Saturday, 27 November 2010

antarctica prt 3

To try and bring it to life I used tracks and Steadicam. 
Ben's passion was wonderful. To hear him read diary extracts of Christmas day 100 years ago as we stood at the same table was haunting. Tim the director had tracked own the most wonderful diary entries from all the old house mates.
One evening a penguin turned up from nowhere. He handled the adoration quite well and just lay there looking slightly bemused. A week later a seal pitched up from the Icy horizon. He was a bit more bolshy and shouted a bit before heading off to only he knew where.
Life in camp fell into a pattern and we all found our place. Nick pretty much gave up sound recording and went off hitting bits of metal with John.
Ben told us where he would like his picture taken that day and Tim and I discussed light any time something needed lifting or tamping.
We had a few forays out onto the ice. the first was to see the work of Dr Tim Haskell. His camp was on the ice beyond the trapped iceberg at the end of our promontory. We all trooped towards an unpromising poli tunnel ( the sort of thing we grow tomatoes and marijuana in in Devon). We walked inside and were first hit by the heat from the stove , then we saw a vast seal lying in the dining table sized hole in the ice. I grabbed a shot before he snorted and disappeared.
The hole had been cut to allow the teams ROV access to the magical world beneath.  As Ben chatted to the guys they released the robot sub with camera down Into the hole. As it sunk our friendly seal ascended and lay possessively in the hole. I hope it will be a nice sequence with Ben watching the seal from above and the robot sub filming the seal from below.
A really really lovely experience.

We finished at Scott's hut and headed back to Base.
On the last night i had walked out onto the frozen sea. There was complete silence and complete clarity. I could see forever.
i will  never forget being given this opportunity.

Back in 'civilisation' we showered, ate salad, and drank frothy coffee. we even sat on a normal loo , although Nick seemed incapable of letting go of his pee bottle and called it his 'noo noo'.

Our last foray was special. we had a helicopter for the day and we headed out to 'cape Crozier'.
This is the destination for 'the worst journey in the world' , often sited as the best travel book ever written.
Three of Scott's party before their dash to the pole headed East.
As opposed to Amundsen , whose sole purpose was 'pole bagging' , Scott's expedition was also a major scientific undertaking.
There was a believe that Emperor penguins provided a vital link in the evolutionary story and by collecting penguin eggs and studying their embryos, it could be proven. 
So in complete darkness, mid winter, Bowers, Garrard and Wilson headed East. It was a journey of indescribable hardship ( quite well described in the book).
It was so cold they had to get there bodies into sledge pulling position, before they froze like that for the day.
I wont go into it, but we landed on this desolate volcanic ridge, with the wind howling. It was the coldest we had seen. 
Ben and Nigel did their best to tell the story and Nick and i did our best to stand upright and keep our digits.
From here we headed onto the Ross ice shelf. A vast slab of ice the size of France. Under which somewhere lay the bodies of Scott's party.
We filmed a very emotive piece then had Ben walk across the snow and ice as we thundered overhead in the Helli. I got to hang out on a harness with my excitement only tempered by the loss of feeling in my face!

We flew back over the most impossible cracks and crevasses with the wind rising.
I asked the pilot to fly over a promontory to reveal the sea beyond. He tried and admitted he couldn't go higher and  was losing power ( in fact the tail rotor had stopped earlier!), when a pilot says such words you listen and go home for tea and biscuits. we went home for tea and biscuits.
We packed our kit, handed in our pee bottles, cleaned out our lockers and thanked our New Zealand hosts.
It had been remarkable.
The journey home was very very long, broken by Nicks birthday and a shopping frenzy in Christchurch. 
On arriving home the colours of the trees and grass looked ridiculous, everything was too colourful and too loud.
but i guess all hardened Polar explorers say that.



  1. Thanks for amazing blog posts. I've read them two or three times now - so many times we sit in our comfy cosy homes and forget the travelling and the other stuff you and your colleagues go through to get us those jaw-dropping films to watch. Thank you.