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Today we’re looking back at 10 years of the public radio program Encounters with Richard Nelson. The show originally began as an interview segment that would sometimes take place outdoors. But, Nelson says he never got comfortable interviewing other people. So, he decided to try talking to himself.
“That turned out to be how Encounters began to evolve, purely by accident. I figured out topics I was interested in, researched them, and then basically I would interview myself. And as far as I know Encounters violates a lot of rules in radio, with just a single voice for a half hour,” Nelson says.
The newest season of Encounters begins next month, and Nelson says it will mostly be re-airings of the show’s best programs. “We just decided that this might be a nice time for us to celebrate our 10th anniversary, so we’re going to have a season starting in December and we’ll put up not just our favorite programs but favorites we hear from others about,” Nelson says.
Nelson says listeners have until this Friday to vote for their favorite episodes on the Encounter’s website. As far as his favorite episode goes? Nelson has a hard time choosing, but he can narrow it down to two.
“I was in the midst of recording a program about moose and I was hanging out with this giant Bull Moose, and I noticed there was a grizzly bear coming down the slope behind this moose and the moose started coming straight toward me. And it was one of the most exciting moments I’ve ever had recording Encounters, and you certainly can tell that when you listen to the program,” Nelson says.
“Another one I really like a lot is the program about wind that I recorded up in a tree close to Sitka during the biggest storm we’d had in a number of years. I don’t know if I sounded scared during the program but I was certainly scared.”
Nelson says people ask him all the time if he’s really recording himself while these events are happening, and not in a safe quiet studio. “There’s one thing I’m an absolute stickler about and that is all the programs are recorded in the field and only when the subject is as close as common sense and courtesy allow me to be,” Nelson says.
And, listeners can expect to hear some new close encounters soon. Nelson says the 10th season won’t just be re-runs. There will be new content, including several programs that were recorded on the arctic coast near the village of Kaktovik. “One of which is kind of auto biographical, and I also recorded a program about the iced seals up there; the ring seals and the bearded seals,” Nelson says.
The Encounters staff is using its 10 year mark as a chance to slow down and reflect on the show. But they’re also taking this opportunity to try some new things. “Another program we’ll put on this seasonal celebration that’s coming up for Encounters is a program that nobody has ever heard about; one on the koala in Australia. And there’s a bunch of programs recorded down under that we’ll have on the radio as well,” Nelson says.
But don’t worry Encounters fans, Nelson says there isn’t going to be a shift from Alaska as the show’s focal point. He says nowhere else comes even close. “It’s a powerful place, Alaska. And it resonates so deeply in our souls. And I feel privileged to be a part of that in my daily life, as well as in producing this radio program,” Nelson says.