Eagle Scout Eric Meek creates incredible glass artwork as part of his job at the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, N.Y. His time with Troop 77 in Defiance, Ohio, instilled the leadership and interpersonal skills he uses for work every day, but it also equipped him with the survival skills he needed to stay alive during a harrowing experience at Quetico Provincial Park in Canada.
“If I hadn’t used the skills I learned as a Scout, I wouldn’t be standing here today,” Meek says. “I really owe Scouting my life.”
Canoe trip gone wrong
While in graduate school, Meek went canoeing with a friend across the lakes of Quetico Provincial Park, which borders Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness where many Scouts explore during Northern Tier adventure treks. Meek had canoed around there before when he was a Scout.
It was early May this time, with snow still on the ground in some places, and water temperatures dipping to about 40 degrees, Meek says. Four days into the trek, Meek and his friend were paddling around an island.
“There was a horrible wind going all the way up the lake,” Meek says. “We got out from behind that island, and we were immediately in some very choppy water.”
The canoe flipped, throwing the duo into chilly water.
“We tried a couple times to get back in the canoe, but it was too choppy,” he says. “There was no chance of going forward, so we just rode it out.”
They floated for about an hour, clinging to their capsized canoe, until they drifted close to shore. When they emerged from the water, they were showing signs of hypothermia. That’s when Meek’s Scouting skills instinctively kicked in.
“There was one corner of my mind that was still conscious,” Meek says. “We got the sleeping bags out of the dry bags.”
Meek also grabbed the camp stove, lit it, and warmed up a drink. Warm liquids combined with bundling up in their sleeping bags helped save them, and they were able to paddle to a ranger’s station a couple of days later.
Today, Meek manages the museum’s hot glass programs; he has worked for the world’s premier glass museum in upstate New York since 2002. Almost half a million people annually visit the Corning Museum of Glass, where visitors can watch glassblowing demonstrations, make their own glass and submit ideas for glassblowers to create.
You can watch Meek and fellow Eagle Scout and glassblower G Brian Juk work at their intricate craft in our exclusive video below and read about other ways Scouting has impacted their lives and careers in the Spring issue of Eagles’ Call magazine.