Virtual Immersion In Wilderness Via Live Feeds

Thanks to Rachel Riederer for this:

Bear Cam’s Captivating, Unedited Zen

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It’s innately satisfying to see a bear grab ahold of a salmon with its mouth and trundle off into the shallows with the fish still flapping in its jaws. Photograph by Jennifer Leigh Warner / Barcroft / Getty

One recent afternoon, I found myself spellbound by the brown bears of Alaska’s Katmai National Park, and spent longer than I care to admit watching them fishing and feasting on the sockeye salmon of Brooks Falls. Several bears stood in the water, facing the falls. They didn’t interact with each other much—at least not in a way that was legible to me—but quietly went about the business of fattening up for winter. I watched these Internet stars through a live stream popularly known as the bear cam, which provides a counterpoint to the hyper-produced prestige nature documentaries that use music, high-definition videography, and delicately placed cameras to turn wildlife activities into dramatic cinema. If “Planet Earth” is a Michael Bay production, the bear cam is not even a home movie—it’s CCTV.

The bear cam, which has been hosted by Explore.org since 2012, draws thousands of viewers each day during the high season, in the months of July and September, when Brooks River is especially flush. (August could be considered the shoulder season, when the salmon are further upstream and Brooks Falls hosts a trickle of bears rather than a throng.) In Washington, D.C., in June, a luncheon for Republican lawmakers hosted by Senator Dan Sullivan, of Alaska, featured two big screens playing the feed from Katmai. Senator Lisa Murkowski told Alaska Public Media that the bears stole the show, with legislators turning away from other conversations to cheer on the fishing bears with cries of, “There! He got it! He got it!” When the salmon run is in full swing, you might see a catch every few minutes—but fishing’s a game of chance and skill, and sometimes the action is slow.

The bears are active during daylight hours. Being on East Coast time, and four hours ahead of the bears, I sometimes check in in the morning and find the falls almost empty, with the earliest arrivals just settling into their fishing spots. At peak hours, as many as twenty-five bears have been seen on the livecam at once. But, even when there aren’t many bears, the cam is still a place of zen, with plenty of swooping gulls, salmon launching their bodies out of the water to make it over the falls, and the white-noise rush of the river itself.

But the best viewing, of course, is when there are plenty of bears. On a recent afternoon, there were around ten bears on the cam, using a variety of techniques to stalk the salmon. Some stood downstream of the falls, upright and staring straight down into the water for fish to grab, almost as a person might do. The most dramatic were those that perched on the rocks at the top of the cascade, grabbing at the airborne salmon attempting to leap over and continue upstream. It’s innately satisfying to see a bear grab hold of a salmon with its mouth and trundle off into the shallows with the fish still flapping in its jaws…

Read the whole story here.

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