I don’t know about you, but my favorite part of the recent Disneynature film Oceans was the walrus mother hugging her pup close as she teaches him to navigate the ice cold water off Cobourg Island.
Maybe I’m biased. After all, this was just some of the fabulous footage captured by Disneynature crews working with Arctic Kingdom. And, despite un-self conscious the ease with which the walrus cradles her young, the shoot was not without its challenges. In a recent article posted at the Canada Tourism Centre’s Media center, AK founder Graham Dickson explains:
“Walruses are not only potentially dangerous, but the mothers tend to be protective of their young. So finding one, in clear water, that keeps doing her thing naturally, was pretty incredible.”
Graham goes on to explain that finding animals in the wild is just one of the challenges of filming Arctic wildlife.
“The challenge is to find meaningful connections” between the animals, he says. Some animals are frankly too self-conscious; they’re so aware of the dive crews that they aren’t … themselves. Sometimes, strangely enough, the most intimidating animals make the most fittingly Zen subjects. Like, for example, a big alpha-male polar bear, caught at a moment when he’s well fed and king of all he surveys. Bears in such conditions “are almost blasé,” Dickson says. “They don’t care that you’re around. They don’t fear you. You’re not part of their food chain.”
Arctic Kingdom’s secret lies in the relationships we’ve formed over years of working and returning to the Arctic. Meaningful connections built between our expedition leaders and the local guides we work with help us to find and form connections with the wild creatures that make the Arctic their home.
“[The Inuit] have the strongest connection of anyone to the wildlife,” Dickson says. Roughly half of Arctic Kingdom’s field personnel team comes from the local native communities. “We work not only with youth but with very old elders who don’t speak English. We’re a ‘southern’ company that has spent enough time in the North to actually know some Northern ways. We bring the sophisticated logistics, but we still plug into the local community network and everything the Inuit hold near and dear.”
By relying on the traditional knowledge of Inuit guides, Arctic Kingdom is providing jobs for far northern communities that draws upon traditional knowledge and values, helping build and strengthen the Arctic economy for a changing future. Simultaneously, we’re helping other “southerners” connect with the world of the North (including some extremely photogenic walruses). Not a bad way to make a living!