Proust Nature Questionnaire – Scott Sampson


SCOTT SAMPSON was born and raised in Vancouver, BC. He is a dinosaur paleontologist, science communicator, and passionate advocate for reimagining cities as places where people and nature thrive. He serves as the President and CEO of Science World British Columbia.

Scott’s scientific research has focused on the ecology and evolution of Late Cretaceous dinosaurs, and he has conducted fieldwork in many countries, including Kenya, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Madagascar, Mexico, the United States, and Canada. He has published numerous scientific and popular articles, and regularly speaks to audiences of all ages on topics ranging from dinosaurs and education to sustainability and connecting kids with nature.

Sampson has appeared in many television documentaries and served as a science advisor for a variety of media projects, most recently the BBC movie, Walking With Dinosaurs. He has authored multiple books, including Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life, and How to Raise a Wild Child: The Art and Science of Falling in Love with Nature. However, he is perhaps best known as “Dr. Scott,” host and science advisor of the Emmy-nominated PBS KIDS television series Dinosaur Train, produced by the Jim Henson Company.

3 words to describe Nature?

Interwoven, Nested, Evolving

3 things Nature taught you?

Wonder, Deep Connection, Humility

3 most treasured Nature spots?

While I have had the pleasure of traveling to a number of countries around the world, my most treasured nature spots have been those that I have been able to return to again and again. They are the ones I know the best, and that resonate with me most deeply.

Long Beach (Tofino area), Vancouver Island

Marin Headlands, California

Red Rock Country, southern Utah

When you look at the ocean, it makes you feel…?

Awe (in its vastness)

When you see a forest, it makes you feel…?

Wonder (in its deep, mostly unseen interconnections)

When you see a volcano, it makes you feel…?

Humbled (by the sheer power it represents from within the Earth)

When you see a sunrise or sunset, it makes you feel…?

Tiny, and a little off balance (sitting, as I am, on the side of a giant, rolling sphere)

When you hear thunder, it makes you feel…?

Resonance (it is as if I feel the thunder more from the inside out, than the outside in)

When you hear the wind howling, it makes you feel…?

A deep appreciation for shelter

Are you an Ocean, Mountain, Forest, or Desert person?

Growing up in Vancouver, BC, I was raised at the intersection of ocean, mountain, and forest, so for me they are interwoven. But if I had to pick one only, it would be the ocean.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how important is Nature to your well-being?

10

Share with us a childhood nature memory?

While still a child, camping with my family in the interior of British Columbia, I went off on my own (as usual) in search for interesting rocks and (hopefully) fossils. I spent a joyous hour or two on the side of a steep, boulder-strewn slope, turning over rocks and hunting for whatever wonders might be revealed. (I may have rolled a few rocks down the hillside as well.) Eventually I stopped and sat for a long while on a flat rock with a view of the valley below. When I finally headed back to our campsite, I wanted to show my parents where I had been. Late in the day, we walked back to the spot, to find a rattlesnake lounging on the very same flat rock I had sat on just hours earlier. I presume that it was soaking in the last rays of sun before a night of hunting. Although my first reaction was a twinge of fear, my lasting sense was one of interconnection—with the snake, the rock, and that place.

Wilderness Systems, Minutes of Nature & Bear Encounters

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SPRING NEWSLETTER

What an interesting winter it has been! Unexpected developments demanding reassessment and ultimately turning into profound insights. Needless to say, the last four months have been full of surprises. With Spring around the corner, the foundation is now set to deliver a great deal of content – images, stories and videos. But first lets go over the latest!

WILDERNESS SYSTEMS

I am incredibly happy and proud to announce the sponsorship of WILDERNESS SYSTEMS and ADVENTURE TECHNOLOGY. Winner of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 Boat Brand of the Year by Canoe and Kayak Magazine and manufactured in South Carolina, Wilderness Systems’ innovative designs are tuned for performance and quality. Since 1986, they have has pushed the limits of design and innovation by refusing to compromise.

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“Wilderness Systems and Adventure Technology products have long provided the tools to access off-the-beaten-path destinations and give people an opportunity to explore their surroundings in a more intimate way,” said Evan Lyendecker, marketing manager for Wilderness Systems and Adventure Technology. “The goal of the Wild Image Project is to capture beautiful, remote places for all to experience and then inspire people to connect with their natural world, so it was a natural partnership for us. We are always looking for new ways to expose people to the wild and watery environments we depend on and care about so much, and we believe Daniel’s expedition helps foster that awareness and passion.”

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MINUTE OF NATURE

I have been working on finding a concept of short videos that would support my narrative – THE POWER OF NATURE TO RESTORE THE HUMAN SPIRIT. It was during my trip to the Bedwell River that the clarity of what I needed to do came to me.

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Let me explain to you … watch the video below. (click on the image)

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Find out about the intended goal behind the un-edited Minute of Nature – Be in the Moment! (click on the image)

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This idea of sharing with you these moments and inspirational quotes or thoughts is exactly what I have been looking for. The notion of helping you disconnect and leave the modern world behind just for one minute so that your mind can wander away and connect with that part of nature where I was able to “Stop, Breathe, Listen and Relax.” This is exactly what I strive to bring to you.

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VANCOUVER ISLAND

For the last two months, I have been kayaking and exploring the Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The Pacific Northwest is always full of adventures and discoveries and the island hasn’t disappointed.

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I started on Vargas Island just outside of Tofino and followed with the Bedwell Sound. Paddling from Victoria, I crossed the Haro Strait and explored the San Juan Island. Then came a long weekend in Telegraph Cove and Hanson Island.

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There was a wolf encounter, two bear encounters, many raccoons, plenty of rain and winds and some great paddling. Check PINTEREST for a recap.

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PATIENCE

In our culture of instant gratification, the meaning of the word PATIENCE has almost become taboo. Still, from time to time, we are forced to confront its undeniable necessity. Once again, my time in nature was responsible for bringing me perspicuity.

“It has been 15 hours since the heavy rain started. Tucked into my sleeping bag, the sound of the water droplets falling on the tent like an endless drum roll, the clarity of what has been happening these last two months just dawned on me and I just can’t help myself but start laughing. The fact that I had planned to be in Hawaii at this time, diving and kayaking with the humpback whales makes this spiritual awakening even more ludicrous. As much as I would have wanted the reality to be different, the message was clear and all around me – patience needed to be embraced…”  Read the story here

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SISU

Finnish have a word – SISU, which its literal translation is “Having Guts”. But it cannot be translated without understanding its culturally value. It sits at the core of their spirit and has, for hundreds of years, defined who they are and what they strive for.  This story is what happens when you let nature in and experience how it can truly restore the human spirit.

“…Spending a lot of time in nature and on expeditions, your perception of things changes. You stop seeing things in what they could be or could not be. You quickly forget about probabilities, odds and statistics. Your bottom line becomes extremely clear and simple – yes or no, going or not going. I have to eat. I have to find shelter. I have to survive. You might and will debate about what to do or what could be done, but there is only one state of mind – Sisu…”

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SEA KAYAKER

Last July, some friends and I kayaked from Sitka to Hoonah, a 11-day 140 miles journey along Alaska’s coastal wilderness. The story of our adventure, written by Nathaniel Stephens was featured in the magazine Sea Kayaker.

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“…In the morning, as we sipped hot coffee and looked out across the water to the north, two humpback whales breached in unison, launching their massive bodies fully airborne and flopping down in tandem with twin plumes of white spray…”

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Check the photo board on PINTEREST and the video album on VIMEO for a recap of the paddling adventure.

PEEK

I was really happy to be asked by PEEK, a leader in the traveling industry, to contribute to their TASTEMAKERS section. Planning on spending some time on the Big Island of Hawaii? Make sure to read my “PERFECT DAY“.

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MARIN MAGAZINE

“Walking the Wilderness” is a contribution between poet Ushi Patel and I, portraying the beauty of the Marin Headlands located in the Bay Area just across from San Francisco by the Golden Gate Bridge.

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KOKATAT

Made in the USA, this family-style company has been believing and supporting my work since the beginning. I am honored to be featured in there 2014 catalog! So great being part of such a wonderful team of dedicated people, working relentlessly at delivering the best products.

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THE MIGHTY BUFFALO

My story “The Mighty Buffalo” was featured along with some of my photos in the Bison World, the official publication of the National Bison Association.

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WHAT’S NEXT?

I am now leaving the Vancouver Island and heading north. First stop will be ATLIN, then JUNEAU, maybe the Prince Williams Sound and finally KODIAK ISLAND.

In August I will be in Salt Lake City for the Summer Outdoor Retailer Trade Show.

Coming this summer, the announcement for one of my most anticipated projects ever – which will bring my work and impact to whole new level – stay tuned!!

As always, my work wouldn’t possible without the support of my sponsors, a big thank you to all of them! WILDERNESS SYSTEMS, ADVANCE TECHNOLOGY, KOKATAT, SIERRA DESIGNS, DEUTER, MOUNTAIN KHAKIS, DELORME, THULE, SMITH OPTICS, AQUALUNG, SANDISK, DAHLGREN, ICEBREAKER, VOLTAIC SYSTEMS, SEA TO SUMMIT, ROCKY S2V, SPERRY TOP SIDER, SOG, OPTIMUS STOVES, KATADYN

SISU

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Finnish have a word – SISU, which its literal translation is “Having Guts”. But it cannot be translated without understanding its culturally value. It sits at the core of the their spirit and has, for hundreds of years, defined who they are and what they strive for. On the Finlandia University’s website, a page is dedicated at explaining it

 “Sisu is not momentary courage, but the ability to sustain that courage. It is a word that cannot be fully translated. It defines the Finnish people and their character.  It stands for the philosophy that what must be done will be done, regardless of cost.  Sisu is an inherent characteristic of the Finnish people. You might call it backbone, spunk, stamina, guts, or drive and perseverance.  It is a measure of integrity that surpasses the hardship and sees through to the end.”

In 1962 English poet Lavinia Greenlaw wrote of Sisu

 To persevere in hope of summer.
To adapt to its broken promise.
To love winter.

To sleep.

To love winter.
To adapt to its broken promise.
To persevere in hope of summer.

It is 7pm and I have about an 30 minutes of light left. I look down and can’t really see my feet – they are somehow lost under a thick canopy of ferns and branches that I have tightly wrapped around my waist. I get a glimpse of the red from my hiking shoes only when I lift them up and take a small step forward. In front of me is a green wall – trees covered by moss and in between shrubs and vines, their branches intertwining with each other so deeply tight that they give the illusion of being only one organism – a living fence! Every time I see an opening is because a mud pond or a muddy creek is revealed. Skunk cabbage is blooming and their yellow lanterns are bringing a certain eerie feeling – as if the brightness and contrast of their sunny flowers were to distract from the undeniable reality that this was a maze from where no one escapes.

Two hours before, after visiting the Red Creek Fir tree, the largest Douglas Fir in the world, I discovered that the oil pan under my car had been busted by a rock and that all the oil had leaked out. There was not a drop left in the engine and although I felt really bad for creating such a disastrous imprint from my visit, my main worry was of a different nature. I was about 40 kilometers (25 miles) outside of Port Renfrew, a little village with no garage or cell phone coverage where the only gas found was either bought from the marina or from some local guy who sells fuel jars or drive 70km (45 miles) to the nearest town. The road to the tree was a 15km (9m) old logging gravel road that zigzagged through the hills. Most of it was ok for a car with only a few places where extreme caution had to be taken. I thought I had managed my way through but obviously it only takes one well placed blow to make the kill. Bled to death, my car was going no where unless it was being towed.

The situation was not too tragic. I had food supplies and obviously all my camping gear. I could either camp here and wait for someone to come up but being in the off tourist season, I am not sure there would be anyone heading this way for days. The other possibility was to walk back the gravel road. At a walking average of 5km/h (3 mph) it would take me around 3 hours to reach the main paved road. The last option was to walk on an abandoned logging road for a mile, cut through the forest and cross the San Juan River where the paved road was nearby. The distance to the paved road from the abandoned one was only about 1.6 kilometer (just a little over a mile). Because of time and obviously for the short apparent distance, I decided to go with the latter solution – certainly not the safest but I was confident it could be managed.

In case that anyone would somehow show up, I left a note on the car explaining the situation. I took one of my medium size Deuter backpacks and filled it with the essentials. I wanted to be light and quick but also I didn’t really know what was ahead so I had to prepare for some unexpected. The most important was my Delorme InReach. Together with my iPhone, I knew where I was and where I was going and in case of emergency I could always press the rescue button or send text messages via satellite. At 5h30pm, I left the car and started to jog. I needed to cover as much distance as possible while I could. I quickly reached the end of the abandoned road and ahead of me was a little bit of clear cut area with the forest perhaps 50 yards away. The fun was about to begin!

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Every pin represents 10 minutes of traveling

The beginning was your typical new growth forest – sparse trees, shrubs and ferns but as I got closer to the the river, the bushes became thicker and the damp soil became swampy. Maneuvering my way through, I got to the river. At this time of the year, before the spring melt, the San Juan River was relatively low. The flow was still really strong and could easily sweep you off. Studying the topography I looked for a shallow passage across. The shallowness would increase the strength of the current but would give me more stability. I took my socks and shoes off, rolled my pants and proceeded. It didn’t take long for the glacial water to numb my feet and make every step painful. Halfway through, the current was too strong and even though I only had water passed up my knees, my bare feet were too weak to hold a stand. Every small step demanded all the strength in my legs to hold still. I felt that I was just on the verge of loosing my balance. So real slowly I turned around and carefully retreated. I would have to change my approach. I took my pants off and put my shoes back on. At this stage, I would trade dry feet for a steady foot. Finding a place a bit deeper I took another shot. The freezing water violently hit my thighs but my mind was in no mood of dealing with the issue, more concern about keeping myself in control. I was now carrying my backpack on the top of my shoulders with the water passed my waist. Looking ahead, the depth was steady – good! But about 2 meters away the opposite shore, the river took a dip but lucky enough there was a tree right before that was diverting the current. Now with water mid torso, I quickly covered the remaining short distance and climbed up the bank. The skin from below my chest all the way to my toes was bright red as if I had fallen asleep under the sun for hours. The river was now behind. Relieved and with my pants back on, I choose to leave the socks off, in case I would still be in the forest by nightfall, I needed to be able to warm my feet.

There were no trails or even slight openings where I could enter into the woods. There was also no way to search the river bank for one. There was only thing to do, push my way through. Imagine a football field covered with people, packed like sardines, every one with their arms across holding on each other and you have to walk from end to the other carrying a backpack that sticks out above your head. Add a swampy floor littered with dead petrified trees covered in moss that break almost every time you step on them, muddy creeks that suck your boots right off and vines full of thorns that will scratch deep into your skin every chance they have. At 0.70 km/h (0.45 mph) it took me 90 minutes to cover 1 kilometer (0.6 mile). At 7h45 pm I was finally stepping out of the Pacific Northwest rainforest and onto the paved road. An hour after walking on the road direction Port Renfrew, a pickup passed by. Waving my headlamp and arms in the air, the driver agreed to take me into town. The next day, the tow truck* met me at the hotel and together we went to pick up the car. The entire ordeal, from the hotel to the car and to the nearest garage was close to 6 hours. 

Spending a lot of time in nature and on expeditions, your perception of things changes. You stop seeing things in what they could be or could not be. You quickly forget about probabilities, odds and statistics. Your bottom line becomes extremely clear and simple – yes or no, going or not going. I have to eat. I have to find shelter. I have to survive. You might and will debate about what to do or what could be done, but there is only one state of mind – Sisu. However long it takes, whatever it takes, the choice has been made and the only thing left is to do everything you can to reach your destination or achieve your goal. I have to cross that river. I have to reach that paved road. I have to continue my journey. It is not really a question of bravery or fearlessness, but rather a matter of staying focus on the objective with anything in between being irrelevant. It is not about being courageous but about sustaining that courage so that you can keep going. It is what that Red Creek Fir symbolizes – to be able to stand for a thousand years, to grow in an harsh environment and survive wars, logging and the elements.

Sisu is what you become by welcoming nature in. It is why I believe the Finnish have come to define themselves by this word, because of their intricate connection to their environment – with Arctic waters, long winters, endless nights, and piercing winds, one has little choice but to humble himself and focus on the long term goals.

… I have never had the teaching,
Never lived with ancient heroes,
Never learned the tongues of strangers,
Never claimed to know much wisdom.
Others have had language-masters,
Nature was my only teacher,
Woods and waters my instructors… 

The Kalevala, EPILOGUE

*I would like to thank NAPA, BCAA & Eric at TOTEM TOWING for turning this unfortunate event into a breezy one!

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Safe tow!

 

 

 

 

 

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Minute of Nature

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I have been working on finding a concept of short videos that would support my narrative – THE POWER OF NATURE TO RESTORE THE HUMAN SPIRIT.

It was during my trip to the Bedwell River that the clarity of what I needed to do came to me.

Let me explain to you … watch the video below.

This idea of sharing with you these moments and inspirational quotes or thoughts is exactly what I have been looking for. The notion of helping you disconnect and leave the modern world behind just for one minute so that your mind can wander away and connect with that part of nature where I was able to “Stop, Breathe, Listen and Relax.” This is exactly what I strive to bring to you.

Here is the first MINUTE, from Ucluelet.

These “Minutes of Nature” will be posted throughout all my social media sites but you are welcome to subscribe to the Vimeo Channel

 

Patience

Breath, Relax, Listen

Breath, Relax, Listen

It has been 15 hours since the heavy rain started. Tucked into my sleeping bag, the sound of the water droplets falling on the tent like an endless drum roll, the clarity of what has been happening these last two months just dawned on me and I just can’t help myself but start laughing. The fact that I had planned to be in Hawaii at this time, diving and kayaking with the humpback whales makes this spiritual awakening even more ludicrous. As much as I would have wanted the reality to be different, the message was clear and all around me – patience needed to be embraced. In our culture of instant gratification, the meaning of this word has almost become taboo. Still, from time to time, we are forced to confront its undeniable necessity. And once again, my time in nature was responsible for brining me perspicuity.

 In our Western society, the word patience denotes a more negative etymology, finding its root in the latin patientia, from patient– ‘suffering’.  But in Asia, the meaning takes a completely different approach and tries to bring forward the ability to wait and find peace, acceptance and dignity in the unexpected and uncontrollable. In China, the pictograph for patience is composed of two symbols – REN which illustrates the Blade of the Knife and XIN for Heart. The meaning being: “The sword blade is poised, ready to slice. Backed into this corner, we cannot move. When we don’t know which way to turn, or where to go, any movement at all can not only further muddy the water but can also bring disaster: the sword blade severs the heart and all is lost. Thus, the value of patience.” (Nonin Showiness) In Japan, the word is NINTAI which can be translated as an “obligation to take another direction”. GAMAN, “enduring the seemingly unbearable with patience and dignity” is one of the teachings of Zen Buddhist. 

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A day in the tent

The plan was to leave in the morning – paddling back to Tofino. A combination of misjudgment on my behalf and the missing of an adapter to charge my batteries had left me with no more power for the camera. Being on Vargas island to photograph the wolves, my presence here now was simply leading to nothing – I would rather leave than facing the possibility of being presented with a perfect photo opportunity and having no camera to photograph with.

A wolf had appeared to me on the very first day of my arrival – his prints were on the beach, fresh from the morning. After setting up camp, the lone wolf had ventured around my tent. I am always perplexed on the timing of things. How and why we get to be at a precise place at a precise time, precisely when someone or something else happens to be there. Coincidence? Meant to be? A bit of both? In this case, I had been hiking the beach, collecting mussels for dinner when I decided to get something from the tent. Grabbing what I needed, I stood up zipping the tent flap when I noticed right in front of me the wolf coming out through the trees. He was brown and black, tall, the size of a huge dog. But his pose was not aggressive – more like an intruder trying to sneak his way in – this was not an dangerous predator imposing his rule on a newcomer. Maybe it was because he was alone without his pack – we know how humans act differently when by themselves, alone, as opposed to when they feel protected from being in a group. My guess is that the law of collective courage is no different independently if you are wolf or a human. Anyhow, when he saw me, he retreated and I knew in the back of my mind his next destination – the food cache. I silently followed the ruffles of leaves and hid behind a tree. As predicted I saw him coming around to investigate the metal box where my food was stored. Slightly moving to get a better view, I stepped on a branch and the unfortunate breaking noise scared the wolf away. I was not to see any of him for the next five days.

Now that I wanted the leave the island, the weather was not allowing me. And this is how these last two months came to be summarized into this precise moment – in a tent battered by the rain, realizing that all of this was beyond my control. Like the fog lifting and suddenly revealing the unexpected landscape, I was forced to accept the moment. There was nothing I could do but find peace in the unforeseen. Not just about the fact that I was being held captive on Vargas island, but that I had to accept that all my plans for the beginning of 2014 were totally at the opposite of what had actually happened – sheltered from what I had taken from granted, I was being reminded of the fragility of what I had and the price that I had to pay to keep it.

The rain and wind came to pass and the next day, a heavy fog took over and assumed the role of deciding on my captivity. I was not be allowed departure. Only the next day did a window present itself. With a strong northerly wind, my original idea to circumnavigate the island had to be put aside. Pushing with all my might I departed from the beach, turned the point, beating the wind and finding myself in a favorable position, riding the tide and wind, only having to deal with the exposed Pacific.

I don’t know what the future has in store for me. What I do know, is that from sitting into my kayak riding a wave, a river, or the ocean swell, I have control on how to react to the unexpected. I can not predict or even anticipate the unforeseen but  I can be ready to adapt to whatever is thrown my way and have trust in my capacity to handle the flow. The key is to patiently wait, breath, relax and know when to move.

“Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

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