The calm behind the storm
“You’re not in charge of your own destiny when you’re on a boat,” says Captain Keith Colburn during a particularly rough patch at sea. The TV program “Deadliest Catch” pits crab boats like Colburn’s Wizard and their crews against the deadly Bering Sea during King crab season. It is this chaotic, unpredictable environment that makes the show must-see TV for millions of Discovery Channel viewers.
It falls to Lynden International to get the rough footage of the program back from remote Dutch Harbor, AK and delivered to the producers of the show in California for editing and broadcast. In contrast to the unpredictable marine environment of the Deadliest Catch, the Lynden team is solid, steadfast and reliable. And Lynden knows Alaska. “All the digital program film comes through our Anchorage office for overnight air delivery to the Original Productions offices in Burbank,” says Account Executive Greg Obeso. “The film is on hard drives, so they are small boxes, but obviously of great value. Everything is time sensitive.”
Lynden also moves cameras, film, wet suits, helicopter mounts, and any other equipment needed for production of the program. With some cameras valued at $400,000 each, the shipments receive the highest priority and white glove treatment. And most everything is a rush, according to Obeso. “Once the shows are in production, everything is shipped on a ‘we need it now’ basis. Crew members are onsite waiting to film. If they have broken equipment, they need the parts immediately. Every wasted minute costs the producers money.”
That kind of stress leads to frayed nerves and tense moments. As the transportation provider, the Lynden team does its part to keep things calm and focus on solutions. “We hear things like divers are hitting the water in three hours, or weather is moving in. Urgency is the norm with these shipments,” Obeso says.
January is the busiest time with all three shows in production and Lynden handling shipments from three different producers and production teams to different locations in Winnipeg, Nome and Dutch Harbor. Lynden’s variety of transportation modes is a distinct advantage. “We have used Lynden Air Cargo’s 4-day-a-week scheduled service from Anchorage to Nome and, at other times when the freight is not so time sensitive, we have trucked and barged freight via Alaska Marine Lines and Lynden Transport,” explains International Agent Owen Mitchell.
A special Lynden customer service email and team has been set up to handle the daily and often three-times-daily shipments during production. The group is available 24-7 to respond to requests and issues.
In addition to Deadliest Catch, Original Productions produces Ice Road Truckers, Bering Sea Gold and even a program called Whisker Wars. Before Lynden came onboard, another freight forwarder was handling transportation for the shows. At one point freight was grounded in Sand Point, AK, which is 600 miles west of Anchorage and only accessible by boat or plane. “They were facing a two-week wait to get the freight out so the forwarder contacted us and we got the freight on another airline’s backhaul flight the same day,” Mitchell says.
By coincidence, Obeso was in Dutch Harbor at the same time working on projects for the seafood industry. “I happened to meet Producer Sheila McCormick through mutual contacts while she was filming land shots for the Deadliest Catch. I mentioned that the brokerage firm she was using was calling Lynden for help and that she could just call us directly in the future,” Obeso recalls. “That started this great working relationship that we have today.” Lynden began handling shipments for Deadliest Catch and six months later, the producer of Ice Road Truckers called. They were transitioning the program from Prudhoe Bay to Manitoba to begin filming in Canada. Lynden’s office in Ontario was a selling point as shipments could be routed into Winnipeg through Ontario instead of Anchorage and Lynden could handle all the freight plus customs brokerage, importing and exporting.
Lynden now supports other programs such as Bering Sea Gold filmed in Nome, AK. One of the more challenging assignments was flying a large gold nugget into Nome for the series. For Ax Men, freight has been flown and barged into Southeast Alaska and, for the Whisker Wars program, Lynden took care of a large international shipment to Germany for the taping of the world beard competition. “Over the years, we have chartered flights and arranged transport of tri-pods, production equipment, wet suits, dive tanks, air compressors, arctic gear, ATVs, yurts and more,” Mitchell says. “We even flew gear to Adak in the Aleutian Islands where a boat met us to pick it up. Lynden’s worldwide presence – especially in Russia, Canada and the Yukon – is a plus for producers as they scout new locations for programs.
Both Obeso and Mitchell agree that the work is challenging, but also exciting and a lot of fun. “It’s definitely something different than the normal shipments we handle,” Obeso says. “We consider ourselves the ‘calm behind the storm’ to keep things rolling during production. Reality television is fast-paced and deadline-focused. We work well under pressure and try to ease the load of the producers in the field.” For Obeso, who spent many years working in the seafood industry, one of the most memorable shipments wasn’t delivered to a remote filming site, but to a suburban location. Lynden flew 500 pounds of coveted blue crab from Alaska to Burbank for a Deadliest Catch season premier.