By Ryder W. Miller

Think you have it bad this winter. Don’t head down to Antarctica.

Antarctica as depicted in this recent Documentary A Year on Ice seems like an inviting and fascinating place to visit. In some ways it is as strange as some of the other planets of the solar system. Some areas of the continent are compared to Mars for example. There are those who go there despite the fact that it is a dangerous place to live, and there is even a community that grows during the Summer. There is a fair bit of bonding among those who flock together despite the elements. One can see them eating together a lot even though they don’t have all the food choices they would like. The winters are much harsher and there are whole months where there is no sunlight.

Some times of the year the temperature is below negative 40 degrees. The ice has a way of growing its way into one’s home through cracks in the windows and doors. A teardrop can freeze on one’s cheek. A cup of boiling water thrown into the wind can freeze before it hits the ground.

Anthony Powell’s documentary is heartwarming and a visual stunner. There are fascinating time-lapse photography scenes with travelling and gathering clouds. The visuals are quite profound on screen. There is also fascinating landscapes visited. They beckon despite their “bleakness.” There are also the wonderful white caped mountains, which look pure in the camera. Some of these places have never been visited before. One person in the film explains how much he likes the silence in this frozen land at the bottom of our world.

Maybe most strange about the film were the scenes where the time-lapse photography captures the movements of people and places. There are roads cleared in the snow. There is construction taking place. There are luggage boats being emptied and filled. These can seem almost like vaudeville at times. This, however, is not a problem with the Nature scenes, which are usually amazing, especially the scenes of the night sky and the Aurora Borealis. The sun can light up the sky with all sorts of colors, but there are many interesting things to see in the night sky besides the stars. Not as much light pollution with great views of The Milky Way.

There are several scenes with the penguins running around. There are tens of thousands of them and in the film one can watch them run, swim, and jump. They have been depicted in humorous ways in films and cartoons, and at times the same here. They are amazing despite the humor that results from the scenes being speeded up.

Antarctica is a great science and humanitarian story. The continent has been saved from conquest to preserve it as a commons for all of mankind. One cannot legally lay claim to Antarctica militarily. It is there for everyone to enjoy and study. This is the result of The White Treaty that protected it. The same is true for the Moon and Mars. Antarctica has attracted adventurers, loners, scientists, and thrill seekers. It exists a reminder that we are all from the same place. The same can be true of the other celestial bodies in the solar system. Here is a science movie with a great message for the holiday season.