Welcome. I’m film maker Bernie Harberts. This site is about the Lost Sea Expedition TV series, the documentary about my 14 month wagon voyage from Canada to Mexico. I filmed the whole voyage right out of my solar powered wagon – no sponsor, chase crew or support vehicle.
The Lost Sea Expedition premiered on Rocky Mountain PBS and is available for streaming or on DVD.
“Did you ever hear back from the tumbleweeds you launched?” I get that question a lot, especially from folks that have watched the “Lost Sea Expedition”, the Public TV series about my mule voyage across America (which you can stream here on Amazon).
Okay, let me set this up for you a bit.
The Lost Sea Expedition
The “Lost Sea Expedition” is the 4-part documentary I filmed about my 14 month wagon journey from Canada to the border with Mexico. The goal of my journey was to film a documentary about the ancient sea that covered what is now the Great Plains. I filmed the entire journey with only the gear I carried in my wagon: two movie cameras, an audio recorder, tripods, and a laptop. All powered by a 100 watt panel bolted to the wagon’s roof.
In the course of my journey, I wove in an out of the lives of hundreds of folks. I sat down with lots of them to record their thoughts on what it was like to live in a part of America that lots of people – including me – didn’t know much about. Then I piled my gear back in to my wagon, hitched my mule Polly to the shafts and walked out of whoever’s life I’d entered the day before.
This went on for month after month, season after season. I started my journey in Neptune, Saskatchewan in May and, half a year later, was halted by the coming winter snows in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I sat out the winter and set out again the following spring. I traveled south all that summer and fall, interviewing folks along the way. Winter overtook me in Oklahoma. I decided to push on so I could document what it was like to travel the southern Great Plains in winter.
The Second Wagon Winter
I soon learned that winters on the Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas plains was a lot like winter most everywhere else on the Great Plains. Lots of cold, snow, sleet and frozen rain which, if you’re traveling with a mule and wagon, that means lots of icy water buckets, numb fingers and waking up to a mule with frozen-shut eye lashes.
But the cold wasn’t the hardest part. I could wear a wool hat to bed. I could crawl in to two sleeping bags. I could wriggle in to a set of quilted coveralls and set out again the next day, consoling myself that giving mule Polly double rations would keep her warm. What I missed more than warmth was human contact.
The Oklahoma panhandle is one of the emptiest parts of America and that winter, mule Polly walked across it one mile at a time. Much of my route was along gravel and dinky country roads. The reasons they’re that way is because there’s nobody out there. Sure, there’s ranch land and some farming. But in winter, the wind blows so cold and hard, most folks stay inside. The land, for the most part, is just a frozen gray expanse of wind blown grass. A fair number of ranches we stayed at, like I found across much of the Great Plains, were abandoned.
On windy days, especially when the wind blew from the north, the only movement across the land was tumbling spheres bouncing and spinning across the land – tumbleweeds. At first, while they were still a novelty, I enjoyed watching them stream my way. They swished against the wagon, bounded in to mule Polly and got stuck under the wagon, where they made a scratching sound until one of the wheels ran over them. A real treat was watching one get crushed against the cow catcher of a tractor trailer barreling up the highway at 65 miles per hour.
And then the novelty wore off. You just can’t admire each and every of the thousands of tumbleweeds that hurl by your wagon every day. And then I got sick of them. Mornings, after I camped in the wagon in some frozen field, I had to pull them out from under the wagon where they’d gotten jammed overnight. I drove past houses buried in tumbleweeds. I drove by fences pushed down by tumbleweeds. And through all this, I barely saw anyone. I felt more and more like a sailor voyaging alone across an ocean.
Message in a Tumbleweed
Surrounded by all these tumbleweeds, I got the idea to tie some notes to them and send them off across the empty expanse. The Great Plains equivalent of a sailor launching a message in a bottle. I snagged a few of the largest Kali tragus I encountered (also known as Russian thistles), spray painted them orange for visibility and taped a note inside each. Scrawled on each note was a plaintiff message to the tune of “Hi. I’m Bernie. I’m traveling across the land with my mule Polly. I’m lonely. Please write me back. Thanks. Bernie” To that I added my mailing address and, so the finder wouldn’t have to spring for the postage, a stamp in the top right corner.
And then I launched the tumbleweeds from my wagon. The best place to do this was in an open field where the wind carried them off, jiggling and bouncing toward the frozen horizon. Some of the launches I filmed. Some I just savored. I launched a lot of tumbleweeds for I was mighty lonely. The night after every launch, hunkered down in my wagon, rocking back and forth by the winter winds, I wondered where the latest batch of tumbleweeds was bounding off to. And who might find them. A pretty woman? A crusty farmer? Or would they just splinter to bits as they rolled themselves to death.
Which brings me back to the question folks often ask me. “Did you ever hear back from someone who found a note in your tumbleweed?
To which I answer “No.” And then I think back to all those beautiful tumbleweeds bounding across the land, each carrying my lonely note to someone on the other side. Someone who might also be feeling shut out from others. Someone who was going through a tough time out there on the empty plain. And I think how excited they’d be to reach in to a tumbleweed and unravel that note that had tumbled all those miles across the great wide open and in to their life. They’d peel off the duct tape, read the note and find out it was from someone else looking to make a connection. Then they’d head to the post office to mail it back to me.
I don’t want that image to die, of a tumbleweed bridging the gap between two lonely people. I’m home now. I’m married. I’m not lonely any more. And yet I cling to the memory. So I amend my answer about getting back one of my notes in a tumbleweed from “No.” to “Not yet”.
New Book Update
Work on the new book about my latest mule voyage from North Carolina to Idaho is going really well. This week I worked on passages on why you can’t jerk a mule across a bridge with a golf cart, the Frogman’s sandwich and deflating a Nebraska calf with a pocket knife. I hope to have the second draft completed early in the new year. If you want me to give you a shout when the book comes out, just sign up for my newsletter right here.
A great big thanks to the 167 folks that have reviewed the “Lost Sea Expedition” series on Amazon Prime. The 4 part TV public TV series is about the voyage I took from Canada to Mexico with my mule Polly.
Right now we (my wife Julia, me, mule Polly and our critters) are spending most of our time holed up on our farm in western North Carolina waiting for the Coronavirus pandemic to ease. Our thoughts go out to everyone who is struggling with these strange times.
We’re passing the time in simple ways. Planting a garden. Fixing roads. And yes, keeping mule Polly, star of the Lost Sea Expedition, exercised.
How Your Reviews Help
Reviews and word of mouth are the #1 way to spread word of the series. If you haven’t already, it would be great if you left a review. A few words and seconds is all it takes. You can do that right here.
Mule Polly and I got to wondering. How often is the “Lost Sea Expedition” being streamed on Amazon? The series is about mule Polly and my solo wagon voyage across America. According to Amazon, it’s been viewed over 700,000 minutes in the last 3 months. That’s almost 12,000 hours. Wow!
More important, the series has gotten over 80 reviews.
These reviews are vital. They show Amazon the series is engaging viewers. That means Amazon (okay, Amazon’s algorithm) encourages folks to stream the series. That really helps word get out about this beautiful series.
The “Lost Sea Expedition” is crankin’. A few weeks ago it won a Winnie Award at the EQUUS film festival in New York. This week, the film has been selected to appear at the EQUUSINTERNATIONAL film festival in Missoula, Montana.
This is very cool because Polly and my trip covered parts of Montana. No matter what the judges think, Polly scores a win with us. Brace yourself for a bonus ration of carrots my traveling friend!
You can stream the series on Amazon.
More about the EQUUSINTERNATIONAL film festival right here.
Are you Dan from Madison, Wisconsin? If so, we loved your postcard! It’s always great hearing from folks that enjoy the Lost Sea Expedition series, the program about my mule wagon voyage across America. Messages on a post card score bonus points on the Adventure Correspondence scale.
If you’re not Dan, we’d still love to hear from you…. especially by good old fashioned US Mail. If you write us and put your return address on your missive, we’ll try to write you back. You can find our mailing address right here. Or you can find it on the card below.
A huge thank you to everyone that left a review of the “Lost Sea Expedition” on Amazon. We got 17 new reviews this week which put us 6 over our goal of 50. To celebrate, Julia and I rode up the mountain. In the photo above, I’m riding Brick and leading Polly, star of the series. You can bet Polly got her carrot bonus!
If you’d like to review the series that would make a little mule very happy. You can leave your Amazon review right here.
Everyone have a great weekend.
Man walks across America with mule. Man makes movie. Movie goes to New York City and….wins shiny gold trophy.
Okay. Sorry. I got carried away.
It’s just that I’m so excited that the Lost Sea Expedition, the account of my mule voyage across America, just won a Winnie award at the EQUUS Film Festival in New York City. It won for best Full Length Equestrian Film Travel Documentary.
What now? Well, mule Polly, star of the series, can’t eat a trophy so I have a better idea.
On our latest jaunt, a 6 week amble from North Carolina to Virginia and back, Polly developed a real love for little red apples. So red apples it is – a whole bag full if that’s what it takes.
In the meantime, here are 2 ways you can watch the award-winning Lost Sea Expedition!
-buy the DVD at the LostSeaExpedition store.
News just in that the Lost Sea Expedition is scheduled to be the first movie to be screened at the 2018 EQUUS Film Festival in New York City. The movie about mule Polly’s wagon voyage joins other movies ranging from gypsy wagon life and Marwari cavalry horses to the California vaquero. Festival bonus: this is the first time the Lost Sea Expedition, originally released as a series, will be shown as a feature length film.
Where: Wythe Hotel Cinema
N 11th St & Brewers Row & Wythe Avenue – Brooklyn, NY 11249
80 Wythe Avenue – Brooklyn, NY 11249
Big thanks to Glen and Jamie of the Horse Radio Network’s “Horses in the Morning” show. I had the pleasure and amusement of being a guest on their show this (Monday) morning. We had a great time discussing the Lost Sea Expedition series, messages in a tumbleweed and why anybody would set off across America in a wagon. Stream the interview, or any of the 6,000-plus interviews they’ve done, at www.horsesinthemorning.com .