The Increasing Bowhead Whale Population (Craig George)

Video Shot in: 2002

Dr. Craig George discusses his experiences living and working on the ice and learning from the Iñupiaq about the complexity of ice dynamics and ice safety. The preparations for his study of whales start in winter. He and his crew typically begin moving out onto the ice around mid-April, setting up a 24-hour watch. Due to the changing conditions, they now have to end their work in late May as the ice becomes too soft to remain on the ice pack. Challenges he faces include dealing with polar bears and the risk of ice breaking off and stranding the scientists. Craig talks about when their camp drifted in 1987 and when the ice shattered in 1985, he narrowly escaped onto safer ice. Craig relates stories of his encounters with bears and the need for safety measures and training. His scientific crew consists of scientists and local Iñupiat, and the work is intense and unpredictable, with each year presenting different circumstances. The location of their work along the coast is uncertain, as ice conditions and pressure ridges vary annually. Despite the uncertainties, he acknowledges the success of bowhead whale conservation, with the population rebounding to approximately 13,000 or more after facing the brink of extinction due to commercial hunting early in the 20th century.