Ice and the Sky

The 2016 Seattle International Film Festival exhibited this Antarctic-based documentary from France. Even though it was directed by Academy Award winner Luc Jacquet ("March of the Penguins" which I LOVED), I felt this was an over-inflated after-school special sponsored by National Geographic. The voiceover is an older man, but NOT a Frenchman. It is easily understood, even without captions, and for ME to say that, it really IS easily understood.

Granted, the glaciologist, Claude Lorius, is handsome and accomplished, but personally I had had enough of the camera with its 360° sweep, seeing snow, ice, rocks, snow, ice, rocks and a glacier, the third time. And the long thoughtful examinations of his craggy face in profile. And all those shots of machines... Yes, Arctic exploration is demanding and dangerous. Yes, the cold is unimaginable. Yes, the scientists are a rugged bunch. Yes, the distances are daunting. But enough is enough.

Over the course of his esteemed career, Lorius has come to realize that the bubbles of air contained in glacial ice held the key to understanding our climate over the millennia. (He saw some bubbles when the scientists had a celebratory drink and used glacial ice in their whiskey.) When he saw the bubbles, he had an epiphany. He refined that thought into an easily understood and accessible science.

There are interesting bits contained in this documentary: See how the Russians use kerosene for their drills and vodka for altitude poisoning. See how the Americans surprised him after not one, but two (!) cargo planes exploded at takeoff. See how the international community of scientists can look beyond politics in the name of pure science.

Just be prepared to be a bit patient. Oh yes, he says C02 causes global warming. But here in Seattle, he was preaching to the choir. As you can tell, I was in the minority because the press screening audience found this one to be spectacularly good... ...yawn...