The Bear Blog with Chris Morgan
Now It Gets Serious

The Bear Blog with Chris Morgan follows the journey of Chris and his crew during the production of NATURE’s Bears of the Last Frontier, coming in 2011. To learn more about this project, check out the Bear Blog introduction video.

Dean’s journey in Alaska as part of the Bears of the Last Frontier crew was about to take an unexpected turn

By Dean Cannon, Assistant Producer

Today I realize Rick and Jessy’s job isn’t a bowl of cherries. It can be deadly.

A 45-year-old woman has been badly injured by a moose cow protecting her calf. What she thought was the sound of an injured child was a calving moose. “Our eyes met,” said the woman. “I could tell it was going to end badly.” As she turned to run, the moose charged and kicked her to the ground. A last kick knocked her unconscious. The woman was taken to the emergency room, where she received stitches to her stomach and forehead.

Back at the scene of the incident, Rick and Jessy arrive on the scene with a dart gun. These are the kind of instances when Rick and Jessy must not only prevent injuries to members of the public, but also to themselves. As we creep into the shaded backyard full of pine trees, it feels like a military operation. Rick and Jessy communicate with hand signals to indicate where they will move next. Rick tells me to find a tree and stay on the other side of it if I get charged. I am mostly looking through the viewfinder of my camera, adjusting focus and making small F stop tweaks for the constantly changing light. If the moose sees me first, I probably won’t know about it until I am on my back. Half an hour later, Rick decides the moose and calf have bolted. The relieved woman thanks Rick and Jessy, and we head off for the day. My arms are covered in mosquito bites, but thanks to fear, I didn’t feel them.

3,000 Miles to the Nearest Service Center (Camera Fail)

Joe called me last night. The big HD camera has gone down. Nightmare! They are on a remote stretch of the coast a full day’s boat journey from Homer. The nearest repair facility is 3,000 miles away in L.A. He told me I am to abandon my shoot with Fish and Game and get a replacement camera body to him ASAP.

The precious cargo

The body is scheduled to arrive in Anchorage today in the AM, so I booked a commercial flight to Homer for 3pm. No plans on how to get there yet. Until the camera is in my hands, I can’t risk loosing a $1,200 deposit to hold a floatplane to Chris and Joe. This is the pilot’s peak season and there is no wiggle room on the price. But Joe and Chris have found the youngest cubs they have ever seen out there. The weather is beautiful and the bears are very active. There are also wolves in the area. It’s a case of which is worth more, after all — and a great shot is priceless.

I find myself pacing in front of the local shipping facility like an expectant father. At 9:30am the box finally arrives. Yes! Change the 3pm to a 12pm flight to Homer. Luckily there is space. Joe and Chris’s ship captain has arranged a flight for me at 3pm leaving Homer. The schedule is tight. I’m to get off one plane and immediately get on another… one seat left. Lucky.

Our turbo prop covers the 6-hour drive from Anchorage to Homer in 50 minutes. A beautiful view of Kathchemak Bay greets us as we approach Homer.

William Bligh, serving under Captain James Cook, spotted the bay in 1778 while looking for the Great Northwest Passage. He thought the inlet was nothing more than the mouth of a giant River. Cook disagreed and ordered Bligh to explore it anyway. Bligh quickly returned to report the inlet indeed led to a river. A hundred miles north, Bligh was ordered to explore yet another inlet. Bligh’s frustration led to the disingenuous name ‘Turnagain Arm.’

Alaska from the air

Immediately after I land, I am once again back in the air. Our heavy 206 is climbing steadily into the smooth air. They say the mosquito is the state bird of Alaska, but it could easily be any of the General Aviation planes buzzing in the Alaska sky. It is hard to imagine the millions of shades of green in Alaska until you see the landscape from the air. In every direction a giant green carpet hugs the coastline all the way up to the snow-capped peaks. The little fibers of this carpet are trees; from the fluorescent yellows of Alaska birch to the dark umber green of the low conifers. It isn’t long before our single engine plane is surrounded from horizon to horizon by vast blue sea… and it isn’t a floatplane…

Dean Cannon has been traveling and working around the world since leaving his home in Arizona at age 19. Originally from England, Dean has worked from Akureyri, Iceland to Perth, Australia doing numerous jobs as a traveler. In 2002, Dean found his way into filmmaking while living in Japan. Two months after arriving there he found work as a soundman on a documentary shoot in Africa. After working on many film and television projects, Dean joins the crew of Bears of the Last Frontier as assistant producer and 2nd camera.

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  • Nicky

    Traveling over open water in a single engine is about the riskiest part of a sane person’s day. Good thing there aren’t any sane people up here! I do love Alaska

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