About the Lost Sea Expedition TV Series

The Lost Sea Expedition TV series is about a 394 day wagon voyage I (Bernie Harberts) took across the Great Plains – from Canada to Mexico – with my mule Polly. Our wagon was solar powered and tiny – just 21 square feet. The 4-part series premiered in January 2018 on Rocky Mountain PBS.

596,000 weekly viewers throughout the state tune in to Rocky Mountain PBS delivering an unmatched 98% reach into Colorado homes (Source: Nielsen November 2016).
596,000 weekly viewers throughout Colorado tune in to Rocky Mountain PBS delivering an unmatched 98% reach into Colorado homes (Source: Nielsen November 2016).

The Lost Sea Expedition was filmed with only the gear I carried in my wagon – no film crew, chase vehicle, support team or sponsor. I slowed down to explore a sped up world as only a man alone can do.

Out there in my tiny wagon, I filmed what I lived: tumbleweed gales, snow storms, the highs of Badlands Blue and the low of Prairie Fever. I lived with the people of the Great Plains and recorded their thoughts on film. That footage and those insights became the Lost Sea Expedition series.

Bernie and his muile Polly in the New Mexican desert. The film footage of their voyage became the basis of the Lost Sea Expedition TV series.
This is me and my mule Polly. We traveled and filmed our way across American in our wagon. That footage is now the Lost Sea Expedition TV series. (Hope, New Mexico)
USA iDraw Labeled Route Complete JPEG export
The 2,500 mile route we took across America. The voyage lasted 14 months, covered 10 states and spanned 4 seasons.

Evolution of a journey

I set out to explore the Great Plains – a little known part of America – and bring the experience home to you.  Early in my voyage, I was given a marine fossil from the ancient sea that once covered the Great Plains. It was called a buffalo stone.

Bernie buffalo stone
The buffalo stone I was given. To the Lakota it looked like a buffalo. In this case, the “buffalo” is facing to the right. See the head and horns at the 3 o’clock position? The front and hind legs are on the board. The “tail” is at 9 o’clock. The buffalo stone is from a creature called a baculite that once swam in the ancient sea that covered the Great Plains. (Outside Antelope, Montana)


Baculite painting
A baculite as drawn by well-known North Carolina folk artist Charlie Frye. Charlie painted over 35 original pieces to illustrate the Lost Sea Expedition

As I traveled across the Plains in my wagon, I asked folks what they knew about this fossil. I interviewed ranchers, farmers, scientists, creationist and ordinary people.

Then things took a twist.

Not what I had in mind…

What started as a journey to learn about a vanished sea soon turned in to something else.  Sure, folks told me their views on my fossil and the vanished sea it came from. Then they told me what was on their heart, what mattered to them out there on the Great Plains.

Colorado rancher Duane Ackley.
Colorado rancher Duane Ackley. He broke horses in the Great Depression and then his well dried up. He appears in Episode 3 of the Lost Sea Expedition (Walsh, Colorado)
Bernie and friends around his wagon
Show up in a tiny yellow wagon and folks are going to talk….and visit. The perfect way to get a cross-sectional look in to the lives of the people of the Great Plains. (Phillipsburg, Kansas)
Lakota elder Janice Red Willow spends some quiet time with mule Polly.
Lakota elder Janice Red Willow spends some quiet time with mule Polly. I spent a week with Janice. She taught me the Lakota words “sunka wakan” (horse) and “sunka” (dog). (Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota)

From meeting all these people, some themes emerged like:

-how will the Ogallala Aquifer, the nation’s largest underwater aquifer, survive if it is pumped faster than it can replenish?

-how will rural communities survive in the era of machine learning and mass automation?

-how does a person reconcile the scientific, Lakota and Christian views of a vanished sea?

14 months after I set out from Canada with my mule and wagon, I arrived on the Mexican border. I had set out to explore a Lost Sea. I discovered something much deeper.

The Lost Sea Wagon parked on Hurley Butte, South Dakota.
The Lost Sea Expedition TV series lets you absorb some of the remotest parts of America, like Hurley Butte, South Dakota.

Why does the Lost Sea Expedition matter?

The Lost Sea Expedition matters because it takes a deep map look in to some of the most divisive issues of our time: religion, water use, automation and the depopulation of America’s Great Plains.  Because I traveled so thoroughly, I was able to spend months listening to the people of the Great Plains. And if you can understand America’s Heartland, you have a good chance of understanding this nation as a whole, from its people to its politics.

The other reason  the Lost Sea Expedition matter is, well, it’s just a darn good yarn! It’s about a man and his mule striking out across the Great Plains. No smart phone, crowd funding, internet connection or social media. It’s about authentic travel, hardship and redemption and a very real, not virtual, existence.

Wagon crash by mule Polly.
Mule Polly kept things lively with the occasional wagon crash. This one features in Episode 1 of the Lost Sea Expedition. (South of Alzada, Montana)

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Watch the Series

Here are a few ways you can watch the Lost Sea Expedition series.

Stream the series

Amazon (FREE with Prime)

Vimeo on Demand