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Video: Reporting At the Top of the World

Reporter and documentary filmmaker Caitlin McNally tells GlobalPost what it was like to report on the Arctic and why she plans to stick with the story


How do you get at ‘ground truth’ in the Arctic when it is melting right beneath your feet?

Over the summer I set out on a journey with documentary journalist and filmmaker Caitlin McNally to do our best to get at a story that is as vast as the frozen tundra of the Arctic itself. We arrived in the Arctic just as scientists were recording a historic melting of the sea ice due to global warming, a perilous development for the environment that has become a potential boon to the oil industry as shipping lanes and drilling operations open up amid the great melt.

To document the story, we traveled over the Bering Sea by plane and landed in remote islands and coastal villages where we met with everyone from whaling captains to oil industry executives.

With her own Canon 5D and a small crew accompanying her for part of the trip, McNally was constantly looking for the best way to bring the story home visually. We both ended up agreeing it is simply too big of a tale to try to tell in just one trip. We will have to go back.

As the ice begins to set in again and the shipping lanes return to their locked, frozen state, we find ourselves waiting for the spring thaw and hoping for a chance to return to the Arctic. The place, the people and the story are gripping and they draw you in. In this GroundTruth video, McNally shares ‘the story behind the story’ of our continuing GlobalPost Special Report “The Melting Arctic: An Oil Rush at the Top of the World.”

McNally, who has worked on numerous documentaries with PBS FRONTLINE, is working with GlobalPost to continue covering the titanic struggle for power and influence that has pushed its way to the surface in the Arctic. This battle at the top of the world is unleashing peril for a delicate environment and the way of life for the indigenous people who live here, but it is also unlocking opportunity for exploration of vast untapped mineral resources. Hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake. Observers of the Arctic are hopeful that a real debate might get underway next month in the US congress on the Law of the Sea Treaty and that ratification will finally happen.

We will be closely watching this and other big developments. The Arctic is a vast, complex narrative unfolding as quietly as melting ice and it requires great storytellers like McNally to get at it. We look forward to working together in the future and we will keep you posted on our future travels to the High North.