Lyle Tuttle Tattoos on All 7 Continents
It started off as something whispered at tattoo convention. Lyle Tuttle had something big to cross off his "bucket list": to tattoo in Antarctica, the only continent on this earth left where he hadn't plied his craft. When tattoo historian Dr. Anna Felicity Friedman learned of this, she cornered Lyle in the hotel bar of the convention one night and told him that it was her dream as well to visit Antarctica. After she "casually mentioned" that she could make this trip happen, Lyle took her up on her offer to organize the trip and be his personal assistant on that journey.
On January 21, 2014, the 82-year-old legend, who has been tattooing since 1949, became the first person to tattoo on all 7 continents. Anna offers more on that trip here, an excerpt of which is below:
After a long trip to the tip of South America, [Lyle Tuttle] and project assistant/tattoo historian Dr. Anna Felicity Friedman, flew across the Drake Passage on a 6-seat charter flight. Still plagued by after-effects from a bout of frostbite acquired while serving in the Marines in the Korean War, the trip posed a particular challenge for Mr. Tuttle. The two travelers spent a full day touring, seeing--among the many wonders of the icy southern world--glaciers, icebergs, penguins, seals, and whales--and experiencing what life is like for those who live in Antarctica for extended periods of time. Then, late at night, Mr. Tuttle set up his tattoo station in a scientist's guesthouse at the Russian Bellingshausen Station and tattooed his signature tattoo--his autograph--on Dr. Friedman's leg, later adding "ANTARCTICA 2014" when back in Punta Arenas, Chile.During the trip, Lyle also got two new tattoos himself, and as Anna writes, he delighted local tattooists with his unexpected visits to their studios.
When I asked Anna about the amazing stories she must have heard from Lyle on that trip, she said, "Stories....man, I'm still processing it all. 10 days of the two of us pretty much constantly together, combined with his loquaciousness, is A LOT of stories. To be honest, the stories I particularly loved were the non-tattoo ones--of his family and growing up, fighting in Korea, sailing on his Chinese junk."
She also said that the most memorable part of the trip was "traveling to these storied places that I have read about so often in the pages of explorer's narratives and journals. Staying in a hotel room overlooking the freaking Strait of Magellan, touring Tierra del Fuego, flying over Cape Horn and recognizing the shapes of the islands at the ends of South America from so many years as a map geek, and, of course, landing on Antarctica. The hike down a cliff face on the Drake Passage side of King George Island through permafrost, fields of weird lichens and mosses, and crazy awesome ice and craggy rocks to see elephant seals also ranks among the top three hikes I've ever taken and lingers in my memory."
Read more of Lyle and Anna's historic journey on her blog, where she'll also be posting more photos and video soon.