Beluga Cam: Setting Up a Live Stream


This is the first post in a three-part blog series from Matt Davidson, bv02’s Lead Strategist, about his experience setting up a live-streaming video of the beluga whales at Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, to be displayed in the Canadian Museum of Nature’s whales exhibit.

Matt Arctic Watch Blog from bv02 on Vimeo.

Visitors to the Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge get to experience a unique gathering of over 200 beluga whales, as they converge in the Cunningham Inlet to play and socialize.  It’s an amazing thing to see, and we wanted to help people experience it, regardless of their location.

Working with the Canadian Museum of Nature and Arctic Watch Wilderness Lodge, bv02 worked to create a technical solution that would allow a live video feed to be streamed over the internet and broadcast in the Museum of Nature’s Whales exhibit.  We were up against several specific technical issues, but through the use of a solar-powered satellite, a video streaming server and established systems, we were able to overcome the inherent challenges in internet broadcasting from the Arctic.

However, one variable that no amount of preparation could have controlled was the weather.  After we had successfully set up the hardware installation, which consisted of three interdependent towers to support the required technology, the weather deteriorated rapidly.  It went from sunny with highs of 20 degrees to snowstorms with winds gusting up to 80KM/h.  When we went to check on the hardware after the storms had passed, all we found remaining were some batteries and the lone satellite dish.

Although the hardware fell victim to the storm, we were able to capture some video of the belugas beforehand, and that video can be seen online on the Museum of Nature’s website.  Right now, we’re working on reiterating the hardware to better withstand the wilderness, with a few goals in mind: we’re aiming to successfully live stream the beluga whales in 2013, as well as set up a similar installation to capture and stream the caribou runs.

Going forward, this type of installation could allow unprecedented access to amazing wildlife and wilderness events.  Streaming video of these events can facilitate both education and conservation efforts by bringing people closer to the natural wonders in remote locations.

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