickle barrels lashed up under a deck (western North Carolina). Both are fine ways to sally forth.

Some days, a man dreams of sailing away in a schooner, dolphins dodging the striker stay. Others he’s content with a pond and a pickle barrel. It’s okay to take a break from pursuing something big to take a shot at something a bit, well, tangential.

Thing is, there’s an ebb and flow between life on the road and life at home, digesting the latest journey, pondering the next. Right now, I’m about midway through this cycle.

A year and a half ago, my friends asked me if I’d help them sail their wood ketch from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia, off Antarctica. Of course I went and lost myself in that dark nether part of the ocean world.

That was the Southern Ocean, that watery universe of glacier blue icebergs and business-suited penguins. That was the ocean so cold sailors joked the only reason to wear a bright colored life jacket was to make it easier to find the body. The ocean that could put your vessel on the rocks at the whim of a gale.

This was Shackleton’s part of the world, where all skin that could be covered was protected which is why men, including me, grew beards.

bernie harberts south georgia, ice berg southern ocean sailor raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
My beard offered good protection from the bitter winds blowing off Antarctica and nearby icebergs. It offered no protection from sailing in to icebergs, like the one in the background. Yes, that still happens in the Age of Autonomous Vehicles and Machine Learning. (53 degrees South, off South Georgia, Southern Ocean)

Which brings us back to now. I’m home in western North Carolina. Home on the farm more concerned about the last frost date than being sunk by an ice berg. The beard is gone.

bernie harberts south georgia, ice berg southern ocean sailor raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
Thank you: here, I’m thanking some of the many folks that are helping underwrite the Lost Sea Expedition documentary. The 4-part series is heading toward Public Television. It’s my way of taking viewers on the road with mule Polly and me. It would be great if you could help us out!

It’s been a time of great focus. Instead of running away, the focus has been on staying home to bring one of my all-time favorite runaways to Public Television. That would be the Lost Sea Expedition , the 4-part documentary about my 14 month Canada to Mexico wagon voyage.

Currently we (Julia and I and a bunch of other folks) are working on fundraising and distribution.

Thing is, I’ve got wiggle worms in my blood. Sure, I can stand in front of my computer for hours and weeks editing film footage. But when Julia asked me one day, “hey, could we use foam to build a raft?” I said, “well, barrels would be better.”

24 hours later, we had 10 pickle barrels waiting to be assembled in to a raft. 48 hours later, we had a frame cobbled together.
72 hours later, we had a forest fire. Damn. So…….4 months later, we’d converted those barrels, bolts and boards in to a 10’ X 10’ raft.


Here are some photos of the whole caper unfolding.

bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
Pickle barrels: I keep calling them “pickle barrels” but they actually contained vinegar. Here, Snookie supervises as Julia and I seal each bung with silicone caulk.
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
The frame is made of pressure treated wood – aka “poison pine”. Instead of using 2” x 6” boards, I built it with 2” X 10” lumber. Having just come back from the Southern Ocean, I guess I was still worried about ice bergs. I know. That’s sorta paranoid given we’re 300 miles from the ocean. I hadn’t reckoned on the extra weight this would add to the vessel. So….. I went back with a chainsaw and cut out sections of each beam. This reduced the weight without affecting the strength much. The diagonal wires attached to the corner posts keep the raft square.
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
My back woods construction site. No, this vessel is not Coast Guard approved.
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
Strikin’ a pose: the raft ready for launching. Every vessel needs a flag. In this case, a piece of Danger Red plastic we tied to the end of the over-length boards we hauled home from the building supply store.
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
Launch: instead of using Polly the mule to push the raft in to the pond (romantic) we used the New Holland tractor (boring but effective).
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
Going from land to pond critter. The rafts moments before touching the water.
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
She floats! Yes, that’s wood smoke wafting up from the deck. It comes from….
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
…the burn barrel every proper raft needs. In this case, I used an old cast iron pot. It came from my good buddy Kenny Tyndall – river dweller, scrap yard man and mule driver.
bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
A ceremonial toast

The lesson to all this? Sometimes, it’s okay to throw in a few small side projects while aiming at something big.

In the case of the Lost Sea Expedition , that voyage took 14 months. Turning that footage in to a Public Television series has taken much, much longer. In that time, my restless spirit has raised its head numerous time. Sometimes a few barrels, bolts and boards are enough to bring temporary relief. They’re enough to keep me slogging ahead with a much bigger project.

bernie harberts raft pickle barrel barrel raft shanty boat adventure
Snookie never had any doubts the raft would float. Funny how quickly he’s sliding in to the shanty boat dog lifestyle.

Of course, now Julia, Snookie, my brother Christian (who took a bunch of these photos) and I are ready to haul the Pickle Raft to the nearest river and float ‘er down to the sea. But first I have a documentary to finish.

So tell me, what does your lateral project, your personal, symbolic “pickle raft”, look like?

Pickle Raft specs:
Dimensions: 10’ x 10’
Draft: 8”
Capacity: 6 humans, 2 dogs
Big (55 gal) barrels: 8
Med (40 gal) barrels: 2
Barrel source: Craigslist / Charlotte, NC
Cost (est): $500 = lots of free stuff around the farm + barrels ($100) + hardware ($100) + lumber ($300)
Time to build: 40 hours over 4 months (I hadn’t planned on the forest fire….)

Posted Monday May 15, 2017 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

Putting to Sea
September 5, 2016

falkland islands bernie harberts Windora Phil Lynda Christiesen
The Falklands are sparsely populated. These king penguins saw us off on our voyage in to the Southern Ocean. We will be sailing aboard Windora the wood ketch anchored off the beach.

The day has come to put to sea. Tomorrow I sail from Stanley, in the Falklands Islands, to South Georgia island, off Antarctica. I’ll be traveling aboard Windora. She belongs to my friends Phil and Lynda Christiesen. We met years ago in New Zealand. It may be a while until you hear from me.

I know, in this era of easy communications, it’s just assumed one person can talk to another where ever they are in the world.

Not so. Over the next months, I’ll maintain little touch with the outside world. In these times of instant communication to and from any part of the world, that seems like a queer decision.

falkland islands bernie harberts Windora Phil Lynda Christiesen
If this was your view and your phone rang, would you answer the phone or watch the albatross?

The reason I’m visiting South Georgia is to experience massive isolation. Sure, every year, a dozen or so cruising sailboat venture there. Even more chartered yachts and cruise ships visit on their way to Antarctica. They visit a few days – maybe a week – then head on. In most cases, they’re bound to the outside world by satellite.

I don’t want that. I want to absorb the Southern Ocean. Spend days or weeks sitting with penguins. Row to a glacier face and listen to it calving. Smell the belching elephant seas. And then…write it up in my journal. Or doodle out a letter and send it home. Yes, there is a letter box in Grytviken, South Georgia. Ernest Shackleton is buried half a mile way.

I want my attention span to grow back somewhere closer to where it was a few years ago – before Facebook, Twitter and selfies. And for that, you can’t be constantly be checking email, tweeting or, if you’re in remote areas, punching your way out via sat phone.

How will I do it?


We (Windora, Phil, Lynda and I) sail to South Georgia. We hope to spend two months there then head east toward Namibia or South Africa. Or wherever the wind or circumstance blows us. Maybe we finish in April. Or it could be May.

The final details are up to the southern ocean waves and winds to decide.

Hear from you when we get off the sea!

Posted Monday September 5, 2016 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

Surviving the Southern Ocean Rock
March 30, 2016
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 bernie harberts windora south georgia antarctica sailboat christiesen phil and lynda
Fighting for her life. Hurricane force winds threaten to splinter the ketch Windora‘s 40 year old wood hull. She dragged her anchor and wound up on a submerged rock in South Georgia, the Antarctic island. I was aboard her. Video footage is at the end of the article.(Vessel “Braveheart” photo)

“Below 40, there is no Law. Below 50, there is no God.” They saying comes from Southern Ocean voyagers. The 40 is the Roaring Forties, the 50 the Furious Fifties. It’s a bo-ho line to use down at Ye Olde Yachte Clube when it’s raining outside and you want to lay some salty lingo on a dirt digger.

But damn, here I was in hurricane force winds and snow. At Latitude 54 South. Standing on Windora as she threatened to pound herself to splinters on a Southern Ocean rock….

If you ever had a wood boat die beneath your sea boots you’ll know the sickening the sound. The rise of the timber body. Up the face of the wave. And then your guts fly up as your body goes down with the wave and “Bammmm!” down on to the rock you go. The jolt up through your feet and the sound of wood fibers ripped apart and the whole things is going down with you inside.

That’s what I felt on Windora but it was never supposed to be this way.

Okay, maybe I need to catch you up to speed.

Last time I wrote you, I was sailing from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia with my friends Phil and Lynda aboard their 40 year old kauri wood ketch Windora. The plan was to sail the 800 miles to the Antarctic island. Spend a few months there. Then sail 2,800 miles across the Southern Ocean to Cape Town, South Africa.

falkland islands bernie harberts
South Georgia is way down south past regular old Georgia. Think Antarctica, not Jimmy Carter.
falkland islands bernie harberts
Windora is an Athol Burns design. New Zealand built, she’s strip planked in kauri. Phil and Lynda raised their two sons aboard her as they sailed around the world. They’ve put another 30,000 miles on the 20 ton vessel since a major refit. Here, she’s exploring a South Georgia glacier face.

This was just going to be a personal trip. A time of reflection. A chance to get back in to the wider world after taking care of my parents and, more recently, my aunt who was diagnosed with dementia. My brother and I wrapped up her affairs, sold her home and moved her back to native Switzerland.

There would be no book about this trip. No articles. No blog posts. Just a cold ocean ramble to South Georgia, a glacier covered island off Antarctic.

And for the first month and a half, things went according to Plan. Think South Georgia, and we’re talking glaciers, ice bergs, penguins and elephant seals. Here’s a sample of what we saw.

 bernie harberts south georgia windora
South Georgia has some the highest animal densities on the planet. Here, I’m catching up with some King penguins. The trick is to sit quietly and they come right up to you. This is easy because…. (Vessel Kestrel photo)
 bernie harberts south georgia windora
…there are thousands of penguins around. This colony on Salisbury Plain was estimated to contain 100,000 pairs of nesting King Penguins.
 bernie harberts windora south georgia antarctica sailboat christiesen phil and lynda
Hunted to almost extinction, fur seals and elephant seals, abound. Elephant seals, like this female, look cute…
 bernie harberts windora south georgia antarctica sailboat christiesen phil and lynda
…but don’t like being approached too closely.
 bernie harberts windora south georgia antarctica sailboat christiesen phil and lynda
South Georgia’s weather is variable. A nice day like this in Grytviken harbor – where Ernest Shackleton is buried – can quickly turn ugly. There’s even a color named for this – sucker blue. The sky’s nice and blue. You go for a walk. Then….
 bernie harberts windora south georgia antarctica sailboat christiesen phil and lynda
…things turn ugly. I started this hike in sunny weather. Within two hours, the snow drifts were thigh deep.
 bernie harberts windora south georgia antarctica sailboat christiesen phil and lynda
The water is just above freezing. Here, Windora passes one of the many icebergs encountered in these remote waters.

Then we had the encounter with The Rock.

For the impatient, here’s the video.

Up next, the blow-by-blow.

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Posted Wednesday March 30, 2016 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

Coming soon: the Lost Sea Expedition TV series
January 4, 2016

 bernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition
Mule Polly and me during the New Mexican phase of the Lost Sea Expedition, our wagon voyage across America. Looking back on it now, I’m sure Polly wondered why I kept stopping and taking pictures like this one. She was right to wonder. That footage – including lots of interviews with folks met along the way – is now the Lost Sea Expedition TV series. (Hope, New Mexico)

Hey, ‘just wanted to give you a sneak peak at a massive project I’m just wrapping up. I’ve sailed alone around the world, been across America twice by mule and then some. But hands down, this is the biggest project I’ve ever completed. It’s a TV series called The Lost Sea Expedition .

A while back, I traveled across the United States with my mule. It was just Polly and me and our tiny home made wagon. Our gear was substandard, old, some borrowed. Instead of planning the route before hand, I let strangers point me in the right direction.

I wound up following the sea bed of a vanished sea – the Lost Sea – that once covered the Great Plains. My journey started in Canada and ended on the Mexican border 14 months later.

fbernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition
The route across America. It covered 10 states, spanned 4 seasons and took over a year.

I carried film and audio gear in my wagon to document the trip. This is where I spent most of my limited budget. I went for the highest quality, most rugged gear I could afford at the time. I charged it with a solar panel bolted to the top of the wagon. Nope. I didn’t have a film crew, chase team, support vehicle or sponsor. I had time, though. And that’s the most important piece of equipment. Time and the kindness of strangers.

fbernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition
Living day after day with my film gear let me capture the voyage inside and out. Here, I’m capturing a bit of life aboard the Lost Sea wagon. (Tokio, Texas)
fbernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition
Because I spent so much time on the road, I was able to film nature in all her moods. Here, Polly wishes I’d quit filming South Dakota’s winter mood and go ahead and get us on to a stable. She’ll be proud of the footage when she sees it. (Black Hills, South Dakota)
As I rolled across the Great Plains, I asked folks what they knew about the sea that once covered the middle of the United States. I filmed interviews with Lakota elders, paleontologists, a creationist and regular folks. Many of those stories I shared with readers here on RiverEarth.com.

But what I never showed you was the film footage. Yes, at long last, that footage is being turned in to a 4-part TV series. It’s called the Lost Sea Expedition .

Turning a voyage in to a TV series is a big project. Here’s how it goes if you’re a commercial TV production company with a decent budget. In the field, there’s a camera person, an audio guy,a grip, a producer and that’s just a bare bones crew. Back in the studio, to get that footage broadcast ready, you need a producer, audio person, the guy doing color correction and the list goes on. And on. And on. Ever seen how many names there are at the end of Ken Burns documentary?

Thing is, I didn’t have any of those. No film crew. No staff. Instead of a sponsor, I self-funded my trip by selling books from my wagon.

fbernie harberts mule polly lost sea expedition joe taylor
To help pay for my voyage across America, I sold books off my wagon. They were about an earlier voyage I’d taken across America, this one from Atlantic to Pacific. In addition, folks gave me “green handshakes” – aka – cash. (Hope, New Mexico)

Because I filmed the whole project myself, I was able to control the whole production. Remember, I lived, filmed and traveled alone in my wagon for over one year. And that let me gather up experiences you can only buy with time. It let me understand how the Lakota creation myth is linked to the Ogallala aquifer. How a prairie dog town sounds. What it’s like to catch Prairie Fever.

Yeah, I’m so excited with the end result, I figured you’d enjoy checking out the project’s final stages!

Sure look forward to telling you more about this project soon. ‘til then, leave a comment or drop me a line. Be great to hear from you!

(update August 16, 2016: the official Lost Sea Expedition site is up now. Come on by for a look)
(Map Note: map shows spot close to where last photo was taken)

Posted Monday January 4, 2016 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

Falkland Shearing
January 2, 2016
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I know. I told you I was sailing a wooden sailboat from the Falkland Islands to South Georgia. Somewhere along the way, I ended up going from my sea berth to chasing sheep.

I’m new to this sheep thing. Here are some photos. Hope this makes you appreciate that wool sweater you’re wearing!

Yes, I still plan to sail to South Georgia in early January.

falkland islands bernie harberts
Before you can shear sheep, you have to catch them. In the Falklands, it’s called “gathering”. In days past, it was done with horses and dogs. Today, it’s done with Land Rovers and motorbikes. Look at that photo. You’ll see a lot of land and very few sheep. The island we’re gathering on has 750 sheep on 3,000 acres. If you look closely at the hood of the Land Rover,you’ll see….
falkland islands bernie harberts
….caracaras. Known locally as Johnny Rooks, these birds of prey will pinch your hat as quickly as they’ll nab an injured penguin chick, a camera, clothes off the line, or, if you’re digging potatoes, spuds. Curious by nature, these two had an affinity for Land Rover windshield gaskets. It doesn’t take long to figure out why the island’s Land Rovers are missing their wiper blades.
falkland islands bernie harberts
The sheep are driven from the island paddocks down to the shearing shed. The shed sits just on the water, a few feet from this shipwreck. It is said to the second oldest shearing shed in the Falkland Islands.
falkland islands bernie harberts
The big wait: sheep are either terrified or waiting. Here, they’ve been put in pens to await their annual hair cut. The sheep in the far paddock are lighter colored because they’ve been shorn (or “shored” as some islanders say).
falkland islands bernie harberts
The sheep are moved from pen to pen via gates. Hinges don’t last long in this salty environment. Chains soon replace well intended latches.
falkland islands bernie harberts
The sheep are Pollworth crosses. I don’t know what a Pollworth is, but even with my beard starting to grow in….
falkland islands bernie harberts
….I still have a long way to go. I don’t think my wool will bring much.

Coming next, what goes on inside the shearing shed.

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Posted Saturday January 2, 2016 by Bernie
Where this story happened:

Where in the World is South Georgia
November 28, 2015

Recently, I got a message from friends there was a boat headed to South Georgia. There was a spare berth aboard. They wanted me to come along.

“Sure!” I said and finally I had The Answer.

The Answer to The Question folks always ask me – “Where are you traveling next?”

So now, when I tell folks I’m off to South Georgia, this image pops in to their heads.

Me in the Beer Dinghy, floating down the black waters spotting the fox squirrel. I’d bring an empty sack and gather peanuts and, between picking goobers, I’d add a few more layers to my southern drawl. This South Georgia was Carter Country after all…

south georgia map bernie harberts
This is what most people think when you mention boating and things Georgia. A dude sitting in a small boat. Maybe he’s wearing a life jacket. Maybe he’s wearing a hunting vest. I’m only wearing the later because I don’t own the former. So far, looks so good until you step back and see….
south georgia map bernie harberts
…that this is a shameless, poorly faked, mock up of a small boat trip. I use this old boat (aka the Beer Dinghy) to cover the mule hay.

About the time folks ask me how close to Atlanta I’m going, I have to interrupt the conversation to inform folks that I’m headed to the South Georgia, not south Georgia.

South Georgia is an island in the Southern Ocean, off Antarctica. In sailor lingo, it’s in the Furious Fifties, way down below of the Roaring Forties. It’s where George Shackleton landed after he sailed away from the “Endurance” aboard his whale boat the “James Caird”.

It’s South Georgia, where, in 1775, Captain Cook landed, surveyed and claimed the island for Britain.

Seventy-five percent of the island is covered in ice – during the summer.

Residents? Thousands of rockhopper penguins, elephant seals and skuas. Full time human inhabitants? Zero.

south georgia map bernie harberts
South Georgia island. The island is just over 100 miles long and between 1 and 22 miles wide. The map you’re looking at is less accurate. I sketched this map for you in my journal. Some say the island looks like a whale. Others say it resembles an albatross. The affects of caffeine, wood stove smoke and a sleepy dog may have distorted the scale of things.
antarctic map bernie harberts
Here’s the bottom of the world view (or the top-down view if your one of the hundreds of millions of Southern Hemisphere dwellers. South Georgia is about 800 miles from the Falkland island. Yeah, another one of my not-for-navigation sketch maps.

From North Carolina, I will fly (with a few stops) to the Falkland Islands. There, I will spend a few weeks with friends who are care taking an island. After Christmas, I set off in a 40 year old wooden ketch for South Georgia.

I leave for Stanley, Falkland Islands, December 3

While I’m on the road, the RiverEarth.com General Store will go offline. Yes, the electronic version of “Too Proud to Ride a Cow”, the book about my 13-month mule voyage across America will still be available on Amazon.com.

While I’m out, it’ll be almost impossible to post on RiverEarth.com. There’s just no wi-fi access where I’m heading. And no, I won’t have access to a satellite phone. That wouldn’t be sporting to the guy who trains for a southern ocean voyage paddling his Beer Dinghy with an ax.

Still, I’d love to hear from you. Just pop me an email. Just not photos, please. When I do have access to wi-fi (maybe a few weeks in the Falklands) it’ll be very expensive…. and those pics suck bandwidth.

And now I gotta run. There’s a back pack that needs packing.

See you on the other side!

Posted Saturday November 28, 2015 by Bernie
Where this story happened: