Meet Zach, Who Lives Solo in the Alaskan Wilderness

Photos and words by Anze Osterman

Deep in Southeast Alaska, surrounded by whales and bears, lies a remote island known as the Marble Island, a place rich in its namesake.

More than a hundred years ago, The Vermont Marble company was located on the island. When you walk through the forests, you can still find abandoned settlements and quarries scattered across the island.

While I was visiting the island, I met Zach. I was staying there with a family of fishermen and oyster farmers, and he was working for them while living in the woods in a cabin. Zach was born and raised in Japan before moving to the Alaskan wilderness with no roads or signal, where he discovered a completely new world. Zach spends his days in the arms of the cold ocean, working on a floating oyster farm, fishing and exploring the area. Sometimes half a year goes by without him seeing a town or other people, besides the family on the island. These photographs are a visual journal of my seven weeks long experience living on the Marble Island with Zach.

Zach and I were on our way to the oyster farm with a skiff, when the fog was so dense we couldn’t see in front of us. We had to dock on the closest beach, where we found an abandoned loggers’ settlement.

Abandoned loggers camp somewhere on the island.

We were on our way to the Naukati Bay when we made a stop on a small secret island in the middle of nowhere. You feel a very powerful energy when you see these native totem poles hiding in the rainforest. They were created by a tribe called Tlingit, probably a couple of hundred years ago.

Mathau preparing french press coffee from Hawaii. He lives in a cove close to the Prince of Wales Island, where Zach spent his first two years after coming to Alaska.

Fishing, hunting, gardening, and harvesting berries and mushrooms are the ways Zach gets his food in the remote Alaskan wilderness. This time we were fishing for dinner. He caught a rockfish which, along with salmon and yellow eye, is the most common fish on his menu.

A moment I will cherish forever, watching this huge animal from a small skiff in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. It brings tears to your eyes.

View of the Alaskan wilderness from a bush plane. Most of the small islands have never been touched, it’s like travelling back in time.

Kahli is a very special dog that accompanies Zach everywhere. The floating oyster farm he works on is in the background.

Rocks like this present a big danger to Zach and his skiff, especially on foggy days when you can totally lose your orientation.

Black bear spotted on our way to the oyster farm.

Black bear spotted on our way to the oyster farm.

See more from Anze on his website or Instagram @anzeosterman

Sign up for the Monster Children Newsletter