Antarctica: A Year on Ice

Synopsis: This feature-length film reveals what it is like to live and work at the bottom of the planet, in Antarctica, for a full year. The story is not from the point of view of scientists, but of the people who spend the most time there; the everyday workers who keep the stations running in the harshest place on the planet. Filmed over 15 years by Frozen Planet photographer Anthony Powell, the film features a unique insiders point of view, with unparalleled access, and never before seen stunning footage of the deep Antarctic winters.
Director(s): Anthony Powell
Production: Music Box Films
  17 wins & 3 nominations.
Rotten Tomatoes:
91 min

My name is Anthony Powell.

I grew up on this dairy farm

in Taranaki, New Zealand.

But I've actually spent most

of my adult life living

and working in Antarctica.

The most common question

I get asked is

"What's it like to live

down there?"

It's so hard to answer

that in words

and it's never really been

captured on film before.

But there's something about

time lapse photography

that brings to life

the dynamic forces of nature

that you can feel

and sense around you,

but you can't actually see.

So I've taught myself how

to use a variety of cameras

and built some homemade

equipment in my spare time

that can still function

in the extreme cold.

It's taken me more than

10 years to make this film.

I've worn out

thousands of dollars

worth of camera gear...

and spent countless hours

standing in the freezing cold

in an effort to capture

the true feeling of this vast

important place.

There really are only

two seasons in Antarctica:

A busy summer when most

of the science happens...

and a wild and lonely winter

that few people will

ever experience.

To understand the place properly

you really need to spend

one full year

down here on the ice.

I think that most people

think that we're all scientists.

There are real people down here.

It's not just the people you see

on the National Geographic


or it's not people

who can afford

a $10.000 cruise.

It's people who are just

like you and me

who are average citizens

who are working and doing a job

That first breath...

it's like a sledgehammer

to the face.

It's your wake up call.

It's okay, you're here now.

This is the real deal.

I couldn't believe

I was actually doing it.

I was actually here.

I was in Antarctica...

the bottom of the planet.

And then my second thought was

"Oh crap,

what have I just done?"

Why am I here?

I saw Erebus

and wanted to go hiking there

and snowboard down it

and I was quickly told "No"

and then I was off to work.

We had been thinking

oh we're going to Antarctica

and when you get here it's like,

oh yeah I've gotta work

And you don't put that

into your head your first time

you're so excited

about coming down

that you forget that you're

coming down here for a reason.

They hurried us off the plane

so we couldn't take

a look around

and pretty much it was just here

and the next thing we knew

we were in town.

So the first thing we really saw

of Antarctica was McMurdo

and that's always kind of

disappointing sometimes.

It's a pretty small,

tight community

People pull together

and get things done.

Pretty amazing what gets done

for what little we have.

I've seen a lot of different

personalities come down here.

The ones that seem to do

the most of it are

the die-hards or

the more grounded people.

McMurdo Station sits

beside the sea on Ross Island.

It's dwarfed by Mt. Erebus

the southernmost

active volcano in the world.

Three kilometers away on

the other side of the peninsula

is the small New Zealand outpost

Scott Base.

Scott Base is a lot

more typical in size

of the other bases

dotted around Antarctica.

And its proximity

to McMurdo is unusual.

There are only

30 permanently manned bases

on the entire continent

and most of these

have less than 20 people

living in them in the winter.

At Scott Base you have to

live and work in one building.

Our accommodation

is a very small room

It's like a cell, if you like,

or a cupboard.

A lot of things here

can get to you pretty quickly

especially in winter.

And you cannot change them.

You cannot argue much

about them either

because this person

will be in front of your eyes,

you know, on the next Smoko.

So to be tolerant

is very important.

When people ask me why

to come back because this

is the second time

I've arrived in Antarctica.

For me it's those

white mountains.

Those white mountains

and you look across and you know

just because

humanity had trouble

getting here in the first place

we're relatively new arrivals.

We have not had the opportunity

to mess it up very much yet.

We have nations getting along

better in Antarctica

than I think they're doing

anywhere else in the world.

It's worth something

to keep it this way

if we can do whatever we can

to keep the co-operations

and just the pure pursuit

of things

that make us better as humans.

That's happening right now

on this continent,

and it's special.

I could live indefinitely here

if I could, on occasion,

get out.

Like I haven't...

I've literally gone nowhere

since August.

Most people that have

been here that long

at least have gone to maybe

the Pole or something...

or at least gotten out of town.

You will get to see

some fun stuff

but the main thing you're

down here for is to work.

And I hate to sound cold

when it comes to that,

but I think a lot of people

lose that focus

and when they come down here

and all they get to see

is a dish room

or get to stare at

a computer the whole time

I think they might be

a little disillusioned.

I came down with

the Italians originally.

But having done it once

you know I sort of thought

well that'll do.

But a couple of years later

I was back again.

Still here.

Rob has been flying

in Antarctica for 20 years,

but he's never done

a winter here.

Helicopters only fly

in the summer.

It's probably safer flying here

than in New Zealand

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Simon Price

Simon Price (born 25 September 1967, Barry, Wales) is a British music journalist and author. He is known for his weekly review section in The Independent on Sunday and his book Everything (A Book About Manic Street Preachers). more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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