film festival

August - movie making & more skiing by Jerry Gillham

August started with the annual Antarctic 48-hour Film Festival. I've had great fun in the past parodying Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but this year we went for something a bit more original; a fun satire of Brexit based on the idea of South Georgia trying to leave Antarctica.

It's available to view here:

Neil and Dave ill-equipped to deal with the cold in the old whaling station.

Fraser taking a break with some personal reading material. I like the straight lines and symmetry in this photo, I'd be happy with making this the new South Georgia flag.

Fraser, Neil and Bob preparing for filming in the surgery.

Unfortunately our UK-centric storyline, combined with a scattering of in-jokes and oblique references, together with dodgy sound quality on the original edit, meant we were never going to score highly amongst the wide range of stations of various nationalities that did the judging, though I hope some of the European stations appreciated the point we were making. 

Congratulations to Rothera and Bird Island, the other UK stations, who made some highly entertaining movies, the latter performing very well in the voting.

I ended up spending several weeks going back through the footage and improving the sound quality, cutting and adding until I was properly happy with it. Reviews so far have included 'it looks like you had fun making it', 'you had a hard act to follow' and 'your acting hasn't improved', while several friends have avoided speaking to me since I sent them the link.


August also gave us some of the best days skiing of the winter. One weekend especially, after a particularly heavy snow-fall on the Friday, was spectacular.

Fraser on the slopes of Brown Mountain. The flat area below is the snow-covered Gull Lake. Visibility was often poor but where the snow was deep enough it was so easy to turn it didn't matter what the slope was like.

Clouds clearing as we returned to Grytviken. As it was just so good we ended up heading up Deadman's Pass to continue skiing instead of returning to base as planned.

Shameless skiing selfie. It's not light-weight skiing here; you never know where there's going to be rocks poking through the slopes and while we take every care to avoid potential avalanches you can never guarantee anything, so each time we've been out I've carried avalanche transceiver, probe and shovel as well as helmet and, because I've become a bit paranoid, spine-guard. The result is that I look much more extreme-sport than is justified.

The next day Fraser and I set off early while everyone else was enjoying a lazy (hungover?) Sunday. Our initial smugness took a dent as the visibility was pretty shocking.

It cleared however as we ascended toward Echo Pas and then an un-named peak beside it.

From the summit we had great views down to station as well as most of the travel limits of the peninsula, and then an awesome time heading back down.

When the snow's not been too deep to make walking difficult we've had some good days out hiking too. Although looking toward Petrel here, Vicki and I got up Narval, just out of shot. It's one Fraser and I went up early in the summer via a ridiculous route. This time we did the simple one but with the snow, ice and strong winds about it was just as rewarding.

On a better day we headed back over to Stenhouse, possibly the most spectacular peak in the local area. That ascent up what looks like a vertical gully above and right of Vicki is a proper challenge. It's been good to do a few days needing crampons and ice axe for their intended purpose rather than just carrying them as extra safety gear.

Those two days out counted towards the 2017 Race Antarctica. In previous years this has been organised from Cambridge to get BAS folk competing as teams to rack up distance equivalent to crossing the continent. With people moving on I took on the challenge of organising this years event, but only for those South. We had seven teams of 4 trying to complete the distance from Falklands to Bird Island, to KEP, to Rothera, to Halley and the Pole. That was about 7,000km - in 5 weeks! A bit much, most teams managed 30 to 40% of the distance but the BI team absolutely smashed it.

Activities were weighted so spending an hour on the exercise bike, rowing machine or running would be worth equal amounts. Skiing, cardio exercise and ascent gained also counted towards the total. Hopefully it gave people a chance to get rid of a bit of midwinter weight and get a bit of a routine going in the gym.


Finally, one of the most exciting events in August has no photographs to corroborate it; heading back from dropping people off for a holiday on the Barff Peninsula I was driving the jet boat when some way in front of me I noticed a black line rise and fall. It didn't take long before I realised it was either an orca or another whale maybe waving a flipper. I chose to shout the first and ran to alert Paddy and steer from the raised platform outside the cabin. I was correct, it was a big male orca though it only appeared once or twice more and never very close. Kieran and Bob in the RHIB noticed a second, a female, further off behind us so we slowly turned around and keeping revs low hung around the same place looking out for them. 

I guess they were feeding as we only got a couple of brief views, and always far from us and the spot they'd last surfaced. The final view we got was the best, both surfacing together in front of the sunlit glacier before disappearing for good. No photos but happy memories.

Lord of the Bird Rings by Jerry

The past weekend saw the annual Antarctic 48-hour Film Festival.

I wrote about this last year and our 2013 entry is available here.

Every base on the continent and the sub-Antarctic islands is invited to make and submit a short film, shot entirely on location and over a two-day period. To keep things fair and fresh there are five elements given out on the Friday that have to be included in every film; two objects (this year a swimsuit and a swing), a sound effect (a pig squeal), a character (Wal Footrot – a New Zealand cartoon character who was fairly simple to google) and a line of dialogue. As we'd been voted best screenplay for our condensed Star Wars tribute last year we got to supply the latter, and after much sorting through Smiths lyrics and favourite movie quotes submitted the following, from possibly my favourite ever film; 'it'll be dark soon and the mostly come at night... mostly'. I'll where it's from as a kind of quiz.

After having such fun filming Star Wars we thought we'd try and condense another epic into around five minutes. This time Lord of the Rings.

So we came up with a basic storyline; three or four short scenes, and fleshed that out into a basic script fairly simply. The tough part was costumes and props. Luckily we have a dressing up box left by many previous residents, so a healthy supply of wigs and waistcoats. Legolas's cloak was a cleverly folded tablecloth while Gimli's axe was forged from a broom handle, cardboard and tin foil.

The weather for Saturday looked a bit grim but nothing compared to what was forecast for Sunday, so we rose early and, while Cian went off on the leopard seal round, the rest of us climbed up to the nearby cave to shoot some uncomfortable scenes with Frodo and Sam. You can see in the film how cold we are as everyone's breath is clearly visible.

After a return and a cup of tea we headed up the valley to record a bit of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli running around. The low mist meant visibility wasn't good enough to do any real long shots, as the entire of the second film seems to consist of, but we still had fun running round with capes trailing.

A battle scene on the beach with a horde of (very similar-looking) orcs was probably the most fun to film as it basically involved more running round and shouting, swinging swords and axes about. When it came to editing this bit it was all a little quiet so I got all the others into the office and recorded a voiceover of them shouting, screaming, grunting and banding a few spoons together to represent sword clashes.

The final bit of filming was of Merry and Pippin meeting Gandalf. We weren't going to be beaten by the other Hobbits filming a scene barefoot but you can see how cold we are by our pink faces. By this point the mist was getting very wet so it looks like everything is in soft focus. Still, the scenery is somewhat reminiscent of Middle Earth.

As promised, Sunday lashed it down with rain so we were grateful we didn't need any reshoots. Instead I spent most of the day editing and finally was able to show it to the others on a big screen in the lounge. Twice – so I guess that means we are pretty pleased with it.


The results are in and we came in third for cinematography, second for best film and first for acting!!

The Empire Strikes Bird Island by Jerry

This weekend saw the annual Antarctic 48 hour film festival. Across the continent and outlying islands bases of various nationalities put aside their work (although we still managed things like the daily Leopard Seal round) and became writers, directors, actors and editors.

Late on Friday we got sent a list of five elements, picked by last year's winners, that we were required to put in our film. These were; a ping-pong ball, a bathtub, the line 'voulez vous couche avec moi, ce soir?', the character of 'the gingerbread man' and the sound effect of an actual sneeze. Steph bravely supplied the latter by selflessly standing with a dictaphone and throwing pepper in her own face. The others required some creative thinking and alternatives (no, we don't have a bath tub).

We had a few Star Wars costumes hanging around from a fancy dress evening and thought it'd be fun to put them on and play around. So we quickly knocked up a story, recruited some animal extras and built some props.

Steph and Craig filming the opening sequence with a home-made Tie fighter.
 There was loads of snow over the weekend and with temperatures below -5C we were well wrapped up, usually with costumes over the top. The wind has now changed direction and just four days later it's back up to summer temperatures of 4C.

Gingerbread Star Wars characters.
Friday evening was spent writing the script and putting together costumes. Then on Saturday we got up early, got dressed up and started running round like fools. By the evening we were done with our filming and moved to the arduous task of editing. This took up most of the following day too, with everyone getting involved with certain scenes, but by tea time on Sunday we were done. One group viewing on the big screen and I started uploading it to the competition site.

I think you can see how much fun we had making it by the barely suppressed grins and giggles. A good number of blooper scenes made it into the final edit and, despite how many times I've seen certain scenes during the editing, there are bits that continue to make me laugh.

I hope you enjoy it too.