This adventure film features Scott McVay, an authority on whales, and filmmaker Bill Mason. The objective was to film the bowhead, a magnificent inhabitant of the cold Arctic seas brought to the edge of extinction by overfishing. With helicopter and Inuit guide, aqualungs and underwater cameras, the expedition searches out and meets the bowhead and beluga.
Please note that this is an archival film that makes use of the word “Eskimo,” an outdated and offensive term. While the origin of the word is a matter of some contention, it is no longer used in Canada. The term was formally rejected by the Inuit Circumpolar Council in 1980 and has subsequently not been in use at the NFB for decades. This film is therefore a time-capsule of a bygone era, presented in its original version. The NFB apologizes for the offence caused.
The film was shot in April 1973 at the aptly named Icy Cape in Alaska, an abandoned Inuit village once known for spring whaling. The World Wildlife Fund sponsored the expedition, which included several American scientists and was originally going to include four Soviet biologists working in tandem with the Americans. For some unexplained reason, the Soviets pulled out at the last minute. Bill Mason, acting as director/cameraman, and soundman Chester Beachel were added to the group to document the event. While the divers were prepared for shooting in the frigid waters, they never anticipated that the visibility underwater would be so poor. Nonetheless, they managed to get some spectacular footage of the whales from above and below the ice. The film was shown on TV and enjoyed great success in the non-theatrical market. It also won several wildlife film awards.Albert Ohayon
From the playlist: Bill Mason: Beyond the wild, beyond the paddle
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In Search of the Bowhead Whale, Bill Mason, provided by the National Film Board of Canada