Stunning drone video shows beluga whales in Arctic

The new drone video shot by an Arctic adventure tour guide gives viewers a rare bird's eye view of beluga whales in Nunavut's Cunningham Inlet.

'They’re just having a huge party,' says photographer Nansen Weber

Arctic belugas in drone video

7 years ago
Duration 2:31
Arctic belugas in drone video

A stunning new drone video shot by an Arctic adventure tour guide is showing a rare bird's eye view of beluga whales in Nunavut's Cunningham Inlet.

Twenty-four-year-old wildlife photographer Nansen Weber's family has been coming to the Arctic for three generations. While working at his small family-run adventure business, he took up wildlife photography and started to experiment with drones. The video, featuring more than 2,000 beluga whales, was captured last summer near Resolute.
'I think it's important that people know that pristine places, like this beluga place, is one of a kind in the world,' said wildlife photographer Nansen Weber. (Nansen Weber)

"This drone actually allowed me a new perspective of seeing what they're doing," said Weber.

"You can clearly see all the mothers and calves. You can see rubbing. They're just having a huge party."

Avid photographer Niore Iqalukjuak says he hopes his images teach people about the importance of protecting the Arctic environment. (Courtesy Niore Iqalukjuak)

For Weber the video is an opportunity to show people, particularly those who live outside the Arctic, the wildlife in this remote region.

"I think it's important that people know that pristine places like this beluga place, is one of a kind in the world," said Weber.

"It's something that we should look into and hopefully save, because it might not be there in the future."

Harsh climate a challenge

Capturing wildlife on camera in the harsh Arctic climate is not easy.

"You're so far up North you're basically relying on your own skills," said Weber.

"You don't have anyone to back you if you get stuck in the mud, or hurt yourself, you're out there on the land hundreds of kilometres from anything."

Weber said the first generations of drones were not made to be used in the Arctic's cold climates and fierce winds, where a GPS signal is sometimes hard to get. It took Weber a number of years and a few crashes before successfully navigating a drone last summer.

Climate change witnessed

Many photographers who choose the daunting task of working in the Arctic do so to champion the preservation of nature in the North.

Clyde River's Niore Iqalukjuak is a hunter and wildlife photographer who uses his photos to educate people about the effect of oil and gas exploration. 

"Seismic testing has a negative impact on the wildlife," said Iqalukjuak.

"It impacts the migration route so when I use my pictures that's the message I try to give."

The Hamlet of Clyde River has been trying to block seismic testing in the waters near the community since the National Energy Board approved an application for tests last year.

Weber says photographing the Arctic has given him a glimpse into the effects of climate change in the region.

"I've seen drastic changes just in my short lifetime and it's pretty scary," he said.

Last summer the Northwest Passage was completely free of ice in July, said Weber. 

"We saw polar bears that have come swimming across the Northwest Passage totally exhausted."

He said he hopes his videos and photographs show people what could be lost if the ecosystem is disrupted.


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