Writer survived shift on almost-deserted island
Palm Beach Post
October 18, 2000
by Linda Haase
Michael Modzelewski thought the two years he spent in an intense fight for survival on an almost-deserted island was a soul-trying experience.
But playing survivor for a not-for-TV-movie was nothing compared to the challenge he found when he returned to discover he had been chosen as Cosmopolitan magazine’s Bachelor of the Month. Nearly 5,000 women wrote him; some sent scented underwear. It was a real turn on for a man who went 67 days without seeing another human on Blackfish Sound in the Inside Passage to Alaska.
“It was every man’s fantasy . . . But then it became more scary going through the dating jungle than living on the island for two years and struggling to survive.”
After three months of meeting women, Modzelewski got a letter from a flight attendant named Paula Grecco. The met, the fell in love, and in ‘92 they got married. They even did Oprah.
“It was a pot of gold at what I thought would be a frivolous rainbow,” said the author of Inside Passage: Living With Killer Whales, Bald Eagles and Kwakiutl Indians, a book about his experiences on the island.
“The island was 200 miles north of Vancouver and 100 years back in time. When you see it from a cruise ship it seduces you with its beauty. But underneath that beauty is an unforgiving nature. One mistake and the grim reaper is there. Fire can kill you, the weather can kill you . . . .” Modzelewski said.
The Indians paid him a visit during the frigid winter — then told him they’d be back in the spring for his bones. “That was the welcoming committee . . . There was no chamber of commerce with a fruit basket,” he said.
He shares his experiences from May to September, when he’s on Princess Cruise Line’s Alaska Voyages as the shipboard naturalist.
His second book, Angeles Crest: A Memoir, delves into his childhood as the son of a Cleveland Browns player and he and his brother’s recollections during a 100-mile marathon.
Modzelewski is working on Men Don’t Understand, inspired by his “Bachelor of the Month” experience.
What did you miss most when you got back to “civilization”?
“I missed hearing the wolves howling and the northern lights. There’s so much magic there.”
What are your hobbies?
“Mountain climbing, kayaking and running. I run four marathons a year. My goal is to do 100 marathons before I die. I’ve done 50.”
What was your most memorable moment?
“One day when I was on the island, I was in the middle of the ocean in a 17-foot boat and I saw something moving in the sky. A huge feather, about 2 to 3 feet was falling down. It was an eagle feather . . . I didn’t move or try to grab it. I just let it land in my cupped hands. Then one day my dad calls me and says he was re-reading my book and he was reading the part about this eagle feather . . . and a feather came down from the sky and landed right on that page on the graph. The odds of it happening the first time are one in a million, then to have it happen to your dad are even more than one in a million.”
Who’s your hero?
“My father . . . He gave me such positive, loving reinforcement.”
For what would you like to be remembered?
“Inspiring people to their maximum potential.”
What’s the most unusual thing you own?
“Two voodoo dolls . . . to bring white light and goodness into your life. They have yellow bags around their waists and you put a note in there about something you’d like to have happen . . . all four things I put in came true.”
What would surprise people about you?
“I’m supposed to be Nanook of the North . . . and a tough guy, but I cry at chick flicks . . . It’s that deep sensitive side I found while I was on the island. . . . and not being afraid to suppress it. One of the things I learned on the island is that you couldn’t bring your male ego there, you’d never survive if you let it take over.”