Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Encounters At The End Of The World - A students review

Just over a week ago now Millie watched this film and when she wrote her review she stated that it was one of her favourite films behind Harry Potter. Anyone who has been in a classroom when Harry Potter has been mentioned when Millie was around probably got the impression that she likes it rather a lot! So, as soon as she made this comparison I thought she must really really rate this film and so I thought I would watch it to see if it is any good......

The documentary consists of surreal footage of both above and below the ice and interviews with some interesting (and rather unique) people that work in Antarctica who are clearly very passionate and enthusiastic about the work they do. The footage of the scenery and the wildlife is unbelievable and the noises of the seals, the ice and just pure silence are literally out of this world. The documentary provides an insight into the research that is being conducted in Antarctica which ranges from studying the nutritional content of Waddell seal milk and neutrino detection to the study of the ice caps. All of this research is vital, especially the studies on ice caps as they hold the potential for us to gain a better understanding of both past and future changes within the climate.

I am a bit of an animal lover and so the bits involving seals and penguins really interested me but the bit that grabbed the most of my attention was the volcano stuff - especially the images of inside the fumaroles. Before watching this documentary I had never even heard of fumaroles before and to be honest I don't really know a lot about volcanoes. I still can't get over the sheer size of the fumaroles that are dotted around the sides of Mount Erebus. The documentary didn't really explain how they formed the massive ice towers or the caves but, as I couldn't get the images of the vast caves and towering chimneys out of my head, I just had to try and gain some understanding of how they are formed (sorry - I get a little enthusiastic about many things and my hunger for knowledge means I hate the feeling of not knowing!). Fumaroles are openings in the Earth's crust that emit steam and gas. The steam is created when superheated water turns to steam because the pressure of the water drops as it emerges from the ground. However if a lot of groundwater is present the fumaroles can turn into hot springs which provide a source of water that is heated by the escaping gases. The gases released are not always toxic and this is why scientists are able to enter some of the fumaroles on Mount Erebus. Fumaroles can occur individually or as part of a fumarole field. A fumarole field is an area that consists of both hot springs and gas vents that are created because the shallow location of magma and hot igneous rocks means they interact with the groundwater and release gases. In Antarctica the gas and steam that seeps through the openings in the Earth's crust cause the snow above to melt and this carves out huge caves within the snow. As the steam rises it freezes and chimney like features are created. Over time these get bigger and bigger and some of the fumaroles on Erebus are estimated to be two stories high (I think this is kind of the basics).

Anyway back to the review.......
I have to admit that I totally agree with what Millie said in her review about how she didn't like how developed McMurdo was. I understand the importance of the research that is being conducted in Antarctica and that some infrastructure is required for this to happen but, to me, it just seemed wrong to see a construction site accompanied by lots of heavy machinery in the backdrop of Antarctica - an area that I previously (and maybe naïvely) believed to be almost like a different world that was free from human influences and the encroachment of civilisation.

Overall I think this film is definitely worth watching as it provides an insight into the work that is being conducted in Antarctica, what it is like to live there and what Antarctica is like in general. Apart from a few links to climate change it is not necessarily relevant to our current module but it did make me think about the fact that if global temperatures rise, in say 30-50 years’ time (or maybe even less, who knows) the landscape, that is portrayed in this documentary through some simply stunning footage, is going to look very different to what it does today.

1 comment:

  1. I do love Harry Potter! Excellent description of the fumaroles, they are rather interesting when they form over ice, but the ones on land are equally fascinating, check out the pictures of Vulcano's Fumaroles on "Stromboli-on-line" which is, by the way, my favourite volcano website!