“I have been to the mountaintop.”The Megatransect had its own powerful impact on the conservation community, due to the boldness of the endeavor and the acts of government preservation it inspired.
His hope this time was that the right combination of elixirs, along with a change of climate and hard work on a cabin he was building near Ketchikan, would bring him around.
Still unable to eat after two weeks, on the verge of collapse, he dragged himself to the hospital, where emergency-room doctors ordered him to be evacuated by air to Seattle.
And while he would eventually shake whatever had felled him—on his own in Alaska, as he’d planned—the nagging ambivalence about his future in Africa remained, along with fundamental doubts about conservation’s ability to prevent humans from gobbling up the planet. I proposed joining Fay at his remote bush cabin for a week to talk further, just before he went into hibernation.
In his mind, global conservation was becoming all theory and no action.“I’m not jaded or burned out,” he insisted when I called him in Ketchikan last October. Although he was under extreme pressure to finish preparations for winter, he agreed on the condition that I not divulge the cabin’s location. FAY’S LIFE HAS BEEN defined by a quest for the ultimate primal wilderness.
“I had chills, a headache, diarrhea, a temperature of 103, and no appetite,” he says.
“My piss was brown and my liver ached.” He suspected malaria, but drugs didn’t help.Michael Fay—distinguished field ecologist for the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, and one of the boldest adventurers of our time—has apparently decided he’d like to live in Alaska as a mountain man.His short answer: “I’m traveling paths not knowing where they’ll meet.His goal was “to quantify a stroll”—to collect data on biological diversity and identify critically important forest blocks along the way.I was stuffed in the airless back of the small plane among our duffel bags, trying not to vomit, catching sporadic glimpses of what appeared to be a Lost World without end.“I felt complete bliss,” he wrote in his online journal, “like I was alone on a virgin planet.”The moment was transformative.