By Patricia McIvor
We’ll finish our cinematic world tour this month with movies set (and actually filmed!) at the end of the world: Antarctica. The frigid continent’s hazardous conditions usually prohibit studios from filming on location—Greenland and other Arctic locations frequently double as Antarctica in Hollywood movies—so we’ll experience Antarctica with some eye-opening documentaries which prove that fact can be far more fascinating than fiction.
Marvel at Antarctica’s implausible wildlife with March of the Penguins (2005).
The Oscar-winning documentary March of the Penguins is a simple story beautifully told. Emperor penguins, the only penguins that breed during the Antarctic winter, make an incredible journey every year to find a mate and hatch their young. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, the documentary follows the penguins throughout their mating cycle, capturing the wonder, humor, and drama as it unfolds.
Tour Highlights: Get up close and personal with majestic emperor penguins throughout their perilous annual voyage. Co-produced by the National Geographic Society, the film provides breathtaking views of Antarctica, starting with its very first shots of translucent icebergs in the Antarctic sea.
Discover an amazing chapter in the history of Antarctic exploration with The Endurance (2000).
This documentary tells the story of polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton and the ill-fated 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, which planned to cross the entire Antarctic continent with dogs and sledges. The expedition was derailed, however, when Shackleton’s ship (the aptly named Endurance) became trapped in pack ice just off-shore. Stranded without hope of rescue, Shackleton and his crew survived on the ice for over a year before escaping to a nearby island. Though he never accomplished his goal of traversing Antarctica, Shackleton remains a legend today for keeping his entire crew alive and sane in some of the harshest conditions imaginable.
Tour Highlights: The documentary combines modern footage of Antarctica and its surrounding islands with actual film taken by the expedition crew during their extraordinary journey, allowing viewers to experience Antarctica’s past and present. Excerpts from the explorers’ journals give particular insight into the physical and psychological hardships experienced by the crew while they were stranded without any means of contacting the outside world.
Get to know the unique individuals who live and work on the loneliest continent today with Antarctica: A Year on the Ice (2013).
New Zealander Anthony Powell engineered his own cold-resistant cameras in order to film his experiences while living and working on Antarctic research bases. The result of his efforts is a testament to the joys and hardships of Antarctic living, which few will ever get to experience personally. While a similar documentary—Werner Herzog’s Encounters at the End of the World (2007)—focuses on Antarctic scientists and their research projects, Powell spends more time with the support staff (firefighters, engineers, technicians, and managers) who have chosen to work in Antarctica.
Tour Highlights: Get a real sense of life “on the ice” as Antarctic residents experience everything from awe-inspiring polar landscapes to the mind-numbing winter condition known as T3. Penguins and other wildlife make brief appearances, but the main attraction is the unusual human community that calls Antarctica home.
This concludes our cinematic summer vacation. What films have inspired you to update your passport? Send me your bucket list at firstname.lastname@example.org.