Antarctic Research Blog #78 – The Lost Zeppelin

Movie: Edward Sloman: The Lost Zeppelin (U.S.A. 1929)

An early talkie, this is a simple story about an American Navy explorer who leads a zeppelin expedition to the South Pole. On the night before he departs, he discovers his wife kissing with his second in command. They leave for South Pole anyway, but there’s some tension in the air.

The basic setup is not bad, but the movie is terrible. It starts with half an hour of endless talking in a drawing room and in a party before the departure. After that, the confusing Antarctic scenes are a blessing. It looks surprisingly good once the action moves to the ice, but this doesn’t save it from the sheer suckiness of the script and anything that doesn’t involve special effects.

Antarctic Research Blog #77 – Mind Over Matter

Non-fiction: Ranulph Fiennes: Mind Over Matter (Delacorte Press, 1993)

Ranulph Fiennes and Mike Stroud attempted to cross the Antarctic continent manhauling unsupported in the 1992-93 season. Unsupported means that they pulled all of their food and equipment all the way from coast to coast, breaking the record for the longest unsupported polar journey in the process. The expedition was a success, and both Fiennes and Stroud wrote a book about it. I’ve already talked about Stroud’s book, Shadows on the Wasteland, here. Mind Over Matter is Fiennes’s book.

It’s strange to read two accounts of the same two-man journey. There’s a bit of polar scandal here, because the two companions didn’t get along and write unpleasant things about each other in the books. Stroud’s is the better book, more descriptive and informational, but Fiennes’s book has some interesting qualities as well. It paints a strange picture of its author. The leadership stuff Fiennes insists upon doesn’t seem motivated only by necessity and he seems positively disingenious when he’s talking about his own motivations for various decisions made on the journey.

The book really shines, however, in its descriptions of embarassing problems. Most polar expeditioners suffer from modesty which prevents them from writing about this stuff, but not Fiennes. He talks about frostbite of the penis, sexual fantasies as a way to pass the time, spraying piss all over your only sleeping bag, and a thousand other incidents.

Pyhää maata tänään telkkarissa

(Kuva: Matti Näränen)

Uneton 48 -kilpailun osana tekemämme lyhäri Pyhää maata on tänään telkkarissa! Kaikki kymmenen finalistia näytetään Ylen ykkösellä noin 23:30 alkaen.


Kilpailun voittajasta päättää yleisöäänestys yhdessä tuomariäänten kanssa. Äänestää voi tekstarilla 19.10. asti. Lähetä viesti uneton 7 numeroon 16130. Viestin hinta on 0,95 euroa, ja se menee kilpailun voittopottiin.

Katso elokuva!

Mikäli lyhäreitä ei halua katsoa telkkarista, ne on nyt näkyvillä myös netissä. En keksinyt, miten omamme saisi upotettua tähän blogiin, mutta tämän linkin takaa löytyy kaikki. Klikkaa play-nappulaa joukkueen nimen (Elohopea) vasemmalla puolella.

Antarctic Research Blog #76 – Ice Bound (the book)

Non-fiction: Jerri Nielsen with Maryanne Vollers: Ice Bound (Ebury Press, 2001)

I’ve already talked about Ice Bound the movie here, based on this very book. The book is Dr Jerri Nielsen’s own account of her time as the winter-over doctor at the U.S. South Pole station. She was stricken with breast cancer, administered chemotherapy to herself and was airlifted out in an emergency operation.

It’s nice to have a break in the endless stories about Scott. I like reading about the various contemporary communities at the South pole, and there’s a lot of that here.

It feels a bit uncharitable to criticize someone’s cancer book, but the mushiness and endless self-analysis were too much for me at times. Maybe it would be different if I had experience with cancer.

Antarctic Research Blog #75 – 90 South

Documentary: Herbert G. Ponting: 90 South (U.K. 1933)

This is the sound version of Herbert Ponting’s earlier documentary of the final Scott expedition, The Great White South. Apparently, the images are quite the same, but there’s a voiceover narration by Ponting himself.

The pictures are interesting, but I suspect only completionists like me have any real interest to see this movie. It’s the newsreel version of the story.

Seeing the doomed expedition members and the survivors as themselves has its own interest, but the movie is severely hampered by the practical realities of what it was like to shoot in Antarctica at that time.

Running games again

It has been a long time since I last ran a serious tabletop roleplaying game, but yesterday was the first session of my new campaign Tuliunikko 2, a new attempt at a campaign from a year ago which I felt ran into a creative dead end.

It was fun. It felt like using muscles I’d almost forgotten I had, like riding a bicycle for the first time in years. Almost all of the players were new, so there was a nice sense of creative uncertainty to the whole thing. There’s a cliche that says that the players will always ruin the best plans of the game master. I’ve found this to be true only of game masters who make bad plans. However, I’ve also found that it takes away the energy of the game to plan everything to be player-proof, so I tried to include an element of risk.

(Maybe also because it’s boring to run games where you always know what’s going to happen.)

It obviously helped that I used a lot of material from the first run of Tuliunikko. It’s easier to plan and improvise when some of the stuff has been tested, a rare situation in roleplaying games.

The game has a blog here.

Antarctic Research Blog #74: the Last Place on Earth

TV series: Ferdinand Fairfax: The Last Place on Earth (U.K. 1985)

Based on Roland Huntford’s seminal book, this is a British TV series of seven episodes about the race for the South Pole. It’s definitely the best movie or tv series of any kind I’ve seen about the Heroic Period of Antarctic exploration, and possibly the best about any Antarctic period.

It’s one of the best TV series of any kind.

The attention to detail, the thoroughness and the beauty of it are breathtaking. Often the period movies about Antarctica are wooden affairs, but not here. Everybody comes alive and there’s a marked reluctance to use the most famous lines and scenes, which have long lost their meaning and became cliche. When Titus Oates leaves the tent here, he talks about the call of nature, and leaves his best known line unsaid.

The production design is impeccable. When Scott and his men are dying in their tent, you can see the hair moulting from their sleeping bags sticking onto their clothes.

For me, the best part is still the characterization of Amundsen. In the final episode, there’s an incredibly well made scene where he hears the news of Scott’s death lying in a bathtub. He realizes that in a sense, he’s lost afterall, but also feels the terror of Scott’s death so far away from anything.

This will remain the definitive cinematic take on its subject.