Monthly Archives: September 2014

South Georgia – Skiing and making a film in 48hrs.

August 2014

In mid-August we finally got the snow we had been waiting for, and managed to get out skiing. We were kept busy before that with the fishing season steadily ramping up.

The first weekend of the month was the ’48 hour Antarctic Film competition’. It was started a few years back at the American ‘McMurdo’ base (Antarctica’s Metropolis – several hundred people during the summer, 3 bars and an the Antarctic’s only ATM machine to be found there). It then spread to the other American bases and eventually to where it is today… 17 wintering bases take part. Last year’s winners choose various mandatory elements that are emailed to all the bases on the Friday night. Once they have read the email all the bases/teams have 48 hours to come up with a story, film it and edit it.

So after dinner on Friday night we opened the email to see the elements and set about coming up with a story…over a few drinks in the bar. This year’s elements to be included were ‘a swing’, a ‘swimsuit’, the sound of ‘a squealing pig’ the line of dialogue “it’ll be getting dark soon and they mostly come at night…mostly” and the character ‘Wal Footrot’ a New Zealand cartoon character (think most bases had to Google that one). We spent all day and most of the evening on Saturday filming the various scenes and then editing most of Sunday. We managed to get it wrapped with 3-4 hours to spare!

The directing and editing fell to me as I’d done some before with the short films I’d made. Everyone on base was involved whether it was acting, running about getting costumes and props or making flasks of coffee etc. The film is at the bottom of this month’s post…

South georgia, Antarctica, 48hr Film competition

Taking a coffee break at Grytviken having filmed the “Alien” section of the film in the basement of the old barracks. Fans of the film would have picked up the origins of the dialogue line to be included. The new face behind Dickie is Rich, the Purser on the BAS ship James Clark Ross who was in on holiday visiting Jo – we managed to get him in the film wearing a lovely blond wig!

South georgia, Antarctica, 48hr Film competition

Jo dressed up as some kind of horror (the ring?) character on a swing – one of the mandatory elements.

South georgia, Antarctica, leopard seal

We had a large Leopard seal spend some time near the Wharf, she (?) seemed quite happy to have her picture taken.

South georgia, Antarctica,

Unfortunately this Kerguelen Petrel had struck a ship during the night and was taken in by Daniel. It had badly damaged eyes (presumably from flying into the ship) so was kept it in a box in a dark room overnight before Daniel released it the next day. Loss of vision isn’t always fatal to their flying ability apparently.

South georgia, Antarctica, Fur seals

There are still a few Fur seals around, mainly males. Their testosterone is not so high at this time of year and are noticeably more chilled out. Having said that there is still the odd one who wants to charge you! Luckily with snow about it’s easy enough to kick some in their direction and turn them about…all front and no real guts!

South georgia, Antarctica, Shackleton's Cross

We have sun on the base now (between 11am and 4pm) but Shackleton’s cross is still firmly in the shadow of Mt Duce all day long.

South georgia, Antarctica, skiing, King Edward Point

We finally got the snow we had been waiting for! The veranda (on the left here) gets covered in snow as the roof is about 30cm too short. Some bright spark pointed out when the base was being built that the veranda wasn’t wide enough for a wheelchair, and therefore didn’t meet UK building standard. So whenever it snows, it falls off the roof and straight onto the veranda. We then have to shovel the snow off the veranda so it doesn’t ice up and become a death trap. Of course once you have worked your way along you have to go back as more has fallen – it’s a little like painting the Forth Rail Bridge! (before they got that fancy 20 year paint). I wonder what the odds are on slipping on ice and ending up in a wheelchair!?

South georgia, Antarctica, skiing

Daniel making his way up Glacier Col. Daniel, James and I had taken advantage of the good snow to get a good view of the interior. The peak in the distance behind Daniel is Mt Duce.

South georgia, Antarctica, skiing

Nearly at the col, the interior mountains open up.

South georgia, Antarctica, skiing

A friend had asked on the phone how we managed to ski with no lifts, tows etc. Skiing here requires cross country skis or ski mountaineering/backcountry ski kit. You can see Daniels boot is only attached at the toe in this shot, letting him lift his heel so he can slide one foot/ski in front of the other – walking basically. When going uphill you keep the heel free and put ‘skins’ on the bottom of the ski. The skins will allow you to slide forward but will grip when you push the ski back. when you are ready to go downhill you remove the skins and then lock the heel in.

South georgia, Antarctica, ice and ships boats

There have been some interesting boating conditions lately. There is just as much ice about as there was in summer, I was expecting less. I thought with it being colder the glaciers would have been less active but it doesn’t seem to be the case. Most of the small ice you can push through but bigger stuff like this requires a more cunning technique. If you sneak up to it so it’s just behind the stern and then gun the engines forward you get a jet of water out the back that punches the ice out the way – quite good fun!

South georgia, Antarctica, Navigating sea ice, small boats

After bossing the big stuff about we were repaid by the ice with this! We did about 3 knots for about 30 minutes on the way back as it was so thick.

South georgia, Antarctica, Glacier, Fjord

Dickie and Pat had been dropped off on the Barff Peninsula for a holiday, and it was such a nice day I took Rich into Morain Fjord on the way back to have a look at the glaciers. We couldn’t get any closer than this as the ice was packed in at the head of the fjord. Just as we were about to leave we spotted something in the water…

South georgia, Antarctica, Leopard seal

Rich spotted her before I did. She saw us a long way off I suspect!

South georgia, Antarctica, Leopard seal

A quick change of direction under water and she came in for a closer look. Think Rich might have the money shot here!

South georgia, Antarctica, Leopard seal

This is the biggest Leopard Seal I’ve seen since I’ve been here. She was quite happy to come up and have a close look at us and even jumped up and down from a bergy bit (a small iceberg) a few time for us.

South georgia, Antarctica, Leopard seal

having a closer look at a potential landing spot.

South georgia, Antarctica, Leopard seal

She didn’t stay on for long. Not sure if she was practicing or the snow bothered her. Every time she went up she would thrash about in the snow, as if to clear it, before sliding back into the water.

South georgia, Antarctica, Leopard seal

After 30min or so watching her we decided we should leave and head back to base, partly because she was getting closer and closer to the boat. As we slowly pulled away we noticed she was still stalking us! Rich missed out on this shot. Can’t say I feel sorry for him as he’s a better photographer than I am and his camera is way better than mine haha.

South georgia, Antarctica, Ship, ladder

Daniel practicing coming alongside on of the ‘refers’. This is one of the bigger ladders we put them on, about 8 meters I think. On the bigger ones once they are on the ladder we pull away so if they fall they go in the water and not on to the deck of the jet boat!

South georgia, Antarctica, bow of ship

A light ship with a bulbous bow is good target practice too. Once they have a little more in the hold it should sit lower in the water – maybe low enough to get a photo of someone standing on the bulb…

South georgia, Antarctica, Boat Glaciser

Jo and Rich had a holiday to St Andrews and were picked up from Sorling. So we took advantage and swung by the Nordenskjold Glacier on the way home. Even though the Jet is 100m+ away from the Glacier front it helps to give it some scale.

South georgia, Antarctica, milky way

The Milky Way is further over towards Grytviken now. I’ve started getting out at night again, taking some time-lapse shots. The moon is behind me in this one so it lights up the mountains nicely – need to find the breaker for those lights though. If you read the last blog and didn’t get the part about leading lights then then this shot might help.

South georgia, Antarctica, Hyro power station

Having worked most of one weekend I took a few hours off one afternoon to go for a ski. I dropped by Chris who was working in the Hydro Station. I hadn’t been in here before so was quite interested to get a tour. Basically water comes up the big pipes either side (can’t see the left one in this shot) of the big blue machine and turns the turbine inside at about 1,000 RPM.

South georgia, Antarctica, Gentoo penguin

While winter is the quiet time for wildlife there is still some to be found. I nearly skied over this Gentoo on the way round. I think he was having a nap in the middle of the path.

South georgia, Antarctica, skiing, King Edward Cove

View from the top of Gul Lake track. The run down to the shore from here is good for practicing your ski turns…not a bad view either!

South Georgia, Antarctica, Skiing

Ever get that feeling you’re being watched!? Julie and Jo were out as well and managed to catch me from a distance heading up the track. My mum gave me a hard time a while back for not appearing in the blog. Well, I did last month and she said I looked like a Yeti (no I can’t win) so this is as close as you’re going to get haha. (Photo courtesy of Julie Hunt)

South georgia, Antarctica, bow of ship, frozen, sea ice

It looks like the big freeze has set in now, some of the ships are looking quite frozen when they come into trans-ship. That anchor is about 2 meters tall and covered in a inch or two of ice. The sea water freezes to the bow as it’s sprayed up when passing through swell.

South georgia, Antarctica, pancake, ice, RIB

Jo and Julie had a few days holiday on the Green Peninsula. Daniel and I had a good time getting them there. The drop off is just inside Morain Fjord. It had been cold and still the night before which allowed the sea ice to freeze. With a little swell it doesn’t freeze in sheets but in smaller circular shapes – this is called ‘pancake ice’. It’s sea ice so not so good for G&T’s.

ice water bucket challenge South Georgia Antarctica

We may be cut off from many things down here but the ice bucket challenge didn’t take long to make it down. A friend in Hong Kong had done it (in 30+ degree heat I might add) and kindly nominated me. We filled the JCB bucket with sea water (which had a layer of ice on it already) and Matt kindly dumped it on my head. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, I think the mid-winter swim and my swimsuit scene in the 48hr film were worse. That’s piqued your interest in the film now hasn’t it?


Ok, so here’s the film. I can tell you we didn’t win or even come in the top 3! (I’ve since heard that another BAS base, Rothera, wasn’t able to download it so that might be significant) We are consoling ourselves by saying we probably came in 4th! We had been quietly optimistic having seen previous year’s winners though some from this year were good to be fair.  I can’t help but have a bit of a whine here about 2 of the top 3 films being over 5 min. There aren’t many rules (3 I think) but one is ‘the film must be ‘5 minutes or less’. A couple of them were way beyond that. I refused to give them any votes, which some people think was too strict of me. But having been editing from 10pm Saturday to 5am Sunday, sleeping for a few hours to then continue again, making sure our film was no longer than 5 min, I think I was right to not vote for them. Anyway I’ll sit on the moral high ground having a strop on my own!  Everyone had to vote for best film, cinematography, best use of elements, screenplay and best acting.

I think I know how Martin Scorsese felt after Goodfellas was beaten by Dances With Wolves at the Oscars haha.

The Australian base ‘Davis’ won here’s the link to their film (strap in it’s an epic! ) To be fair it’s very good!

This is Bird Islands (just of the Western end of SG) who came in 2nd. There are only 4 of them there over winter, which makes their efforts all the more impressive!

3rd was from Kerguelen station.

I’m sure if you put ‘2014 48hr film competition into youtube you can find the others.  The ‘Amundsen-Scott’ base ‘A guide to passing’ is worth a watch also – definitely the bravest script!

There was an open category as well, so I entered my South Georgia film on a bit of a whim. I came 3rd for Best Film and Screenplay and 2nd for Cinematography. So some consolation for the 48hr.

As always feel free to leave a comment if you have a question about anything and I’ll try to answer it next time.

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