After years of attempts, a wildlife photographer finally captured the Arctic congregation of beluga whales by drone. And the results are stunning.
Every summer, thousands of belugas gather in the shallow waters of Nunavut’s Cunningham Inlet to breed, socialize, and feast on the region’s abundant marine life. While only dozens of visitors make it as far north as Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge to witness the event each year, with the help of a drone-mounted camera, 24-year-old Nanson Weber captured unprecedented views of the whales for all to see.
Shot last summer, Weber’s video features rugged coastal Arctic landscapes and more than 2,000 mothers and calves congregating in one of the last beluga whale nurseries on Earth.
“The drone actually allowed me a new perspective of seeing what they’re doing,” Weber told CBC News. “You can clearly see all the mothers and the calves. You can see rubbing,” he said. “They’re just having a huge party.”
But getting this rare bird’s-eye view of wildlife in harsh Arctic climates isn’t easy. Firstly, there’s not a lot of help on hand if you run into issues in such a remote place. Secondly, early drones weren’t built to withstand the region’s cold climates and fierce winds, and GPS signals can be tough to get.
But despite crashing a few drones in years past, Weber persevered so that he could show people, particularly those who live outside the Arctic region, the wildlife that depends on it.
“I think it’s important that people know that pristine places like this beluga place is one of a kind in the world,” Weber said.
But it’s not only meant to show people the beauty of what’s there, but also what could be lost if the ecosystem is disrupted further.
Photographing this region has given Weber special insight into the effects of climate change. He’s seen the Northwest Passage free of ice in July, and watched polar bears swimming across it completely exhausted.
“I’ve seen drastic changes just in my short lifetime and it’s pretty scary,” he said.