Bears of Arctic Alaska
was filmed and produced from the Inupiaq Eskimo village of Kaktovik,
which lies within the boundaries of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
on Alaska's Barter Island in the Arctic Ocean. The film shows never-before-seen
sequences of polar bear play, survival, and socialization. While Churchill
and other locations have been a staple of traditional polar bear programming,
this is the first DVD of its kind documenting American polar bears in
the Alaskan arctic. The non-narrated form and 30-minute duration make
this DVD well-suited to family viewing.
Bears of Arctic Alaska is a cinematic family portrait of polar
bears on the scenic Beaufort Sea coast. Without a word of narration,
Alaskan filmmaker Arthur C. Smith III reveals fuzzy cubs as playful
students, their sows tender teachers. A gentle musical score enhances
the beauty of this endearing documentary of the wild and beautiful North
American polar bear.
The sound of the howling wind prepares us for a dramatic journey as
we arrive in Alaska by air with the magnificence of the Brooks Range
spread out beneath us. Our ears then tune in to cathedral-like music,
as though in testament to God’s awe-inspiring creation.
We descend to be greeted by a willow ptarmigan in its pristine winter
coat, camouflaged so perfectly against the snowscape. The scene cuts
to a blood-red sunset mirrored in the icy shoreline and our first polar
bear comes into view. It is so cold we can see her breath freezing in
the air. She is followed by her cubs, who will be the main subject of
the film’s close observation. They play endlessly in the indigo
water, being as confident in the sea as on ice or land. When sleep comes
they curl up together, or stretch and yawn and roll; two pups comically
appear from behind their sleeping mother.
Finding what looks like a piece of skin from another bear’s meal,
a cub tosses it into the air, shakes it, drops it in the water, tosses
it again as though it were a seal he’d just caught. Then he tries
breaking the ice, pounding both front paws down together the way he
has seen his mother do when looking for seals.
The ice is melting rapidly. The struggle to get out of the water is
evident; the bear looks exhausted, pathetic, not quite the king of the
arctic. Global warming is a threat he cannot escape, nor do anything
On to happier things, such as finding strips of baleen left from an
earlier whale harvest. Such fun! Cubs are inquisitive and anything can
become an object of play. The film slows so that we can appreciate the
beauty in the movement of the animal, and the close-ups make you wonder
how long the cameraman had to sit and wait for the opportunity.
As we bid farewell a curious bear stops and turns his head in our direction,
paw slightly raised, as though looking straight at us. We should savour
the moment, for the survival of this awesome species hangs precariously
in the balance.
With its lack of narrative, this film calmly allows us to view the
polar bear in its natural beauty and makes this perfect family viewing;
the children can ask questions without feeling they are interupting,
and it gives parents or teachers the opportunity to make their own commentary.
The film’s message about the fragility of the bear's future existence
is made without the upsetting images that most documentaries feel compelled
to use, yet we are still left with unease and an awareness that climate
change is of vital concern to us all.
And it was nice to see in the end credits that the filmmakers respectfully
acknowledged the Inupiat community of Barter Island, who's way of life
is in the front line of the effects of global warming.
Copies may be purchased from: CreateSpace at https://www.createspace.com/Store/ShowEStore.jsp?id=257198.
Antarctica: Continent of Ice
Natural History New Zealand
Running time 40 minutes
Price approx. NZ $49.95 plus $15.40 p&p
This educational video has been produced for school children between
the ages of 9 to 15 and is accompanied by a printed teacher's Study
The video is presented in five parts, each of which may be viewed independently:
- Cold: describes the coldest place on Earth and explains how
plants, animals, birds and fish are able to live in such a climate.
- Ice: describes the various ice formations found in Antarctica,
and how scientists can use ice to learn about the history of this
- Science on Ice: describes the role of modern technology in
- Dry Valleys: describes the unusual dry areas of Antarctica,
the climate and plant life.
- The Big Picture: describes the impact Antarctica has on other
parts of the world.
The narrative is clear, precise, and set at a good pace with appropriate
pauses allowing for the information to be absorbed. The underwater photography
is spectacular and the graphics are simple yet sophisticated.
Although this video is geared to the New Zealand curriculum, the study
elements may easily be adapted to fit any lesson, particularly Science.
The Study Guide offers over 30 ideas for projects for various age groups.
Antarctica: Life on Ice
Natural History New Zealand
Running time 40 minutes
Price approx. NZ $49.95 plus $15.40 P&P
Another first-class educational video for school children between the
ages of 9 to 15, also accompanied by a printed teacher's Study Guide
and presented in a five-part format:
- Explorers: gives a very brief outline of the history of Antarctic
exploration, the methods of travel then and now, and the impact of
- Penguins: describes the differences between the five species
of penguin found in Antarctica.
- Seal and Pup: concentrates on the Weddell seal and its habitat.
- Underwater: looks at the largest to the smallest forms of
life found in the icy waters and how they fit into the food chain.
- Living in Antarctica: shows the living and working conditions
of today's scientists, how they spend their leisure hours, and the
disadvantages and dangers they face.
Again the narrative is clear and the photography excellent. The accompanying
Study Guide offers 14 ideas for Science projects, 4 for Biology and
24 for Social Studies.
All reviews by S.G. Servian