If you’ve been reading the newsletters and keeping tabs on Facebook, you may have noticed that the Fortune Bay Expedition Team is expanding its ranks. In the last few years, the team has grown tremendously. While we do our best to ensure that we acknowledge all members, leaders, and staff for their achievements, we admit that we have unintentionally neglected to acknowledge one of our own; a loyal member who continues to motivate and encourage fellow team members, has played an important role in the design of the School of Expeditionary Sciences Website and courses, and who has kept watch over expeditions from a far. This is the story of Bob – Frontier Bob.
Since the beginning, there has always been one. Drawn from the fabric of time and constructed solely from the elements of earth, wind, fire, and water, there is no equal. No one really knows where he came from, or how he got here, just that he has always been there; a shadow stalking the greats throughout history.
For as long as Bob can remember, he has existed. He never questioned the longevity of his life, simply enjoyed every moment to the fullest. He was curious and almost childlike with an obsession to see and touch everything.
Bob always had a strong desire to explore the world. Unfortunately, he was never very good at it. He often found himself miles, if not continents, from his desired location.
Bob recalled an unfortunate incident where he led a woolly mammoth astray. They were destined for an area in what is now referred to as Alaska, but Bob somehow managed to lead the poor beast to an island in the Caribbean instead. “It was a long swim, but I was convinced we were going the right way.” He has yet to encounter another similar creature of its kind.
Bob’s adventures often began as a result of him seeking out something or someone that he considered to be awesome. This is precisely how he found himself in Australia. Bob had heard rumors of a legendary bushman living in the outback of Australia. Locals told stories of the man wrestling and defeating a crocodile with his bare hands. Although Bob never did encounter the man known as Dundee, he did happen upon an Aboriginal tribe.
Bob instantly gravitated to the Aboriginals. They were painted like he was and so he thought they must be cousins of his. They referred to him by the name “Bil-lin Koor-ee,” which made Bob feel a special connection to the tribe, having been given an Aboriginal name of his own. Since Bob never learned to speak the Kutthung language, he never did learn the true mean of the name Bil-Lin Koor-ee; which loosely translated to “yellow man”.
Bob spent many years living in the Bush. But he lacked the necessary survival skills, so he relied heavily on the Aboriginal people for the basics such as food and water. In exchange for their hospitality, Bob would help with small jobs.
One day Bob was sent to fetch the koo-yuk (fishing canoe) from the shores. He spotted a small crab near the boat and became very excited. He thought, “how happy everyone will be if I returned with food for the tribe!” For an hour he chased the crab through the rocks and sand along the beach, unable to catch it. He decided a surprise attack would be the best method for catching his prey. He hid inside of the boat, with plans to jump out and scare the crab. Unfortunately, a large coconut fell from a tree, knocking Bob unconscious. When he awoke, all he saw was water; no land anywhere in sight!
Bob was lost and alone, but he was never afraid. A part of him was born of water, and therefore he somehow felt safe floating aimlessly with no direction or purpose. He slept most days and spent the nights attempting to count all of the stars in the sky. He could never quite get past 20 though because he always ran out of fingers and toes.
One morning Bob was awoken suddenly by a crash. The boat had struck something fairly large and was taking on water quickly. It was another boat, though this one was much larger and different than his own. It had oars along both sides and an ornate carving of what appeared to be a dragon’s head at the bow. Bob was helped aboard the ship by a handful of men. It was here that he met Lief Erikson and learned to drink like a true Viking.
Ok, maybe not a true Viking…but then again, Bob wasn’t exactly known for being able to hold his liquor. It was one such night, belligerent and mumbling something about a purple monkey, that Bob accidentally knocked over and broke the navigational instrument. No one was paying him any attention at the time so he quickly tried to put it back together to hide the evidence. Two weeks later the Viking ship came to rest on a strange and unfamiliar land.
Bob took this opportunity to explore the new lands. He traveled through dense forests, deserts, and swamps. He even ventured high into the mountains and low into the canyons. He had heard about this thing called rappelling (not repelling, which is what you do when you don’t take a shower for two weeks and smell) and thought he would give it a shot. He quickly realized that one end of the rope should probably be anchored to something. “It was a long fall”.
Bob was a kind-hearted man, always lending a hand to others. But this was not always the case. For a short period of time, dark days fell upon Bob. Having succumbed to greed, he managed to stow away on the ship of the infamous Blackbeard himself (aka Edward Teach), hoping to partake in some of the riches. Fortunately, Blackbeard was more amused than not by the man in the yellow hat and agreed to put him to work as a member of the crew to work off his debt for attempted thievery. Since it was either that or walk the plank over shark-infested waters, Bob had no choice but to accept the proposal.
Surprisingly, Bob and Blackbeard became very good friends. Legend tells a much more terrifying story of Blackbeard than the truth. The man Bob knew was a genius, one who loved kittens (he had 5), fishing, and strolling through the harbor markets in disguise. Blackbeard did partake in the act of piracy, he had an image to uphold after all, but he did so only from his enemies, and never actually harmed any of his captives. Bob was the only one ever permitted to refer to him as Eddie.
When Eddie, er Blackbeard, finally decided to retire from the seas, he and Bob parted ways. Bob wrote to his friend often and as soon as he has an address plans to mail the letters.
Bob was and is always looking for adventure and will follow it where ever it may be; even if to Antarctica. When word came that Ernest Shackleton had announced his plans to cross the Antarctic from sea to sea, Bob was first to sign up as a crew member for the expedition. He was ecstatic to be one of the few to have traveled to the Antarctic.
When asked about the expedition to the Antarctic, Bob responded with “it was cold.” It was so cold in fact, one frigid and windy night, the waters froze around the ship. The ship became trapped in the ice and most of the crew, Bob included, were forced to make their way to shore.
Many of the crew were distressed by the misfortune, but Bob remained positive. He took the opportunity to practice his photography skills. Ed Wardel, the cameraman accompanying the expedition, was not quite as enthusiastic when it came to sharing his camera. Though between the two of them, they did managed to capture some great shots. The crew, and Bob, eventually made their way back safely to the mainland.
Bob has always been known for his non-traditional wilderness skills. Bob’s ability to make fire is unprecedented; controlling it is unfortunately another story. Yellowstone Park, for example, was once home to one such fire. Bob was strolling through the park one cold winter day and decided to build a large fire to keep warm. The fire was so large that it spread quickly out of control burning hundreds of thousands of acres in its path. Bob joined up with the firefighters attempting to control the flames, but in was hard work having only a bucket at his disposal. In the end, only a snow storm was able to finally help the raging fire to burn out.
One day, Bob was awoken suddenly from a deep sleep. A large item had fallen on him during the night. He quickly realized that the American flag hanging on the wall behind him was the culprit. It was at that point that Bob decided he was going to join the Army. Bob thought it would be a fun way to travel the world and meet new people. Army life was tough for Bob, it wasn’t exactly the vacation he was expecting. It was here he met a young man named Charles, though many referred to him as Pathfinder (due to his rank and ability to always find the way).
Bob admits he didn’t care for Pathfinder the first time they met. He was young, mischievous, and it really annoyed him that Pathfinder kept stealing his stuffed purple monkey. The two spent only a few short weeks together sometime in 1993 before Bob was transferred to Germany. He was stationed here for the remainder of his service.
A few years later, Bob found himself wandering the streets of Lowell, Michigan. He had just finished hiking a section of the North Country Trail and was in search of a good hot meal. He wandered into a small pub and immediately heard a familiar voice. He could not help but listen in on the conversation.
“Man I can’t believe some of the adventures you have!”, one of the men stated. “I wish I could do stuff like that, but I wouldn’t even know where to begin.”
“Come with me” the man with the familiar voice stated. “I’ll teach you how.” Although the man was not speaking directly to him, Bob thought to himself, “this is it! Finally I can explore and learn with the best of them!”
Excited about his new found potential for adventure, Bob started to approach the man but instead stopped dead in his tracks. Sitting at the table sat Pathfinder! After hours of reminiscing, Pathfinder convinced Bob to join the merry band of misfits that he was referring to as Fortune Bay Expeditionary Team. Bob was skeptical at first but figured “what the hell, this in itself might turn out to be an adventure.”
Throughout the years, Bob became an integral part of Fortune Bay Expedition Team. He was responsible for the removal of the “ary” from the “Expeditionary” in the Fortune Bay name and even helped Pathfinder to push his expeditions farther. Many of the extreme expeditions lead by Pathfinder were the direct result of Bob’s influence. Bob even earned the nickname “Frontier Bob” because of his earlier travels and exploits.
Bob ventured out on almost every expedition, though he mostly kept to himself. In 2014, Pathfinder convinced him to participate in a promotional video for the team (there was whiskey involved). Bob had so much fun making the video that he volunteered to be the spokesman for the team. And the rest is history.
Though we don’t recommend following a drunken man at the pub who encourages you to “come with him,” we are grateful that Frontier Bob chose to join us on our adventures and hope you will too!
~Robin “Killer Bee” Hutsko