NG Young Explorers’ Spirit Bear Film Wins Award

This past weekend at the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival in the Canadian Rockies, two National Geographic Young Explorers received a “Best on the Mountain” award in the Environment category for their film, “SPOIL” about the threat of oil spills in one of the most untouched wildernesses in the world. (National Geographic is a sponsor of the Banff festival, but is not a part of the judging.)

NG Young Explorers Grants offer opportunities to individuals ages 18 to 25 to pursue research, conservation, and exploration-related projects. Trip Jennings and Andy Maser have received six NG grants over the past few years, enabling them to do this and other projects.

The winning film, above, follows members of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) as they document life in the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia and in particular as they search for the legendary “spirit bear”–a black bear with white fur. The goal of all of it is to draw attention to the pristine beauty of the area, which is endangered by plans to make this place the main Pacific port for oil being pumped from Canada’s tar sands and shipped from the coast to Asia.  (Read more from iLCP: “Living With Spirit Bears” and “Spirit Bears in NYC“)


NG Colleagues Team Up

Andy Maser and his bubble-wrapped "2011 Best on the Moutain: Environment" award. Photo by Andrew Howley/NGS

One of the photographers on the trip was Paul Nicklen, who was on assignment for National Geographic magazine. Throughout the film, Andy Maser trails Paul as he and his guide search for the spirit bear and the opportunity to document this rarely seen and other worldly denizen of the park. (See Paul Nicklen’s photos, learn more about spirit bear genetics, and read Bruce Barcott’s article.)

While his partner Trip Jennings was out on another project, Andy was in Banff for the film festival and received the award with a great deal of excitement for the film, but also for the attention the award will bring towards the need to protect the spirit bears and their home. As Mark Christmas of the iLCP put it, “I care more for what [winning the award] does for the campaign than what it does for iLCP. That’s what we’re here for.”


More From Andy

It is a particularly big week for Andy Maser himself as well. His time lapse video showing the removal of the Condit Dam in Washington State took off online and has been viewed more than 100,000 times since being posted. Even regarding this project, Andy is happy about the present but has his eye on the future, since his time lapse cameras are still filming. “Over the next three years the dam is going to disasppear,” he said. “I’m still excited about it.” Follow Andy’s projects on Twitter @amaser and @NatGeoExplorers, and on Andy’s own site.


More From Banff

Each year, the top films from the Banff Mountain Film and Book Festival become part of the World Tour. In Washington, D.C. you can catch the tour as part of NG Live!

Some of the best adventure films from the past few years of the festival are also a part of the National Geographic Channel’s Expedition Week, airing now. See photos, watch videos, get tune-in information and join the excitement all week long.



Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.