Minutt by minutt, this just might be the slowest nature program you will ever see. It's also trés cool — if not downright chilly at times (minus 40).
First things first. The annual reindeer migration in Lapland is one of planet earth’s greatest but least known animal migrations. It lacks the big-screen drama of the annual wildebeest migration in Africa, and is not as well publicized as the caribou migrations in northern Canada and Alaska. It lacks the cult cachet of the annual monarch butterfly migration, and doesn’t make the UK newspapers the way bird migrations do.
Thanks to a project by Norwegian state TV, though, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) is making it possible for hundreds of thousands of viewers across Norway — and many more watching around the world online — to have a close-up view of one particular herd of reindeer on their annual spring migration to feeding grounds on the Norwegian coast.
The reindeer route, from Suossjávri to Kvaløya on Norway’s Finnmarksvidda plateau, is expected to last six to nine days or longer, depending on when or even whether the reindeer decide to start moving. There’s an element of doubt there, or at least there was the last moment the outside world checked in with the production crew. As with wildebeest river crossings, it all comes down to that one individual at the front of the pack who takes it on himself, or herself, to take a gamble on what lies ahead. The reindeer migration has its own version of a river crossing: the mandatory swim across the strait of Kvaløya.
The program, officially titled Reinflytting: Minutt for Minutt, has been dubbed “the impossible project” by its makers, in part because almost anything can, and probably will, go wrong.
For one thing, the area is so remote it’s not even covered by communications satellites; the producersare evidently having to rely on signals reflected by mirrors planted along the route, as well as the ubiquitous new gadgets in camera technology: drones.
The lead cameraman is Muzet, which means “black” in the local Sami language. Muzet has been outfitted with a camera mount on his head, not unlike a GoPro headstrap. The producers are hoping Muzet resists the temptation to bean anyone while filming, since he’s a reindeer and that’s what reindeer do.
If Minutt for Minutt should end the way The Sopranos did — not so much end as stall in mid-scene, followed by a cut to black silence — viewers will be able to follow the reindeers’ continuing adventures online. Which is probably the way most viewers will choose to watch, anyway.