After all the planning, hundreds of hours spent imagining whales as characters with distinctive markings and personalities, working with film narrators and scientists and observers, after the coordination of funders and experts and community members, the months of rendering on computers tucked away in offices, Arctic Currents: A Year in the Life of the Bowhead Whale is ready for the big screen.
This 25-minute film tells the story of the annual migration of bowhead whales. The species spends its life searching for food among the ice floes of Arctic waters. They are elusive and yet are a major influence on the culture of the Inupiat and Yupik people. Bowhead whales live a long time, as many as 120 years and perhaps much longer. The film explores the life cycle of bowhead whales, their diet and survival strategies. And all in beautiful, full color animations that bring to life the crisp environments of Northern Alaska.
The film takes its narrative and title from the 2013 calendar edited by University of Alaska Fairbanks oceanographer Steve Okkonen, a teaching tool designed to portray the science and natural history of bowhead whales. The museum made the film using scientific data, photographs for inspiration, and lots of creative license.
Narration is presented in English, Inupiat, and St. Lawrenece Island Yupik. The film will also be available for download and as a DVD.
At a recent screening at the UA Museum of the North, the museum’s head of exhibits and digital media production, Roger Topp, thanked the talented team behind the film. But the list went far beyond the audio and visual producers. It included community members, scientists, teachers, and wildlife experts, along with the agencies who funded the project.
Arctic Currents credits:
Narrated by Chris Koonooka, Fannie Akpik, and Pausauraq Jana Harcharek
Writer/Director: Roger Topp
Producer: Steve Okkonen
Animation and Modeling: Hannah Foss
Sound Recording: Kelsey Gobroski
Special thanks to all the whale experts, scientific advisors, administrative staff, and partnering organizations.
Billy Adams, Phil Alatalo, Carin Ashjian, Mark Baumgartner, Uma Bhatt, Eugene Brower, Harry Brower Jr., Bob Campbell, John Citta, Jaclyn Clement-Kinney, Oliver Dammann, Seth Danielson, Jeff Denton, Hannah Foss, Craig George, Rofl Gradinger, Taqulik Hepa, Lara Horstmann, Bill Kopplin, Sam Laney, Wieslaw Maslowski, Vera Metcalf, Julie Mocklin, Sue Moore, Leslie Pierce, Ruth Post, Rachael Potter, Steve Okkonen, Lori Quakenbush, Dave Ramey, Bobby Sarren, Gay Sheffield, Kate Stafford, Susan Sugai, Robert Suydam, Hikaru Uesugi.
North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management, Barrow Whaling Captains Association, UA Museum of the North Mammals Collection, Idaho Visualization Laboratories, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
Arctic Currents: A Year in the Life of the Bowhead Whale is funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Cooperative Institute for Alaska Research, the Center for Global Change and Arctic System Research, and the School of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences. Project funding is administered by the University of Alaska Coastal Marine Institute.
The film has already been well received. The museum’s premiere event was standing room only. Another 60 people attended a program produced by the museum’s education department at the Noel Wien Public Library in Fairbanks. Arctic Currents will be a valuable resource for the museum, as well as schools, museums, libraries, and other learning institutions worldwide.
–Theresa Bakker (Marketing & Communications)