Docu filmmaker and camera-man Ernest Nukanen, whose work took him from the North Pole to the tropical forests of Suriname, died Feb. 26 at his home in Belfast, Maine. He was 75.
He had been in failing health for some time, according to a University of Southern California spokesman. Nukanen, one of the first teachers of docu film techniques at USC, taught there from 1979 until he retired in 1991.
Nukanen’s work took him to the North Pole in 1957 to document a return expedition by Lowell Thomas, Peter Freuchen, Adm. Donald MacMillan and Sir Hubert Wilkins. He traveled to the tropical forests of Suriname to film and coproduce “Journey to Chilane,” a documentary on the life of the Oyanan Indians.
As a combat cameraman he covered the U.S. Marine landings in the Dominican Republic in 1965 as well as the fighting in Vietnam and Cambodia for ABC News.
Nukanen was born near Cardiff, Wales, on July 18,1919, to a Welsh mother and a Finnish father. After his mother’s early death, he traveled widely with his English stepmother, who brought him to New York.
After the start of WWII, Nukanen went to sea on a British oil tanker. When his poor eye-sight disqualified him from serving in the Royal Air Force, he shipped out on U.S. merchant ships for the remainder of the war as an electrician and radio operator.