This is Chris Morgan’s second post for the new Bear Blog, where you can follow his journey 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.
We’re finally here! After a year of busy preparation we’ve arrived at North America’s last frontier – ALASKA. My name is Chris Morgan – I’m a conservation ecologist, and for the last 20 years I’ve worked on bear research and conservation projects all over the world. In places as diverse as northern Spain, Pakistan, Ecuador and the Arctic I’ve come to really love these creatures and the wilderness they represent. I’ve have spent half my life working to conserve them and the places they need to survive. With me here in Alaska is my film-making friend Joe Pontecorvo. His beautiful wildlife films have won international acclaim, and also several awards. His style blends adventure, conservation, and stunning natural history to make for an epic mix.
NATURE asked us to join forces once again to do a film about bears, so naturally we headed here – North America’s last frontier. Of the world’s eight bear species, six are threatened with extinction. They are found from the Arctic to the tropics in the wildest places on earth. And it doesn’t get much wilder than this. Here in Alaska, three of the world’s eight remaining bear species still exist. Like the bears it supports, Alaska is a giant. It covers an area over half a million square miles – around 354,000,000 acres – and it’s bigger than the next three largest states combined. It’s a mind-boggling scale that we’re about to really come to terms with. And here’s why…
Tomorrow we begin an expedition across 3,000 miles from the south to the north of Alaska, through 5 ecosystems, the habitats of 3 bear species, and some of the wildest parts of the state. No other state supports black, grizzly and polar bears, and we are setting out to discover what it takes to be a bear in this northern land. Feared by some, revered by others, bears are an icon of everything wild. But they are complex, intelligent animals that have faced persecution wherever they are found. Only in truly isolated regions like Alaska can they live out their lives the way they always have, and that’s what we are here to experience.
So, for a year Joe and I will immerse ourselves in the bear’s world on a journey that will reveal the true nature of these amazing animals. It’s also a journey that will put us to the test as we hike, camp and live among the biggest brown bears in the world along the Alaska coast (some of them weigh 1,500 pounds!) and track black bears through the streets of Anchorage (yes, you read that right). Northwards across the Arctic Circle we’ll follow grizzly bears as they trail the incredible caribou migration, and then we’ll film the mighty polar bear hunting ringed seals on the pack ice. We’ll also be meeting many colorful Alaskans along the way – I’m sure we’ll be needing their help!
And if that’s not enough excitement for you, I’ll be doing the entire journey on my specially-equipped motorcycle! There’s a lot of road between here and the pack ice and I’m sure it will bring some unexpected surprises! So, hold onto your hats and join us for the ride – this is going to be quite the adventure!
Watch this space – we’ll be blogging whenever we are in range!
- Chris Morgan, submitted from Homer, Alaska
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