One Arctic Summer
Seventy miles from Prudhoe Bay Alaska, in the midst of a roadless wilderness, the Arctic coast of Alaska goes through a special time of year. Birds, animals and land celebrate the coming of warmer weather. We follow the season of summer in this wilderness.
In June returning birds establish territories and try to attract a mate. Across the tundra, the grip of winter seems to hold on, but the persistent sun softens the snowpack. The tundra is an arid region with permanently frozen ground just beneath the surface. The melting snow can’t soak into the ground, and water accumulates into ponds and lakes across the whole of the northern Arctic.
As whistling swans return to these waters, the willow ptarmingan trys to stay hidden from the fox. Delicate buds burst open. Hundreds of species of flowers pulse into life. A pair of oldsquaw ducks claim another pond to feed on the small crustaceans and aquatic insects from the bottom.
Centuries old driftwood line the Arctic coast, slowly decaying, The brown lemming find protection here from the hunting foxes. Fox, caribou, and ravens all benefit by the cycle of life and death of other animals. Carcasses and bones provide nutrients on which to feed. The mating ritual of the buff-breasted sandpiper and the nesting of eiders, dunlins and phalarope’s are captured on film.
Summer storms rejuvenate the sparse soil. Prowling fox and yeagers hunt for food. Predators feast on the eggs of birds. A rare peregrine falcon comes in to investigate the meal.
In the first week of July, eggs are hatching across the Tundra. The snow bunting is busy feeding his young hungry family with millions of insects that have appeared. He can bring in a hundred at one time to stuff down the open mouths of the nestlings. The dunlin, sandpipers and lapland longspur chicks also explore the new world.
From ground squirrels to foxes to caribou -- all are searching for meals and playing during the moderate warmth of the summer.
Once the warning signals of autumn appear the birds and animals intensify efforts to complete their destiny. Eagerly the ground squirrel devours a few more bites, the restless birds feel a distant call to leave for warmer climates, The stinging wind gives solemn promise of what lies ahead for yet another season.
The smoking snow will be the dominant force now, but underneath the frozen exterior, life lies hidden, waiting, for the return of another Arctic Summer.