About our Shows
The UAA Planetarium, in conjunction with Open Lens Productions, has begun work on its next fulldome planetarium production about one of Alaska's special places. In January 2014, UAA and Open Lens released its first production, "River of Bears," about the legendary McNeil River Alaska State Game Sanctuary. Experienced through the immersive environment of the UAA Planetarium, the show gives viewers the sensation of what it's like to visit the brown bears of McNeil River. Viewers are given unprecedented insight into bear behavior, including fishing styles, dominance play, and the raising of cubs.
About Round Island
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game also manages the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary, in the northern waters of Bristol Bay. Round Island, the best-known island in the sanctuary, is famous for being the only summer haulout site for pacific walrus in the United States. During the summer months, as the arctic ice recedes, thousands of male walrus crowd the rocky beaches of Round Island. The males remain in Bristol Bay during the summer to feed and recover from the mating season, while the females head north. Round Island is also a haulout site for Steller sea lions, and a nesting site for over 100 species of birds, including puffins, cormorants, kittiwakes, and gulls. A small and feisty population of red fox enjoy the island, as well.
Filming at Round Island
Round Island has been visited and occupied by Alaskans indigenous to Bristol Bay for over five thousand years. Since 1960 it has been protected as a sanctuary for walrus, with access and activity on the island closely controlled. This July we were privileged to take our film crew to Round Island to capture the sights and sounds of this unique Alaska destination. We used a Freedom 360 camera to shoot immersive video in all directions to give our planetarium audience the sensation of what it is like to be there. We also used telephoto lenses to see the animals up close, just as you might with a pair of binoculars. Because walrus and Steller sea lions are federally protected species, we were limited in how closely we could approach them. Fortunately, these technologies allow us to give our audience an intimate view of these exotic animals without disturbing them.
The Next Step
Currently we do not have the funding necessary to make this show. As with River of Bears, we chose to complete filming before fundraising so that we would be confident that we could deliver a high-quality show. Thanks to the support of the National Park Service, the Pacific Walrus Conservation Foundation, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, we were able to film at Round Island for five days. By luck and good timing, we had clear skies and good lighting conditions throughout our visit. We were also fortunate to capture excellent video and audio footage of the many wild inhabitants of the island showing their varied and colorful behavior in their natural setting. We are now confident that we have the footage necessary to deliver a show that illustrates the unique ecology and cultural history of this special place. If you are interested in helping us make this show a reality, please contact Dr. Travis A. Rector via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (907) 786-1242.