"Kaktovik: Bear Town, USA" is part of "Chasing Winter"- a larger work in progress that explores climate change and vanishing ways of life across Alaska.
In the native village of Kaktovik in the Alaskan arctic these changes have a particularly conspicuous icon- polar bears. As the sea ice continues to vanish due to climate change, the polar bears that used to spend time hunting seals on the ice far from shoreare now looking for food on land. They flock to the"boneyard" in Kaktovik inorderto feast on the carcasses of bowhead whales hunted as part of the village’s annualwhale hunt, an important part of the village's subsistence diet and traditional culture. The bears have become a public safety concern and the village now has a Polar Bear Patrol, volunteers with shotguns who drive around the village in order tokeep the populated parts oftown safe. And thepolar bears are not the only new visitors in town. A steady stream of tourists, scientists,and other outsiders drawn by the bearsare changing the makeup of the community, bringing new economic opportunities and ideas about conservation, as well as controversy, to Kaktovik.
Meanwhile, the warming of the Arctic has changed life in Kaktovik in a variety of other ways. Storm surges are eating away at the entire island's coastline, and floods are destroying the villagers’ traditional ice cellars built deep into the permafrost. These ice cellars are used to store whale and other food during the long, isolated winters and are crucial for the community’s food security.