As the late-morning sun shone golden light on the tops of snow-covered spruce trees, the silence of the boreal forest was interrupted by my startled yelp and curse as I “burned” my hand, ungloved for a moment, on the axe head. Skin sizzles audibly on contact with metal at -45 F.
Arctic Wild has long provided support services for film and science projects across Alaska. We have fed and provided comfortable camps for scientists and film makers summer and winter, working with NASA, the BBC, IMAX and a host of others. Nevertheless as temperatures plunged to – 50 F this January, even we were a little surprised by how comfortable and productive the camera crew was able to be at our mobile field camp.
Since early September we have been guiding a camera crew from the Discovery Channel in the Arctic and Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuges. They are making a TV show about trappers in the most remote parts of Alaska. The project started with mild fall weather, simple camps and boat transportation. As fall turned to winter we enlarged the camp, switched to ever thicker sleeping bags and added wood-stoves to all the tents. We took care of the camp chores and advised on safety while the crew of 3 cameramen, worked 16 hr days trying to capture every detail of life in “bush” Alaska.
With the cold weather, and the world our deep freeze, ice cream became a regular item on the menu and our guides spent more and more time tending fires and splitting wood. When the deep cold finally hit in late January with daily high temperatures around – 35 F, the film crew was well trained in how to keep themselves warm and quickly learned how to keep cameras functioning. Not surprisingly many electronics fail at -30 F, but to their credit, the crew was able to film everyday. They got some beautiful footage and I think the show will be both artful and interesting.
I’m not sure TV audiences are ready to embrace the independent, tough and quirky trappers that we were filming, and I am quite confident that the Blynx (Beaver and Lynx) sausage that one of the trappers makes won’t become a fad food, but I do hope that the beauty of Alaska’s wilderness will inspire the TV watching public to get off the couch and celebrate wild places.
Many thanks to the hard working film crew from Half-Yard Productions. We enjoyed helping you film in some challenging conditions.