Freeze-frame: Cinema Antarctic breaks the ice for polar scientists

Tue Jun 26, 2012 2:18am EDT
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By Pauline Askin

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Black-and-white movie images flicker on the side of an iceberg as the audience, dressed in layers of thermal clothing and padded suits against the freezing night, laugh at a French comedy about a journey to the end of the Earth.

Welcome to Cinema Antarctic, one of a series of special events held at international scientific stations on the globe's southernmost continent to celebrate the long, dark days of mid-winter.

Others included meals of gourmet treats such as duck fettuccine, boot-throwing competitions and even the chance to swim in a pool hacked out of polar ice.

The start of June to mid-July marks the darkest days of the Antarctic season, when there are only two to three hours of light at best - making fun not merely an option but a necessity to blow off steam.

"Mid-winter is a milestone for most (people), as it marks halfway through their Antarctic experience and the down-hill run to see family and friends begins," said Martin Passingham, a videographer living at the French scientific station of Dumont d'Urville (DDU), 66.4 degrees south of the equator in East Antarctica.

Passingham was one of 29 people living at DDU who walked two kilometers (1.2 miles) across sea ice, enduring temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) to watch "A la Conquete du Pole" or "To Conquer the Pole," a 1912 comedy by Georges Melies.

"The weather was perfect," Passingham told Reuters by email. "After the movie we looked up and what do you know - an aurora was darting all over the sky, one of the best yet."

Other activities included Olympic Games and a casino night, where men donned their best suits and women their most glamorous frocks for roulette and poker - cold cash not required.   Continued...