Antarctica (1991) Movie Script

It is summer.
It is midnight.
We are headed south.
Um, uh, we just logged
another run low 10-10 spot.
Chain before coming in.
As they travel south,
the men and women in this ship
will be bitterly cold.
Sun will burn their faces,
wind will sear them,
but they will feel fortunate ...
to have become part
of a great adventure.
For thousands of years,
as human beings spread
across the planet ...
no one came here.
Antarctica was as remote
as the moon.
Ancient Greeks reasoned
that the world was round ...
and that there must be
a great southern continent.
They called the stars
above the North Pole ...
Arktos, the bear ...
so they named the far Pole
They imagined a land ...
of strange beasts
and stranger customs ...
where the laws of nature
might be reversed.
It was the greatest mystery
on Earth.
A world of ice.
A continent far larger
than the United States,
it is three times higher
than any other continent.
Its air is drier
than the Sahara ...
yet 70% of the fresh water
in the world is frozen here ...
in ice sheets up to 3 miles thick.
For centuries, Antarctica was
the ultimate goal ...
the last challenge
of exploration.
Getting here
was the hardest thing ...
a human being could do.
Until 1821, no one even saw it.
Explorers came bravely
in wooden ships.
The ice crushed them ...
but they never gave up.
In 1911, Robert Falcon Scott
of Britain ...
and Roald Amundsen of Norway ...
both started for the South Pole.
Both men would reach the Pole,
but only one of them would return.
This is Scott's party
sitting like knights ...
at the long table
beneath their battle flags.
The long table is still there...
the chairs they sat on,
the cups they drank from.
Here, they helped
to build the foundations ...
of Antarctic science.
Their isolation was complete.
They worked at the very edge
of what was known ...
and the lessons they learned
were often hard.
Near Scott's old hut,
in the shadow of a volcano
called Mount Erebus,
there is a nursery on the ice.
Weddell seals were one
of the first animals ...
to be studied in Antarctica,
one of the few species ...
that lives here all year.
The pup was born
a few weeks ago ...
and, now, it's time
for it to learn how to swim.
At home beneath the ice,
they call eerily to one another.
Scientists have been
counting seals here ...
since the early days, but they
are still fascinated ...
by how these animals have
adapted to the climate ...
and to the freezing water.
The seal's blood carries
so much oxygen ...
that is can hold its breath
for over an hour.
They're amongst the greatest
natural divers in the world.
The ice is six feet thick.
This is where Antarctica
hides its color ...
and its complexity.
Forests of tiny plants'
called algae ...
grow in the ice
as if in a greenhouse.
Millions of krill, which
are like small shrimp ...
eat the algae.
Fish eat the krill
and seals eat the fish.
This chain of life is so
isolated and balanced ...
it gives scientists clues ...
to the health
of the whole planet.
Diving here is agony
for the first 20 minutes.
After that,
it becomes dangerous.
Keep a hold!
Less than 2% of Antarctica
is free of ice.
Here, Adelie penguins
build nests of stones.
But even stones
are in short supply.
Somewhere, a leopard seal waits
a thousand pounds of muscle ...
and teeth well-adapted
to tear flesh.
So scientists
have built a cage ...
for a view of emperor penguins
early explorers longed for.
The penguin on land
is almost wholly ludicrous.
But the penguin in the water
is another thing.
One would like to follow
the bird in his aquatic life
if only such a thing
were possible.
The penguins sense danger,
so they don't surface.
No other bird lays its eggs on the
darkness of a polar winter ...
or hatches its chicks
in the coldest months ...
of the Antarctic year.
I think we are right to consider
the bird to be eccentric.
They may look silly,
but they're unbelievably tough.
They must walk great
distances from the sea ...
lashed by sub-zero winds,
bellies full of fish and quill ...
to feed their chicks.
At the edge
of the penguins' empire ...
ice bergs move slowly out to sea.
They're pieces of Antarctica,
born high on the continent ...
where snow packs into ice
and flows slowly outward.
If the earth grows warmer,
the movement may speed up ...
and ice sheets as big as
nations slide into the sea.
The sea would rise,
the climate change.
It may already be happening.
As the ice sheet moves,
it strains and splits.
Some crevasses are so huge'
they could swallow a house.
They can be
hundreds of feet deep.
Wind-blown snow gradually builds
crystal bridges ...
across the gap at the top.
The bridges can be quite
invisible on the surface.
Some will support
the weight of a man,
but some will not.
This is only a demonstration.
But this was real.
The driver in this accident
was lucky.
He survived.
But his bulldozer is now
in a long slow grind to the sea.
These ponds look shallow,
but they're not.
When a diver swam
through a hold ...
in the bottom
of one these pools ...
this is what she found.
We're inside a moving glacier.
No other film like this exists.
No one has seen caverns
like this before.
Here, scientists would expect
only rock-hard ice.
So Antarctica reminds us again:
We have scarcely begun
to understand our planet.
Once, these dry valleys
were full of ice.
Thousands of years ago ...
something happened
to the climate ...
and the ice that was here
It left behind
vast empty valleys ...
where it has probably not rained
for a million years ...
where algae grows
inside solid rock ...
and the land is so arid,
we practice experiments
designed for Mars.
And it left a mystery ...
that becomes more important
to us each day:
What makes the climate change?
Sea ice around the continent
waxes and wanes.
In winter,
Antarctica doubles in size.
The expanse of coldness affects
climate all over the globe.
But Antarctica not only
affects climate,
it also records it.
Far from civilization ...
a core drill digs deep
into the ice sheet.
Ice layers can be read
like the rings of trees.
The climate record goes back
100,000 years.
Entrapped bubbles of ancient air
ice cores tell a simple story.
When the levels of carbon dioxide
in the atmosphere change ...
so does the climate.
A day, a week, a month,
a year, a decade ...
This core came
from 466 feet down.
It's ice that fell as snow
about 4,000 years ago.
In the crystal ball of the ice,
the news from Antarctica is bad.
Methane, strontium 90, lead ...
increased carbon dioxide ...
were changing the air ...
and we're starting
to see the effects.
20 years ago, scientists predicted
that man-made chemicals ...
would thin the planet's
protective layer of ozone.
Recently, the thinning
became dramatic ...
letting dangerous
ultraviolet rays from the sun
shown here in red hit the Earth.
Nobody noticed it ...
except in Antarctica.
Here, a few scientists
doing theoretical research ...
noticed the change
in the upper atmosphere ...
and learned that man-made
chemicals were causing it.
International cooperation may
slow production of the chemicals ...
but the damage has been done.
So the research goes on ...
trying to understand what we're
doing to our world ...
trying to find out in time.
In this climate,
you must cooperate to survive.
Here, that hard truth applies
even to politics.
Antarctica is not a nation.
It is protected by a unique
agreement among many nations ...
to save the continent
for peace and science.
This treaty has lasted
for over 30 years ...
and stands as a model
for a happier world.
In 1929, 17 years
after the Pole was won,
Richard Byrd traded dogs ...
for an airplane,
and was the first
to fly over the South Pole.
He looked in awe
on the wilderness ...
that Scott and Amundsen
took months to cross.
Today, the flight
takes three hours ...
and the plane lands ...
at what seems to be
a space station in low orbit.
South Pole Station.
Here, on ice 9,000 feet thick ...
almost a hundred people
from all over the world ...
work on 30 projects,
each looking beyond the edge
of what is known.
At this altitude,
the air is so thin ...
newcomers struggle for breath ...
and the cold is unrelenting.
Even in summer,
it reaches 40 below.
The sun rises once a year.
During the six months
of daylight ...
it makes an almost perfect
circle in the sky every day.
They've come to take its
picture for 2.5 days.
A quick stroll around the world.
The camera's ready ...
and it re-orders time.
Wind is blowing hard ...
and there's that curious,
damp feeling in the air ...
which chills one to the bone.
Praise God ...
this is an awful place.
Captain Scott and his companions
arrived at the Pole ...
to find that Roald Amundsen
had been there ...
just four weeks before.
Taf Evans died ...
a month into the return
journey from the cold,
Titus Oates, who slowed his
companions with his lameness,
walked away to his death
to try to save them.
700 miles from the Pole ...
and just 11 miles from safety,
the last three men
were stalked by a blizzard.
With them were 35 pounds
of geological samples ...
they had hauled
hundreds of miles ...
in the cause of science.
It seems a pity ...
but I don't think
I can write more.
These rough notes
and our dead bodies ...
must tell the tale.
I should so like
to have come through ...
for your dear sake.
It is splendid to pass, however,
with such companions as I have ...
and as all five of us
have mothers and wives ...
you will not be alone.
Your ever-loving son ...
to the end of this life
and the next ...
when God shall wipe away
all tears from our eyes.
Scott and his men
were buried in the ice ...
which will someday
carry them to sea,
but their rock samples
were taken home by others ...
and their work became ...
part of the new century's
Age of Science,
and of the peculiarly
human combination ...
of curiosity and courage ...
that has marked
Antarctica's story.
Dear Lord, we thank you for
this time and this place ...
and an opportunity to gather
together to give thanks.
We just thank you, Father ...
for the food that was
prepared for us ...
and we just pray
that you will keep us safe ...
and protect us
as we work down here.
For it's in your name we pray.
The quest continues,
driven by the same force ...
that inspired the old
explorer knights.
Here, in this place of great
beauty and hard truth ...
we're given reason to hope
that we may yet do our best.