Jul 3, 2017

The bald eagle, a ubiquitous symbol for freedom and patriotism, remains an elusive and mysterious creature in the wild. Few have even encountered the majestic bird of prey, and even fewer have experienced anything close to an intimate moment. Sometimes, however, some cleverness and a bit of luck can make all the difference.

It’s May 2015. Juneau, Alaska, is beginning to wake from its winter slumber, with Spring on the horizon. Matthew J. Beedle had just finished dinner when he had an idea. He brought scraps of leftover salmon to a log in the wetlands that bordered his family home, set his GoPro HERO4 Silver on a nearby stump and hit record. What he got was a lesson in geography from a very unexpected viewpoint, the talons of a bald eagle.

Matthew is quite literally an expert in geography, having received his doctorate in the subject from University of Colorado. However, this was a new experience. The bald eagle not only took the leftover dinner, but grabbed the GoPro with its talons and took off, showing an entirely new view of the beautiful Alaskan wilderness.

Once the eagle had taken off, the real adventure to find the camera began. The eagle flew with the camera to a large Spruce tree some 1/4 mile down the wetlands. Matthew’s dad had managed to capture some still photos of the eagle with the GoPro in its talons, and spotted what branch the eagle settled. They didn't see the eagle drop the GoPro, but hoped for the best. 

The eagle flew off a few minutes later, and the two searched beneath the tree for what seemed like hours until it got dark. With no luck, they decided to try again in the morning. The next day they returned to the tree to resume the search. Matthew also brought his climbing gear to go up the tree.

He wasn’t giving up. After over an hour in the tree searching branches, the camera still eluded him. On the way back down he shook each branch hoping it would fall and his dad would see it hit the ground. Matthew’s dad had him toss an extra carabiner down to get an idea of where the camera might have landed had it been shaken loose. The plan worked actually worked; he searched again and found it nestled out of immediate view. And we’re glad the pair persevered, because what the camera captured was truly remarkable.

You can learn more about Matthew’s research at GlacierChange.org or follow his Alaskan adventures on Instagram.