Opening Friday, November 28 at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles for an exclusive one-week run is the stunning and insightful documentary, “Antarctica: A Year on Ice.” Directed by Anthony Powell, this award-winning documentary focuses not on the science or scientists at McMurdo Station and Scott Base, but the everyday support staffs that run the base towns. A communications tech for both bases, Powell turned his hobby of photographing the South Pole into making this documentary film.
New Zealand native Powell started his Antarctica trips back in 1998 and soon after started making enhancements for his camera gear that would survive the intense cold. Shooting over ten years, including the frigid winters, Powell wanted to give audiences an insider’s account of what it’s like to experience living and working in Antarctica year-round. Interviewing shopkeepers, administrators, mechanics, cooks, firemen, pilots and other support staff, Powell elicits stories that illustrate the highs and lows of living in such an adverse environment.
Not surprisingly all talk about the incredible pristine nature, the millions of stars, the auroras, and the blue-blue skies. Powell backs up their statements with a wealth of gorgeous, time-lapse nature shots to illustrate their points. There is also the sense of community and shared belief that one’s work is contributing to the science being done on the continent. The prevailing spirit is that both one’s personal and professional pursuits are meaningful.
But there are also the downsides, including the months of 24-hour sunlight or 24-hour darkness, and the intense cold – average temperatures of the interior reach -70 degrees F; around McMurdo Station -15F; winds often reach up to Hurricane levels of 123 mph. (Again, jaw-dropping footage back up Antarctica’s tough weather environment.)
The workers also talk about the loneliness of being cut off from friends and family, even in an emergency back home, workers are stuck on the base; there is no getting off. Other difficulties include being cooped up inside during the winters. Interviewees point to an ongoing ailment they all experience called Winter T3 syndrome – short-term memory loss, low energy, forgetfulness, including forgetting people or objects’ names, zoning out, etc.
“Antarctica: A Year on Ice” captures the incredible beauty of Antarctica mixed with the workers’ overall enthusiasm of what some call having the privilege of being a “Citizen of Antarctica.” Powell and his wife Christine, (who he met and married on the Station a number of years ago), paint a portrait of life on Antarctica that most of us will never experience first hand. And we’re thankful to get this glimpse of the majestic beauty and devastating wilderness that Antarctica holds, even if only for 92 minutes.
“Antarctica: A Year on Ice” is 92 minutes, Rated PG and opens November 28 at the Nuart Theatre in Los Angeles.