Questions and Responses #6
Posted November 19, 1999
How do you keep people and the cameras safe when you're filming those huge waves in the Drake Passage?
Response from Steve Graves and Bobby Adams, grips for IMAX film:
In a large swell, the only safe way to shoot is off the ship itself. Using special rigging equipment, the IMAX camera is essentially bolted into the ship's railing. The camera operator and assistant are then tethered to the ship using harnesses and climbing lines, but if swells actually begin cresting the ship then even this isn't safe. In that case, any filming would have to be done remotely, with camera personnel safely inside the ship and flipping a switch to record the image.
In smaller swells, up to about eight feet, we can shoot off of our gyro-stabilized camera boat, such as when we reenact the famous Drake Passage crossing to South Georgia of the James Caird. The IMAX camera rigs into a special gyro-powered mount that enables us to shoot a stable image at sea level. The camera boat has a safety rail around it that is great to hold onto, but no personnel should ever be tethered to this in the unlikely event that strong winds flip the smaller camera boat. Of course, everyone in the boat is required to wear flotation vests as a precaution, and the zodiac expedition team is never far off—no one would want to be left floating in 30°F water for long.
I have been listening to a book on tape about the Endurance and went to the bookstore tonight to buy the book so I could view the photos and re-read some of the passages I've been listening to. I have become very interested in Sir Ernest Shackleton and his leadership skills and while looking at some Web sites tonight discovered yours.
What prompted you to undertake this project? When will it be available for viewing? I will follow your progress with great interest.
Blessings on you.
Oklahoma City, OK
Response from George Butler, Director:
Good man, great story, exotic background. These are the elements that attracted my interest. Having arrived here to make a film about Shackleton's Endurance Expedition of 1914, I can now see that this part of the world is actually wilder and more untouched by man than it was in his day (the whalers are gone). So it's another great chance to explore an exotic subject, as all my films have done. In this case amidst the most beautiful, wild, and remote setting possible: the Antarctic.
Why are zodiac boats safe in polar seas and pack ice when it crushed the Endurance?
Response from Rob Forster, Guide/zodiac driver:
Zodiacs are versatile crafts enabling large loads or numbers of people to be transferred between ship and shore. They can be deployed and recovered rapidly, and they are highly maneuverable, which means you can get out of potentially hazardous situations.
Inflatable hulls made of a rubberized fabric are flexible and durable, allowing boats to be landed on beaches or "nosed up" to an ice flow or rocky promontory without risk of puncturing the tubes. However, with particularly heavy use, the fabric will wear out and the risk of puncture increases. Fortunately, punctures are easily repaired with patches. Also, there are internal walls in the inflated tube that prevent complete loss of are pressure in the event of a serious rip.
The early explorers relied on hunting and fishing to supplement food they brought. Will you be doing the same? What special diet/vitamins will you eat?
Response from Mike Sharp, Guide/zodiac driver:
On a polar expedition, one eats about 5,000 calories a day to combat the cold and harsh work of a polar expedition. After the first 10 days, this is increased by 10 percent as all excess available body fat has been burned up.
In cold weather, the body craves fats and, as they are a good lightweight way of providing calories, the diet is heavily weighted with butter, margarine, or olive oil.
Lumps of butter in soup, porridge, and cocoa drinks are quite acceptable and often used. On one dogsled expedition, we would melt a pound of butter and add 12 sugar lumps and four spoons of cocoa powder and then let this reconsolidate. Lunch would be a half-pound of chocolate and butter each, and it was delicious.
On sledding expeditions in which you are pulling the sled yourself—rather than with dogs—weight is a concern. One day's food per person should weigh about 2.2 pounds. Morning would be porridge and sugar and butter. The evening meal: soup followed by pasta, quick-cook rice, or potato powder with some sort of dehydrated meal to give texture, flavor, and variety.
It is also important to drink plenty during the day in cold, dry climates as water is lost through sweat and evaporation from the lungs. Hydration can be watched by the color of one's urine during the day.
In polar regions there is no running water so all water has to be made from snow. It takes as much fuel to turn snow into water as it does to heat that water to boiling. To save fuel/weight it's usual to rehydrate with slightly warm drinks rather than hot ones. With efficient stoves and cooking and the right foods, one can get fuel use down to about 7 ounces per person per day when melting snow for water.
Thanks for the fine writing in relating your adventure to the world. I was wondering how women fare compared to men in the Antarctic environment. Is our slightly higher percentage of body fat an advantage? Or does the severity of the conditions put everyone on the same level? Have there been any studies done that you know of?
I am checking your progress every day and wish you a wonderful adventure and a safe return!
Los Angeles, CA
Response from David Rootes, Antarctic Coordinator:
There have been a number of medical studies of if and how people adapt to extreme cold and isolation. Most research stations have a medic who, hopefully, will have few medical problems to solve. Many medics run short or long-term physiological projects in Antarctica. Some years ago a medical conference was held that resulted in various publications on cold adaptation. I participated in an Antarctic diving project for three to four years during which our core temperature was monitored before, during, and after diving under ice for research work. The project continued throughout the year and showed that we had little adaptation through the winter.
Women could be expected to maintain a better core temperature for the reasons you gave—a slightly higher body-fat percentage. However, many appear to feel the cold particularly in their extremities. This may be a reflection of the greater importance the female physiology places on maintaining core temperature to the detriment of extremities. Put another way, women are well advised to pay particular attention to keeping their hands, feet, and head well clothed and warm.
It would be interesting to see a study of the propensity of women versus men to frost damage to extremities. I'm not aware such a study has been done.
What country does Antarctica belong to? What kind of regulations do they have to protect the environment?
Response from Nick Lewis, Antarctic Coordinator:
Antarctica does not belong to any country and no one country can claim jurisdiction over it. There are no native peoples, and the vast majority of people living and working there are scientists and support staff working on scientific bases conducting research. Their conduct in the Antarctic is governed by an international agreement called the Antarctic Treaty, formed in 1961.
Before the treaty came into being, a number of nations bid claims to territory in the Antarctic. These countries are Britain, Chile, Argentina, Norway, Australia, France, and New Zealand. Under the provisions of the treaty, none of these territorial claims is recognized, disputed, or established.
The treaty also forms the foundation for environmental protection in the Antarctic. There are a number of systems for environmental protection under the Treaty. These are:
The protocol sets out principles for environmental impact assessment, conservation of Antarctic fauna and flora, waste disposal and management, prevention of marine pollution, and area protection and management.
- The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR)
- The Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCAS)
- The Agreed Measures for the Conservation of Antarctic Fauna and Flora
- The Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty
Countries ratifying the protocol have had to implement their own primary legislation governing the permitting of expeditions to travel to the Antarctic.
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