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To the Arctic

An Extraordinary Journey to the Top of the World

Swimming polar bear.
Photo: Rob Walker
Brad Ohlund, Director of Photography

A polar bear mother protects her two 7-month cubs in Svalbard, Norway.

Shooting in glacial waters.

Polar bears on a glacial iceberg.

Polar bear taking a break.
Photo: Adam Ravetch
This herd of walruses cools themselves in the Rankin Inlet of Baffin Island, Canada.
Photo: Barbara MacGillivray
A polar bear roams in search of its next meal in Churchill, Canada.
Photo: Shaun MacGillivray
This polar bear skates on thin ice in Svalbard, Norway.
Photo: Shaun MacGillivray
This polar bear mother is focused on protecting her two cubs from the dangers that surround them.
Photo: Shaun MacGillivray
A story of this mother's love and struggle for survival.
Photo: Brad Ohlund
This polar bear lays low in Churchill, Canada.
Photo: Shaun MacGillivray
Glaciers like this one in Svalbard, Norway are melting at a rapid pace.
Photo: Barbara MacGillivray
These mountains found in Coldfoot, Alaska have seen drastic changes over the years.
As the environmental changes cause the glaciers to melt, the animals that inhabit that land are threatened.
Photo: Shaun MacGillivray
Photo: Barbara MacGillivray
This mother caribou nurtures and protects her newly born calf in Coldfoot, Alaska.

To The Arctic is an IMAX film that will take you on an inspiring journey to the most northern place on Earth. Immerse yourself in the beauty of flowing glacier waterfalls, and experience the majesty of immense snow-bound peaks. Follow a mother polar bear and her two seven-month-old cubs as they overcome challenges common in the Arctic wilderness, and discover how the rapidly changing ice floes are making it more difficult for Arctic marine animals, especially polar bears, to survive. To The Arctic is full of impressive shots—both above the ice and under water—that will leave you breathless. The film will captivate you with its amazing cinematography that must be seen on the Giant Heikoff Dome Theater screen.  

  • Get an intimate look into the life of a polar bear family.
  • Learn about marine animals that live in the Arctic wilderness.  
  • Experience the beauty of incredible icebergs and breathtaking waterfalls projected onto our giant dome screen.


A Story About Family

To The Arctic features a mother polar bear and her twin seven-month-old cubs (boy and girl) that are constantly traveling to find food and protect themselves from predators. Polar bears are very private creatures that don’t like people intruding into their space, but this polar bear family allowed filmmakers to capture their incredible journey. In the final month of a seven-month location shoot, the film crew found the polar bear family and spent 24 hours a day with them for almost an entire week. The footage was so inspiring that the film’s screenwriter and editor, Stephen Judson, adjusted the initial storyline to feature the mother and her cubs.

The twins roughhoused, explored the ice floes and played in the snow while their mother watched, all the while testing the air for danger that could be smelled sooner than seen. Sometimes she romped with them, nursed or gave them a lesson in seal-hunting. Brad Ohlund, lead director of photography, recalls, “She‘d be sitting on a chunk of ice and we‘d be about 100 feet away with the engine turned off, and the wind would come up and push us towards her. We‘d end up within 30 to 50 feet, and she would just look at us, take note and go about her business in a manner that surprised all of us, including our guides, who had never seen anything like it. It was quite astonishing.”


Working as a Family

Giant-screen documentary filmmaker Greg MacGillivray and his wife Barbara established the One World One Ocean Foundation to foster awareness and mobilize support for the restoration and protection of the world‘s oceans. A major part of this effort is a planned 20-year multi-platform ocean media campaign, of which To The Arctic is the first release. “Just as Jacques Cousteau opened people‘s eyes to the beauty of the ocean, we are trying to open their hearts and minds through IMAX films, features, TV specials and new media programming,” says Greg MacGillivray. Barbara adds, “We hope people will fall in love with the ocean as we have.”

Greg and his son Shaun visited the Arctic seven times over a period of four years, logging a total of eight months on the ice and on the Arctic sea, including one month aboard the 130-foot icebreaker MS Havsel, to gather the information and images for the film. Greg stated, “There‘s a lot of waiting and searching for the animals. We were in the field much longer for To The Arctic than for any of our other films, including Everest.”

The patience of MacGillivray’s film crew was rewarded handsomely. They captured rare and amazing scenes that display the polar bear’s personalities. To The Arctic is only a small fraction of the film crew’s total Arctic experience. However, the film does a fantastic job captivating the audience’s attention and will “open people’s eyes to the beauty of the ocean.”


Cool Facts About Polar Bears

The polar bear is a marine mammal. Its scientific name is Ursus maritimus, meaning “sea bear.” It is also the world‘s largest land-based carnivore. Scientists believe polar bears descended from a group of brown bears that became isolated by glaciers in an area near Siberia. These bears underwent a rapid series of evolutionary changes in order to survive—from changes in the color of their fur and shape of their body to keener senses to sharper teeth. Polar bears are so well adapted that they are more likely to overheat than to suffer from cold.

Polar bears are strong swimmers and have blubber up to four inches thick, for buoyancy as well as warmth. They have been clocked swimming as fast as six miles per hour. The longest documented single swim by a polar bear was 426 miles. The trip took nine days through waters that were between 2 to 6 degrees Celsius!

Cubs are born blind and toothless in a den built by their mother. They spend a few months in the den, growing rapidly from their mother‘s rich milk. A mother polar bear stays with her cubs for about 2.5 years. After the cubs leave the den, the protective mom leads them to the sea ice to teach them how to hunt and survive.

Polar bears use a combination of body language and vocalizations to communicate. Head wagging from side to side often occurs when polar bears want to play. Adult bears initiate play—which is actually ritualized fighting or mock battling—by standing on their hind legs, chin lowered to their chests, and front paws hanging by their sides.

When a bear asks another bear for something, such as food, they will greet each other nose-to-nose. The guest bear will approach slowly, circle around a carcass, and then meekly touch the other bear‘s nose. Bears that use proper manners are often allowed to share a kill.

Chuffing sounds are a response to stress, often heard when a mother bear is worried for her cubs’ safety. Mother bears scold cubs with a low growl or soft chuff. When a male approaches a female with cubs, she rushes toward him with her head lowered. Hissing and snorting and a lowered head all signify aggression. Loud roars or growls communicate anger. Deep growls are warnings, perhaps in defense of a food source.

Learn more about polar bears and other Arctic marine animals by watching To The Arctic, now playing at the Heikoff Giant Dome Theater, here at the Fleet Science Center.

Warner Bros. Pictures and IMAX® Filmed Entertainment present a MacGillivray Freeman Film, “To The Arctic,” a One World One Ocean presentation, directed by two-time Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker Greg MacGillivray (“The Living Sea,” “Dolphins”). Filmed in 15/70mm IMAX ®3D, “To The Arctic” is written and edited by Stephen Judson (“Everest”), and produced by Shaun MacGillivray (“Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk”).

The musical score is by Steve Wood, with songs by Paul McCartney.


The Fleet is pleased to offer the Rear Window closed-captioning system. When you purchase your ticket, tell the guest services associate that you would like to use the closed-caption service. The service is complimentary, and it is accessible in the upper-right seating area of the theater.

Listen in Spanish while the show plays in English. Ask for a complimentary headset at the Ticket Counter.

Assistive listening devices increase the intelligibility of theater presentations by enhancing the narration and dialogue and lowering music and sound effects. Ask for a complimentary headset at the Ticket Counter.