Born and raised in coastal Alaska, Solan works as a wilderness ranger, expedition leader, kayak guide, boat builder, and a marine mammal emergency responder. His passion for wild places started at university where he received a degree in Philosophy which led him directly to a guiding career in the Polar Regions.
In 2002, Solan worked at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station where he first experienced the awesome Antarctic environment as an ironworker. During the last 10 years as a Kayak Guide and Expedition Leader, Solan has grown an enduring reverence for the unparalleled wilderness of Antarctica.
“It is a privilege to visit, let alone work, in the Antarctic. Out of respect and celebration for this magnificent and extreme place, we must conduct ourselves with both humility and restraint. The decision to protect something depends on intimacy and knowledge. I applaud those who want to visit the Polar Regions. Come, get close to it, learn about it, and experience it.”
What skills do you bring to the job?
The most important skill I have developed over the hundreds of trips I’ve led to remote areas, is the ability to communicate effectively. This involves careful listening and clear response, in addition to dynamic situational awareness. Understanding weather, being a skillful boat handler, and having the ability to improvise when working in adverse conditions with limited resources, are all crucial skills as well.
What keeps you returning season after season?
At first it was the ice. The Antarctic Peninsula is arguably the world’s largest art gallery, featuring a wondrous variety of shapes, hues, and textures. Now, after many years in the field, I can say without hesitation that it’s sharing the experience of being in one of the wildest places on the planet that keeps me returning season after season.
If you could time travel, which historic expedition would you join, and why?
I would join the expedition of William Spears Bruce, a Scottish naturalist, Polar scientist and oceanographer, who led the Scottish National Antarctic Expedition (1902–04) to the South Orkney Islands and the Weddell Sea. They established the first permanent weather station in Antarctica, which has been continuously in operation since then and provides the longest historical meteorological data of Antarctica. Solan's advice to Polar Travelers Come with curiosity and a heightened awareness because the Polar Regions are as huge and magnificent, as much as they are subtle and intricate. There’s no way to be prepared for what will likely be one of the most profound experiences of your life.