Antarctica: A Year on Ice

Antarctica A Year on Ice poster.jpgWho was it who sang, “Fifty-seven channels and nothing’s on”? This tune is outdated in the era of streaming tv. We have literally tens of thousands of channels today. How to find something interesting and worthwhile?

I recently stumbled onto the 2013 documentary Antarctica: A Year on Ice on prime video. Unlike every other film I’ve seen on Antarctica, it’s not about the exploration or the science. It’s about the people who work there–but not the explorers or scientists. The filmmaker has pieced together interviews from chefs, engineers, mechanics, clerks, and others who sign on for some months, or even whole years, to support the work of research at the large American base, McMurdo.

It wouldn’t be a movie about wonder if it didn’t include stunning vistas of ice and skies. I read that Anthony Powell designed and built special equipment that permitted him to share time lapse footage of human and natural activity. These alternate nicely with sit-down segments with about a dozen of the support staff on the continent. So we view a film that’s both wondrous as well as personal, digging into the unexpected dynamics of isolation.

It all seemed very monastic to me. Other highlights:

  • On the front of endless wonder: the time lapse footage of sun, stars, and aurora, but especially the movement and crunching of ice.
  • In the human sphere: a wedding, a loss of a parent while someone was wintering over, and the friendly interactions between people in ordinary life.

Quite interesting viewing, and definitely recommended.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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