The Silver Wave is inspired by objects from the Arctic region in the display cases of the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. The film tells the story of Ada Blackjack, an Iñupiat woman from Nome, Alaska, who was the sole survivor of a doomed expedition to Russia’s Wrangel Island, north of Siberia.
Between 1921 and 1923 Ada survived in the Arctic’s extreme conditions.
The explorers Lorne Knight, Milton Galle, Fred Maurer and Allan Crawford planned to claim Wrangel Island for the British Empire and employed Ada as seamstress and cook on the expedition. Climatic conditions on the island were harsh and by January 1923 three of the men headed across the 700-mile frozen Chukchi Sea to Siberia for help and food, leaving Ada and the ailing Lorne Knight behind.
The words you hear are unedited extracts from Ada’s diary, expressing her concern for her young son Bennet, who she reluctantly left behind in a care home. Ada was taught English by the Christian missionaries who raised her. Like many Indigenous people at that time, she was relocated and suffered the suppression of her native language along with an inadequate education. Ada may not have had a strong command of any language.
In the film, Ada is voiced by Carrie Ayagaduk Ojanen, an Iñupiat writer from the Ugiuvamiut tribe, who asks that, ‘the listener hears the context of the broken language in the broken world’. Ada’s was a world of cultural upheaval and colonial violence that Indigenous peoples were forced into.
The film also includes Mexican rain gods, Thai dancer figurines and Indian tourist souvenirs currently kept in the museum’s stores. The music score is created by award winning composer Aaron Cupples with sound design by Sara Pinheiro.
The Silver Wave was commissioned by Royal Albert Memorial Museum.