Wild & Scenic Inspires Local Teen’s Adventure

At Wild & Scenic, film-goers are transformed into a congregation of committed activists, dedicated to saving our increasingly threatened planet. We show environmental and adventure films that illustrate the Earth’s beauty, the challenges facing our planet and the work communities are doing to protect the environment. Through these films, Wild & Scenic both informs people about the state of the world and inspires them to take action.

Recently, we’ve had the pleasure of working with a local high school student, Savanna Ortegren. She’s been in the SYRCL office completing an internship for her sophomore year of high school at Bitney College Prep. Savanna has been involved with SYRCL as a volunteer and has attended Wild & Scenic with her father for years. At this January’s Wild & Scenic, she caught festival favorite, Sea Gypsies, and was so inspired by the film, she decided to take action.

Savanna hopped on the computer and started emailing the captain of the InfinityClemens Oestreic, and convinced him to give her a spot on his ship as a crew member this summer. The Infinity was most recently featured in the film Sea Gypsies, where viewers were welcomed aboard a reckless sailing expedition to Antarctica aboard the hand-built gypsy boat, crewed by wandering miscreants. Along the way the crew battled a hurricane of ice in the Ross Sea, assisted the radical environmental group Sea Shepherd, tore every sail they had and unwittingly went further south than any other sailing vessel in 2014. Sounds crazy right? Well Savanna only felt a sense of adventure, a need to take action and get involved.

After receiving permission to come aboard the Infinity from the Captain, she had to tackle her next obstacle – getting the OK from her school to give her credit while out on the open seas. We had a chance to sit down with Savanna to ask her some questions about her upcoming epic journey.

W&S: Tell us a little bit about this trip and why you’re taking it. 

S.O.: I’m going on a trip for 10 months of my junior year of high school, which is my entire year, to change the way I learn and see the world in a huge way, and try and change the way education is formed and to prove to all of the people who said I couldn’t go on this trip wrong, and do a crazy adventure that puts me into adulthood and sends me on my way to whatever I’m going to do next.

W&S: Have you ever traveled out of the country before?

S.O.: I’ve traveled all over America and I’ve been to Hawaii; I’ve never been out of the country though. That’s the crazy thing.

W&S: Are you an avid sailor? What’s your experience on boats or the water?

S.O.: My parents got a sailboat when I was three. It was a yellow, kind of rickety thing that was scary. I was only on the water a couple of times when I was little. I remember breaking my finger.

W&S: How did you hear about the Infinity and get on board? 

S.O.: I heard about the Infinity and their cool trips and environmental work through the Wild & Scenic Film Festival. I saw Sea Gypsies and I was inspired. I thought, I want to do that. I liked the idea of living on a boat and I was like, I actually could do this. And it happened really fast to be honest. I emailed Clemens, rigorously, until he finally emailed me a crew application form. I submitted it and he said, ‘OK, you’re in the crew.’ Which was crazy.

W&S: You’ll be on this journey for 10 months, what’s your itinerary?

S.O.: Infinity is teaming up with the Floating Foundation to do environmental work with the Tongan people. We’ll be providing medical supplies and training and working to make sure that area stays preserved – doing things like microplastic testing. I stay with them for 3 months and then we get onto Infinity…going up to different islands in the remote Pacific, to the North Pacific and up towards the Bering Sea. We’ll be doing interviews with different cultures along the way, asking them how global warming is affecting them. We’ll also be going to Bikini Atoll, which was a nuclear testing site for the U.S. We’re doing a film on that and will actually get to scuba dive into the old sunken air carriers. By the end of it I’ll be scuba certified, which I’m pretty excited about. We make a stop in the Marshall Islands and go up to Alaska where I get off.

W&S: Is there anything you’re nervous about? 

S.O.: Well, as a joke in my family, because the boat’s actually vegan – and I am not vegan – my mom is going to ship me a box full of beef jerky. So I’m going to eat a lot of beef jerky. That’s my plan. I’m scared of a boat full of only vegetables. Also, ever since I was a little kid, I’ve had this horrible homesickness thing where I went to camp when I was 12 and I cried the entire time and ended up going home and never wanting to leave again. And I guess this trip is exciting and as it gets closer, I start to realize, ‘woah I’m actually going on the ocean for 10 months, away from my family and into different countries.

W&S: What would you say to other young kids about getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things?

S.O.: If I was to tell any kid my age to do anything like this or to try and inspire themselves to make some big change in their life, it’s just Go For It. The fear is such a small part and fear is a great thing to tell you what parts of yourself you need to change or what parts of yourself are hurt and through even just getting ready for this trip, I’ve grown a lot about how I look at the world. And I think that even though it’s scary and it’s a lot of work, and I’m not sure what I’m going to do afterwards, or I’m not sure what I’m going to do there and I have tons of insecurities about , will I like everyone there, will the boat be comfortable, will I get seasick and throw up all over myself every day? And even though I have them, I think that pushing through these and going on a trip like this is going to change my life. Even if it’s just, I realize I don’t like the ocean at all and I don’t like being on a boat. That’s still a huge change and I think that if anyone has any half baked ideas to do something crazy, Do It!

W&S: What are you doing for the rest of your summer before you leave? 

S.O.: I am whitewater rafting down the Grand Canyon at the end of June so I’m pretty excited about that. And have as much friend and family time as I can before I leave. I have a bucket list of things to do before I leave. My new year’s resolution was to make this my year for adventure.

Here’s a little teaser of our interview with Savanna. Stay tuned for the full video and information on her blog coming soon!