I really saw a lot in Alaska. I can tell you about ferries or nature, snow-covered mountains or glaciers. OR: About a road called Wickersham Drive in Glacier View.
Why? That’s what I’m telling you now. The story behind the scenes of my new video (which you can see below the post).
I came from Fairbanks on June 15, 2019, over the Glenn Highway, past the Matanuska Glacier, which I wanted to film with my faithful drone. As with all photo excursions in general, I am always extremely conscientious, especially with my drone flights. I research beforehand whether (and where) I am allowed to fly. For use in the USA, I registered the device with the relevant US authority. Flying a drone is illegal in national parks, but Matanuska Glacier was only marked as a recreation site. Also, you are not allowed to disturb people. So everything was fine! Ready to go!
All I had to do was find a launch location near the Matanuska Glacier.
I came to the census-designated place (CDP) Glacier View. „There’s more to do in Glacier View!“ This is how a website advertises Glacier View. At least, at first sight, it all looked idyllic and inviting!
After I explored a street and there were too many private houses, I suddenly passed the street Wickersham Dr.
Of course! Immediately positive associations! The street had the same name as the old (former) Stena ferry WICKERSHAM, also it lay directly opposite the Matanuska glacier (which served as name-giver for the ferry MATANUSKA).
This place seemed to be perfect. There was a private area, which was marked as such (normal residents, as known from Europe), but right at the beginning of this road, there was a larger area without „private property“ marking. I didn’t enter it either but approached the right road wheel to start the drone from there and fly to the glacier. Of course, I took a course that didn’t lead over private terrain. I – typically German – even turned on the car’s indicators and showed that I would wait at the roadside. I also checked my GPS based no-fly zone app from DJI. Everything green. No warning. No restriction.
Everything went very well! I took beautiful aerial photos of the Matanuska glacier.
Towards the end of my flying time a car, a Ford F150 truck, suddenly came from Glenn Hwy and wanted to turn into the first property. But it stopped. And waited. I saw it in the rearview mirror. At first, I didn’t think anything of it but then I saw: There was an older woman in the car and she took pictures with her smartphone.
From my car!
What was that about?
Something was wrong here. I decided to go into reverse (the road wasn’t wide enough to turn) and drove next to her Ford. I lowered the window and asked her friend what was going on. Her answer was cool and repellent: This whole street would ne private property and I have to disappear immediately. Of course, I politely explained to her what I wanted and who I am, but this lady was cooler than the glacier. At that moment, it frightened me.
Until then, I was not aware that a public American road could be private property. But I respected it and didn’t want any trouble.
But my drone was still over the glacier (which this woman didn’t know).
That was a problem. The drone had recorded my previous location as a „Return to Home“ point, the Wickersham Dr. But I couldn’t land here anymore, the old lady would have freaked out. We all know these horror stories from the USA, where suddenly weapons are involved. I didn’t want this woman to see my drone.
So I drove backward out of the street while the old lady was still taking pictures. She photographed (or filmed) everything I did. Unbelievable to me. Only my remote control she couldn’t see. With my right hand, I steered the drone, while with my left I drove back to the Glenn Highway.
That was extremely problematic! It’s difficult to drive a car and fly a drone at the same time.
Too bad – I lost now several times the radio signal to the drone.
And the capacity of the battery went now to end.
Still, at the Glenn Highway, there were the first alarm messages. Battery Level Low. Warning. Beep, beep, beep. Also, the connection problems, because by the change of the location the connection to the aircraft broke off.
The drone now automatically returned to the Wickerskam Dr.
That was good at first because it was my direction.
Which was not good: Now came a white RAM 3500. Apparently called by the woman. He placed himself directly in front of me and blocked my exit.
I should be prevented obviously from leaving the road.
At the latest now I knew that I have a problem because also the lady followed me now: The woman in the Ford from behind and the RAM from the front.
My irritation was quite big! These people were definitely not friendly and I had to prevent the drone from coming back into Wickersham Drive. Otherwise, hell on earth would have come over “idyllic” Glacier View.
I moved the car back to bypass the RAM, but it blocked me again. But now there was a gap behind him that I could use to get onto the Glenn Highway.
My drone was now in emergency mode. The engines turned with maximum and there were almost all warnings what the device could still send me. I now drove west on Glenn Hwy and the two madmen chased me. Besides, I steered the drone manually, bridged „Return to home“ and let it follow.
What a bizarre situation!
I don’t know why I suddenly got so many Hollywood associations. John Rambo was also there, as he was escorted in the first film by the xenophobic sheriff Will Teasle from the small town of Hope.
I admit I was scared. Real fear. What was to be expected from these strange people? I briefly considered calling the police. What was the emergency number in the USA still like? 911?
But I had to land my drone urgently. Besides, I didn’t want these people following me. So I turned right into a parking lot and wanted to talk to these guys again. It had to be possible to talk normally. Maybe with some presents, like the conquerors did with the Indians? I had a bar of chocolate and a glass of jam from Juneau in my suitcase.
But they drove past me and positioned themselves diagonally opposite on a parking lot.
And watched again.
Good! Do what you want, I thought. I landed the drone, packed everything up and left Glacier View very quickly… Just to realize on my way that it wouldn’t have been necessary to drive into Wickersham Drive. As I learned later, the Matanuska Glacier is one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska!
Conclusion: Never let yourself be seduced by a street name that reminds you of an old ferry!
(By the way: The flights over the glacier were a success. I used two of the scenes in my teaser, see 2 scenes from minute 1:54)