On a journey into the Kenai Mountains of South Central Alaska between snow-swollen peaks and cornices curling above glaciers, we carried a satellite phone. I usually don’t take any form of outside communication into the wilderness, so this device was nagging on me.
For whatever reason I was fine with headlamps and ropes, various pieces of technology, but the phone felt like an intrusion. Ostensibly, it was for emergencies. John, one of the trip members, had a mother who’d been in a deteriorating state of dementia and was on the edge of death when he left for this trip. John said that her dementia had been in place for years and that he’d lost his mother long ago, but he needed to stay in touch.
I wondered what the analog of a satellite phone could possibly have been before we ever had technology like this, the last hollers though a mountain pass, a stack of rocks left for someone else to find hundreds or thousands of years later. What has the satellite phone done but lengthen our goodbyes? Continue reading