Science meets film-making
Working for the Canadian Wildlife Service, ecologist Joel Heath travelled to the remote Belcher Islands, located in eastern Hudson Bay in the Canadian territory of Nunavut in 2002. His mission was to study the effects of climate change on Arctic sea ice ecology. The result was the acclaimed documentary, People of a Feather, to be shown in Bermuda later this month.
Working with the Inuit in the town of Sanikiluaq, on Flaherty Island — named after explorer Robert Flaherty who made the film Nanook of the
North — Mr Heath developed time lapse monitoring technology and an underwater camera system to capture the world's first images of eider ducks diving below the sea ice.
The eider and Inuit have long had a unique cultural relationship. Eider down, the world's warmest feather, allows both Inuit and bird to survive harsh Arctic winters — but now both are threatened by changing sea ice and ocean currents.
Living among the Inuit, Mr Heath listened to them tell stories of a troubled future due to neighbouring hydroelectric dams that have reversed the seasonality of the hydrological cycle.
By holding spring runoff from wild rivers behind dams, and releasing water into the bays in the winter months when energy demand is highest, sea ice freezes and breaks up differently — and that has made the sea ice habitat of eiders, polar bears and other wildlife less predictable.
Moving from his research project to documenting this sea change, Mr Heath collaborated with his Inuit teacher and mentor, Simeonie Kavik, on the making of People of a Feather, which has earned 10 awards on the international film festival circuit — and will next month be released theatrically in North America.
‘People of a Feather' screens at the Bermuda Documentary Film Festival on Saturday, October 19, at 2pm in the TradeWinds Auditorium of the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. Tickets go on sale tomorrow at www.bdatix.bm, at Sportseller in the Washington Mall.