KETCHIKAN -- While Mary Maley was kayaking from Ketchikan to Petersburg, something unexpected happened: A bear attacked her kayak. And then something equally surprising happened: More than 3 million people watched the video of it on YouTube.
Maley was on Day 5 of what she was expecting to be a 20-day trip. She pulled her kayak ashore 22 miles southeast of Wrangell to eat lunch and hike.
"And as I was eating lunch I heard something outside, so I went outside and the bear was eating my kayak. So I immediately tried to make loud noises."
When the bear didn't back off, Maley grabbed her pepper spray and her camera. Which is where the video begins.
Maley thought she might email the video to the manufacturer of her kayak, Delta. But the video was too big, so, using the wireless Internet at the Wrangell library, she uploaded the video to YouTube and shared the link on Facebook.
Although she is never visible in the video, her stressed voice throughout makes it memorable.
"I mean, I'm not deaf, so I realize it's pretty funny to listen to."
Maley says that's not her regular speaking voice. When she's stressed, her pitch goes up. Although it may sound like she was trying to reason with a bear, she said she was trying to talk loudly so the bear might leave.
She does also have some professional experience being loud.
"I'm kind of famous as a tour guide for being sort of loud yelling over engines and having the ability to do that on tour. This past summer I was Little Nell in 'The Fish Pirate's Daughter,' the Ketchikan production, and that's her whole shtick. That she's really high-pitched and ridiculous and I was obviously perfect for that character."
Maley, talking from her family home in West Virginia, has remained lighthearted about the whole experience despite some astonishing online comments.
"It's crazy to read that somebody wishes a bear would have eaten you. For me to read that and be like, 'What in the world?' -- to try to put myself in the place of that person and try to understand what their daily lives must be like that they are capable of saying something like that to an anonymous person on the Internet who just had something really bad happen to her."
She has also received support, including from a friend who set up a campaign and raised over $1,000 for repairs. Sadly, she said, it is not enough to replace the kayak, which is valued around four times that amount. Besides losing an expensive piece of sporting equipment, Maley said the biggest disappointment was not seeing LeConte Glacier or paddling around the Stikine River because her trip was cut short.
"The trip itself was an exploration of the beautiful landscape that drew me there initially, but the reaction from the people of Wrangell and the people of Ketchikan is really why I choose to stay there and come back year after year."
After arriving in Wrangell, Maley was offered a couch to sleep on and work space to repair her kayak. She was able to patch the gashes, but won't be relying on it for more than a day trip.
Maley will spend the winter mushing dogs in Wyoming and be back in Ketchikan next summer, where she hopes to give the 200-mile paddle another try.
This story was originally published by KRBD Radio in Ketchikan and is republished here with permission.