Twelve islands. Twenty-three days.
That, in a nutshell, is what explorer and mountaineering enthusiast Vladislav Melnik will seek to achieve—to explore and go to each of the 12 mostly uninhabited islands of the Northern Mariana Islands chain, from its northernmost tip of Farallon de Pajaros down to its southernmost tip, Rota, in a trek that is estimated to last 23 days.
Of the 12 islands comprising the CNMI, only some of them are inhabited by people like Saipan, Rota, Tinian, Alamagan, and Pagan. Only a handful of people such as scientists, researchers and fishermen have been to the northernmost islands and the mystery of these islands is what is drawing Melnik to visit them.
The others—Maug, Asuncion, Agrihan, Aguguan, Sarigan, and Anatahan—remain pleasingly alien, most of them unexplored peaks of underwater mountains poking through the surface of the mighty Pacific Ocean. Melnik plans to start at the top of this crescent-shaped archipelago and make his way down south. He will be accompanied by a film crew that will be documenting what promises to be a great adventure.
“I leave on April 22 and start the expedition all the way up to the last Marianas frontier, the Farallon de Pajaros. For 23 days, I plan to make my way back to Saipan exploring every island in between. Exploring Saipan, Tinian, and Rota are a part of another adventure …We are not going to skip it as it is a part of the entire project…but not for 23 days. I will explore the uninhabited islands first,” he said.
The game plan, Melnik said, is not only just to set foot on the land but explore the beauty of each island, both above and underwater, experience the sunrise, sunset, flora, and fauna and any kind of life. This means there is going to be a lot of setting camp, perhaps on top of a volcano, climbing, rappelling, paragliding, kayaking, scuba diving, and “take back what I see for the education of children and students, for science and really for the new generation,” he said.
Melnik has been engaged in extreme sports and adventures for more than 20 years now. As a child, he grew up in an environment surrounded by mountains and treated jungles and forests as his playground. His social media accounts contain photos and videos of different adventures around the CNMI, which delights followers that live vicariously through his explorations.
“I have a good set of skills and my background includes being a combat medic, so I can take care of myself and others, I am a certified in parachute jumps, scuba diving, and I have a pilot license as I have worked with an aviation company. My survival skills are tested in the mountains and in snow. This CNMI exploration may involve a tropical environment but I have a pretty solid experience and this motivates me to move and to do more,” Melnik said.
‘With this project, everything is big. It is going to be huge because this will be a first in the history of the Marianas. …With my experience and set of skills, everything is doable to accomplish all my mission. …I have a film crew that is going with me and one of them is a young and talented photographer and filmmaker. We have good equipment that we hope to capture every moment and detail. In some places where the crew cannot follow me, I will also be carrying professional cameras because on some islands, I plan to stay overnight or to go solo to catch the right moments,” Melnik added.
According to Melnik, this project is an independent endeavor, mostly funded by himself and supported by friends who provided him equipment. If there are people who want to join him, he is open to the idea but he has a word of caution.
“First of all, I don’t want to jeopardize my expedition. People have different stamina, endurance and, yes, some people could follow in the general areas but not to be with me because the itinerary is going to be intense,” he said.
“We have a very short time, almost without rest, just [jumping from] island to island from bottom to the top and then the next island. …People who are willing to follow me, the boat crew can help deploy their tent and bring the stuff but they would have to be able to cook and take care of themselves.”
Melnik said that this endeavor is not for profit. “I’m not asking for money but inviting people to share the same vision…to learn more about the other islands in the Marianas and appreciate their beauty. This will be beneficial to education and tourism of the Marianas and, hopefully, we can open that direction to make it available for many people, whether residents or tourists.”
“…another goal is eventually to publish a book about the Marianas containing all that we saw and experience during this expedition. …It is hard to describe the excitement and anticipation that I have for this trip but one thing is for sure, it is really going to be good for the Marianas,” he added.