Guest Blog: David Clark
February 28, 2017
For the Northwest Passage Project I am the producer/director of a two-hour documentary that we’ll be making, and a co-leader of the overall expedition.
I have been a filmmaker for over forty years. I have produced programs for venues like National Geographic, Discovery Channel, PBS, and others. I have also produced/directed five IMAX films. The first film I worked on was the 1974 America’s Cup which took place in Newport, so you could say I’ve come full circle to now be collaborating with SSV Oliver Hazard Perry on this project.
My interest in taking a tall ship into the Northwest Passage was to use the ship as a platform for making a documentary about our changing climate and how the loss of ice in summer is affecting the Arctic environment, wildlife and people. I wanted it to be a traditional sailing ship because it was symbolic of the past multi-century efforts to find and navigate the Northwest Passage during the age of sail. So many ships tried and failed, many of them crushed by ice and their crews lost. The idea that our climate has now warmed so much that a ship can now easily transit the Passage in summer is a stunning development. Making our voyage in a sailing ship would pay homage to mariners of the past but also be a powerful image that conveys a dramatically changing Arctic.
I first brought the idea of this project to OHPRI in the spring of 2015, before the ship was fully completed. The reality is that there are fewer and fewer sail training ships in the world, and most are not capable of an Arctic trip. Oliver Hazard Perry is a new ship, with a steel hull, and plenty of room to accommodate students, scientists, film crew and other professionals. She was the ideal choice and the OHPRI team quickly agreed that an expeditionary voyage to the Arctic like this was very much in keeping with OHPRI’s educational goals.
There is so much to look forward to with this trip into the Arctic that it would be hard to single out one component. Sailing through this remote, pristine and stunningly beautiful part of the world will be in itself the experience of a lifetime. That we’ll be observing and filming wildlife, meeting indigenous Inuit people, and visiting maritime heritage sites in a place few ever get to see will be very special. And that we will have marine scientists, students, a maritime historian, journalist and Arctic scholar aboard will present many opportunities and perspectives to better understand this region.
We will have a film crew of six that includes two cameramen. We’ll be filming aboard the ship, from a small launch, and with drones. Shot in ultra high definition 4K we plan to create a two-hour program for television and a shorter version to screen at schools and film festivals. We expect the film to be completed by the first quarter of 2018. (Dates, times, venues, and locations where the film can be seen will be posted on the OHPRI and University of Rhode Island “Northwest Passage Project” websites).