Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Unseen Greenland - on a three-masted schooner...

It's rare that I watch television these days, but I just saw the most beautiful documentary possibly ever created and I would very much like to share it with you all:

Expedition To The End Of The World is a Danish documentary that is both comedic and poignent following the adventure of a group of scientists and artists on an old wooden sail ship as they travel into the unexplored Greenland coastal valleys.

Unexplored? Surely not!

As global warming continues and glaciers retreat further, the summer weeks in the Arctic are becoming longer - this has led to the freeing of valleys that have never before been ventured into by humans (or at least not since before the last Ice Age). Over a 100km further north than the northernmost human settlement these scientists and artists team up for fantastic shots of a primeval yet changing landscape and deliver a very real and serious message - the world as we know it is about to die, deal with it.

The team drill into permafrost that has receded by a matter of meters meaning the surface soil is now filled with bacteria and other life that was previously dormant. Unfortunately this results in a great release of CO2 into the air which as we all know produces the positive feedback loop of climate change.

Complete with rubber dinghy microlites, a feisty female microbiologist who wants to be a pirate, sightings of polar bears, collapsing icebergs, rocks predating the 'Snowball earth' (a 750 million yr old climate disaster) on top of the most dramatic and blindingly beautiful landscapes - it truly is a beautiful match of art and science.

The star of the show is perhaps the ice class Polar schooner Activ that was built in 1951 by a Danish company. She's tripple-masted and smashes through surface ice as well as posing for some artful shots between mountains and floating ice. I believe her current home port is London. - The film's website is worth checking out.

Well, that's the most science-orientated piece I've written for a long time! If you want to watch it, and live in the UK, it's available on BBC iPlayer at the moment until the 4th of March: