“I’m forever looking for trouble to see if I can get out of it!” Anthony Dalton chuckles. “So far, I have avoided the worst outcome, but I’ve had close calls with baboons, elephant seals and Royal Bengal tigers, to name a few. And I almost died alone in the Arctic.”
On Sea Lion Island, south of West Falkland, Anthony squatted down to photograph an elephant seal among scores on a sandy beach. These gargantuan seals can kill, if threatened or have young; despite their size, they can move like lightening. He writes in Adventures with Camera and Pen: “We faced each other like mismatched gladiators. She kept one eye on me; the other, weeping copiously, remained closed. I crouched lower and held her Cyclopean gaze. Without warning, she opened her mouth wide. A deep, rumbling roar bubbled up from her belly and the huge elephant seal charged. In the second before discretion proved the better part of valour, I took one more photograph. Then I ran.”
Anthony is a man of countless experiences and a thousand stories. Explorer, author, amateur historian are just part of who he is. He’s also a photographer, sailor, speaker, and a bit of a romantic. First and last, he believes they all flow from being an adventurer.
When he speaks, Anthony radiates the energy and enthusiasm of a man 30 years younger. Hard to believe, but he collects Old Age Security while planning his adventures. He’s turbocharged; always on the go dreaming up new activities, books and projects.
Anthony’s taste for adrenalin-fueled exploits surged during his teens in England. In the Air Cadets at 16, he soloed in a glider and made his first parachute jump after forging his mother’s signature on the waivers. When poor eyesight quashed his ambition to be an air force pilot, he immigrated to Canada with his family.
After a miserable year of work in a Toronto bank when he really wanted to be in university, he laced up his hiking boots, shouldered his backpack, and circled the globe for two years. “I left Canada as a quiet, shy youngster and returned as a confident, travel-hardened, and well-mannered man,” he says. He had not only travelled six continents, but also studied world religions and debated with priests and imams. In 1960, when Anthony stood on top of the Great Pyramid of Cheops viewing the vast expanse of the Sahara, he realized he’d reached a turning point. His journey had changed his life and crystallized his destiny.
Anthony’s eyes sparkle. “The adventurer in me had fully engaged and became an addiction.” Today, he recognizes his adventurous spirit was also fed by a strong ego and the need to be a star. “It still is,” he says grinning.
After working on communication towers to earn money, Anthony risked buying a used Land Rover in 1969 to pursue his dream - he had fallen profoundly in love with the Sahara and the Middle East. He contracted with a Toronto travel agency to lead customized, guided expeditions for discerning travellers and roamed from Istanbul to Kathmandu for over a decade. His passion for history had him weaving stories about the ancient sites and reading Persian poetry by moonlight for his guests. But Anthony’s dream job ended abruptly when the Shah of Iran was deposed and the Russians invaded Afghanistan. He returned to Canada at a loss about what to do, miserable, and 40. It was 1980.
“I had no thoughts of being a writer then,” he says. “It just never entered my head, although I’d had photographs published.”
He sought refuge in Edmonton with his sister and met Steve Crowhurst, a travel expert. The two men hit it off and became lasting friends.
One day Steve asked Anthony, “What are you going to do next?”
“I’ve no idea,” was his reply.
“Why don’t you write about your adventures? Start with your last trip to Timbuktu.”
Anthony bashed out an 800-word piece and sent it to the Edmonton Journal. The newspaper published it six weeks later and his next career began. This one has lasted 30 years and shows no sign of waning. He has been sent on assignment to write about places most travellers only dream of visiting - the Falkland Islands, Timbuktu, Namibia, Oman and Vanuatu, to name a few.
He has crewed on mighty windjammers in northern waters and sailed smaller boats in the Caribbean and Pacific. So far, hundreds of Anthony’s articles have appeared in 20 countries and have been translated into nine languages, and he has published 13 books.
His passion for history, developed in the Middle East, has broadened to include Canada, the fur trade, and the Arctic. Anthony says, “I’m a born historian and academic at heart.” He also admits to a “bottomless pit of ideas, which reflect my love of history and Canada,” and has a contract for two more non-fiction books, a movie option, and two adult novels under consideration.
River Rough, River Smooth is his favourite book, although the earlier publication of Wayward Sailor in 2003 launched him into Canadian publishing’s mainstream. Anthony had yearned to write a book like River after inhaling the novels of R.M. Ballantyne and books about Sir John Franklin’s overland explorations in northern Canada. River tells the story of Anthony’s two arduous but thrilling journeys retracing the 600-kilometre fur trade route on Manitoba’s Hayes River. For the first, he joined a crew of Cree First Nation men in a York boat from Norway House to Oxford House; for the second, he paddled a canoe with modern-day voyageurs from Oxford House to York Factory, the Hudson’s Bay Company’s old headquarters on Hudson Bay.
Assignments continue to roll in for Anthony. CBC and the Discovery Channel have employed him for documentaries and recently the Smithsonian Institution chose him as a featured guest speaker for Celebrity Cruises. He is a proud Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorer’s Club.
Asked what gives him joy today, Anthony replies swiftly, “Helping other writers. Deserts and the Arctic - I love their remoteness, danger and solitude. Canada’s ‘wild’ factor.”
Anthony is still lacing up his hiking boots, shouldering his backpack, and slinging his camera round his neck at 71 years old. Readers can be sure of many more books from his pen and images from his Nikon - longevity is in his genes, to say nothing of adventuring.
The Fur Trade Fleet (Heritage House, 2011)
Polar Bears (Heritage House, 2010)
Arctic Naturalist: The Life of J. Dewey Soper (Dundurn, 2010)
A Long, Dangerous Coastline (Heritage House, 2010)
River Rough, River Smooth (Natural Heritage/Dundurn, 2010)
The Graveyard of the Pacific (Heritage House, 2010)
Adventures with Camera and Pen (BookLand Press, 2009)
Alone Against the Arctic (Heritage House, 2007)
Baychimo: Arctic Ghost Ship (Heritage House, 2006)
J/Boats Sailing to Success (MBI Publishing, 2005)
Wayward Sailor: In Search of the Real Tristan Jones (IM/McGraw-Hill, 2003)
The Best of Nautical Quarterly with Reese Palley (MBI, 2004)
Herreshoff Sailboats with Greg Jones (MBI, 2005)
For more details about Anthony Dalton, visit www.anthonydalton.net.
JANUARY 2012 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER & LOWER MAINLAND