Alaska Man to Live Incommunicado on Island for a Year

By Maria Nikias

May 11, 2012 7:00am
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Charles Baird, who's getting ready to spend an isolated year  in the Alaskan wilds. (Image credit: Courtesy Charles Baird)

In three weeks, 40-year-old Alaska oil company employee Charles Baird leaves his home in Anchorage to spend a year on remote Latouche Island in southern Alaska, a dream he’s been eager to pursue for the past 17 years.

“I think it will change my perspective on things. What really matters and what doesn’t really matter at all,” Baird told ABC News.

A logistics specialist for BP and a filmmaker,  Baird will  live in  a 12-by-12 cabin that he’ll build himself on the uninhabited island and document his life  in the wilds on videotape.

“It’s going to be just me and my dog,” Baird told ABC News.

He won’t know how the November election will turn out, or even if  his family gains a new member. One could compare Baird’s isolation  to Tom Hank’s in the 2000 movie “Cast Away,” or at least a planned and organized version of that.

“It’s kind of funny because my name is Chuck,” the name of Hank’s character,  ”and my dog’s name will be Wilson,” the name of the volleyball that Hanks’ character starts talking to, Baird said laughing. “But you know, mentally, I’ve been preparing for years now. I feel ready to go.”

But getting ready for the trip has been no laughing matter.  An Air Force veteran, Baird knows exactly what he’s getting himself into  and has been preparing for his dream for years. Baird bought an acre and a half of land on the island for $8,500 two years ago.

“I like it because it’s a flat area to build a house and I should have a lot of wind for power,” said Baird.

He won’t be taking much with him, only what he needs to survive. That includes a 5 gallon basket of grains, 20 gallons of water, a windmill, lumber for his cabin, weapons for hunting, warm gear for the winter and communication devices  in case of  emergency. He plans to rely on the average of 70 inches of rain and 8 to 120 inches of snow a year for water. He’ll   install two solar panels for power, and says his biggest challenges will be coping with the isolation and  the unpredictable.

“It’s meant to be as isolated as possible, that’s really the biggest challenge,” Baird said. “My main concern would be to make good decisions. Some people can take on risks that are unnecessary or make bad decisions, but I’m pretty even fielded, so I’m not too worried about it.”

Baird will use InReach, a communications device that allows for two-way text messages, and Spot Connect, an emergency beacon that can send posts to Facebook and Twitter.

“The only person that will have two-way communication with me is my brother, and he will only send messages on technical issues,” said Baird. “With Spot Connect I can’t receive anything, but people can follow along throughout the year.”

Baird has consulted with his doctor, and   two psychologists who specialize in the study of isolation and socialization.

“I’ll be taking allergy medicines, and my doctor also prescribed me three rounds of antibiotics just in case,” Baird said. “Both of the [psychologists] were very kind and quite helpful. I’ll be using some data collection forms to document in a journal how my attitudes are, my health and how that progresses throughout the year.”

While his friends have some reservations about his risky year-long adventure, they’ve sent him a gift to help him along the way.

“I’ve had friends send me bags of letters that I’m supposed to open throughout the year,” Baird told ABC News. “Some will be wishing me a Merry Christmas, Thanksgiving or whatever it might be.”

When Baird returns home, he plans to sell his videotaped journey to a production company. In the meantime, he’s enjoying his last three weeks at home by enjoying pizza at his favorite restaurant and spending time with friends and family.

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