Every summer, thousands of visitors travel to Katmai National Park and Preserve, most of them there to see the park’s number one attraction – the brown bears that fish for salmon at Brooks Falls. Now, thanks to a new project from the non-profit nature website Explore.org, millions of people all over the world can watch the famous bears, too.
Charles Annenberg Weingarten is the founder and director of Explore.org. Weingarten says he started the non-profit organization to shine a light – or a camera – on what he calls “the soul of humanity.”
Part of that mission is to explore the natural world in its most unscripted and well … natural form. Weingarten says there’s no better way to do that than with life webcams showcasing some of nature’s greatest creatures, places and scenes. Weingarten calls the live cam series, “Pearls of the Planet.”
"(It) really allows people to connect with nature up close and personal, in a way that I consider as pure as possible," says Weingarten.
The newest in the series of live nature cams just debuted last week at Brooks Falls inside Katmai National Park. Weingarten says the scene at Brooks Falls, where bears mingle with park visitors, competing for salmon making their way up the Brooks River, has already become his favorite of the dozens of live cams to be found at Explore.org.
There are a total of six cameras installed at various points around Brooks Camp, although only four of them are online now.
As you watch the bears fish, play and even mate, the cameras will zoom out, pan and zoom in, depending on where the bears are and what they’re doing. Weingarten has staff members and volunteers controlling the cameras remotely from Explore.org’s offices in Los Angeles.
With the permission of park rangers, the Explore.org team installed the cameras, beginning last year. To power them, the team also installed a series of solar panels and batteries on top of a mountain near the falls.
Technical problems have prevented the group from finishing a couple of project goals, including an audio feed and an underwater camera.
But Weingarten says the launch of the cameras over the Fourth of July weekend went well and the number of visitors has been steadily rising ever since. He refers to the experience of watching the bears in real time as “Sesame Street for adults.”
"We try to make learning fun again, in a very user-friendly, simplistic way," he says. "To me, in a world so filled with stress and chaos, if I can get you to escape (and) make an emotional connection with nature, then we've succeeded."
Weingarten says that if you think operating the cameras at Brooks Falls sounds like an interesting job – and you don’t mind relocating to California – he is taking applications.
In the meantime, you can check out the brown bears of Katmai National Park by visiting Explore,org.