Sunday, April 25, 2010

Review of Antarctic Journal staring Song Kang-ho

I've never read a movie review quite like this one. The reviewer, Mr. X, was evidently quite blown away by this film. It's about famed South Korean director Lim Pil-seong's 2005 film "Antarctic Journal" (남극일기). The film stars Song Kang-ho who plays Choi Do-hyung.

Here's an excerpt from the review:
How can I judge a film like this is something I still haven't come to terms with. For people who truly love films, who see them as something more than filler for dates, experiencing a great film is like entering the relationship of your life: you see no faults in that person at first, no matter what other people say, you continue head on, trusting your instincts. Then, as life goes on, you learn to understand and accept that person's faults and weaknesses. To other people's eyes, all there is to see is faults, they can't find positive aspects to something they think they don't like. But I can't really say I'm at either of those stages. Is Antarctic Journal merely a great film marred by some problems inherent with the system? Just like Kim Ji-Woon's delicious 장화, 홍련 (A Tale Of Two Sisters) shooting on its own feet, trying to explain what it beautifully concealed through its characters' mind for two hours? Too bleak and dark to appeal to the average masses, too fragmented and intelligent to sit comfortably within the conventions of one single genre, too in love with its atmosphere to trust characterization on the audience's ability to extrapolate it from the actors' performances? The judgment is up to you, to what kind of things you look for in a film, to how much those flashy moving pictures involve you on a personal level. I might fail my job as a reviewer today not passing yet that judgment on this film, but I'm not ready. I'm still looking for answers to the myriad of questions the movie creates, questions it never answers because it respects the viewer enough to let him or her find them themselves. I might never reach those conclusions after all, be it my or the film's fault. Call it my very own Pole of Inaccessibility, but the only thing I want to do right now is watch it again. And again.
If the film is half as inspiring as the review, it will be well worth watching.  

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Killer whales attack seal

Check out this amazing video taken by a tourist in Antarctica.  Their ship came across a school of killer whales attacking a seal. It's a fist-ever video of such a sight.

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Antarctica's fish contain antifreeze

How is it possible for fish to survive in the cold waters of Antarctica?

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Monday, April 5, 2010

South Korea's first base in Antarctica

Science:
South Korea last week chose Terra Nova Bay as the site for its first research base on mainland Antarctica. A survey earlier this year by the country's first icebreaker research ship, Araon, found that the site was more accessible and had better weather than another option, Cape Burks. The 100-billion-won (US$88-million) base, to be completed by 2014, will be used to study global warming. The country has had another base on nearby King George Island since 1988.
Here is a really beautiful photo of South Korea's old base, King Sejong Station, from the Korea Times.


Let's hope South Korea keeps Antarctica looking this beautiful.  According to the article, South Korea is not oblivious to the economic angle:
 In 2003, a natural gas reservoir with a capacity that exceeds by 300-fold South Korea's annual consumption, was found in the Antarctic seas. Research into plankton in the Antarctic Ocean paved the way for world's first technology that allows blood to remain unchanged even when stored at low temperatures. A meteorite investigation team found meteorites both this and last year, endorsing South Korea's status as the world's fifth country to find meteorites. Researchers also cooperate with international teams to conduct yearlong research into the environment.
 Antarcticana wishes South Korea good luck on its new base.

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Bye bye American dome...

The United States has torn down its famous geodesic dome -- a South Pole landmark.

Antarctic Sun:
It was never supposed to hang around this long. Ten years, maybe 15 at most. Perhaps that's why the South Pole Dome -- a modestly sized structure spanning 164 feet and topping out at about 52 feet high -- has loomed so large in the lore and legacy of polar history. The final chapter in that story will be completed 35 years after the U.S. Antarctic Program's most iconic research station was officially dedicated in January 1975. The dome, the second research station built at the geographic South Pole, is coming down....  The Antarctic Treaty, an international agreement among nations with scientific interests and operations in Antarctica, requires obsolete structures like the dome to be removed where practicable.
Frontierwatch:
There’s a bunch of photos of the Dome Deconstruction at SouthPoleStation.com. I lived in the Dome for a year, surrounded by mattress-covered roofs and frozen boxes of rump roast. With all the weird little buildings inside and compiled artifacts, the Dome was quite a character compared to the new station with its psychologically-uplifting indoor color scheme and rectangular sterility.

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Meteor strike in Antarctica

Pravda:

The blast, which occurred in the sky above Antarctica about 480,000 years ago, was similar to the Tunguska meteorite disaster of 1908. 

The report presented at the conference for paleontology and the exploration of the moon in Texas unveiled the results of the analysis of spherical microparticles discovered in Antarctica. 

The fine particles were found in the Transantarctic Mountains, in a region called Miller Butte. 

“We've got similar material spread over a very large area. It's difficult to do that with any other mechanism. These events are tricky to spot after they happen. If you go to Tunguska now, you've really got your work cut out trying to find any trace of that event – and that was 1908. What makes [the] work so exciting is that it may give us a way of spotting these events in the geological record. If these spherules are the signature, we know what to look for in future,” Imperial College London expert Dr Phil Bland told the BBC.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Antarctic treaty turns 50

Last year, this video was made to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Antarctic Treaty in "the interests of science and the progress of all mankind."

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Exploring Vostok and Ellsworth, the great lakes of Antarctica


Researchers from the UK, Russia, and the US are drilling deep holes in Antarctica in hopes of exploring lakes that have contained -- up until today -- the purest water on the earth.

The big question is whether the researchers will destroy what they have gone so far to discover: the untouched sanctity of the freshwater. It's a real concern, according the Washington Post:
The issue of contamination is already a heated one. The Lake Vostok drilling initially used kerosene and Freon, and scientists from around the world voiced concern that these chemicals would contaminate the untouched subglacial lake at contact. The Russians said they have since devised techniques to protect against polluting the lake, and they have submitted them to an international body that sets guidelines for Antarctic and glacial drilling. Those new plans will limit what the Russians initially collect from Vostok and will keep them from going deeper into the lake for some years, but their representatives said they embraced them anyway.
The Post article describes three major explorations of these mysterious lakes:
The first group scheduled to break through is the Russian team at Lake Vostok, the largest body of freshwater on the continent and the fourth largest lake, in terms of volume, on the planet. The Russians began drilling their Vostok ice core in 1957 but didn't know there was a massive lake below until 1995. They have drilled down almost three miles and are now within 300 feet of the water, and they hope to break through early next year.

Because of its enormous size and its location at the center of the continent, Vostok is generally considered the jewel in the crown for Antarctic study. Scientists have found microbes living (or, some say, just present) in most sections of the ice core pulled up so far, and they expect more are living in the darkness of the lake water and, most important, in the sediment below the mile-deep lake.

One tantalizing theory says that microbes at the bottom of the lake may be descendants of organisms that lived there 25 million to 30 million years ago, before Antarctica broke off entirely from the other continents and its forested environment turned into an icy one. If true, scientists will have found extreme forms of life cut off from the sun and the planet's surface for eons, which is precisely what they're looking for on frigid planets and moons. “We are expecting surprises,” said Valery Lukin of the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute.
Imagine what might be down there.
The British program focuses on Lake Ellsworth, situated near the wide start of the Antarctic Peninsula. That team will also be drilling through several miles of ice in search of microbial and other life forms in water that hasn't seen light for millions of years.

The U.S. effort, located in West Antarctica, will study a subglacial ecosystem that includes rivers, lakes and the area where the land ends and the ocean beneath the Ross Ice Shelf begins.
Photo credits:  Uni-Bremen/Studinger and ipy.org, monster by Stephane Lahaye.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Rare video of Antarctic krill swimming

Wikipedia:

In the Southern Ocean, one species, the Antarctic krill, Euphausia superba, makes up an estimated biomass of over 500 million tonnes, roughly twice that of humans. Of this, over half is eaten by whales, seals, penguins, squid and fish each year, and is replaced by growth and reproduction. Most krill species display large daily vertical migrations, thus providing food for predators near the surface at night and in deeper waters during the day.
 Because krill oil is said to be a good source of the omega 3 oils DHA and EPA, there is an emerging market for krill oil as a dietary supplement ingredient. Which might or might not be a good thing, as the use of fish for omega 3 supplements has led to overfishing.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Documentary: Werner Herzog's Antarctica

In ENCOUNTERS AT THE END OF THE WORLD, Werner Herzog ("Grizzly Man," "Rescue Dawn") travels to the Antarctic community of McMurdo Station, the hub of the US Antarctic Program and home to eleven hundred people during the austral spring and summer (Oct-Feb).

"Over the course of his journey, Herzog examines human nature and Mother nature, juxtaposing breathtaking locations with the profound, surreal, and sometimes absurd experiences of the marine biologists, physicists, plumbers, and truck drivers who choose to form a society as far away from society as one can get."

Here's the film:

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

How humpback whales hunt Antarctic krill

The whales have an amazing strategy.

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Video of shrimp creature discovered under thick ice

NASA/AP reports:

This video frame grab image provided by NASA, taken in Dec. 2009, shows a Lyssianasid amphipod, which is related to a shrimp, where a NASA team lowered a video camera to get the first long look at the underbelly of an ice sheet and a curious shrimp-like creature came swimming by and then even parked itself on the cable attached to the camera. In a surprising discovery that shakes the idea of where higher life can thrive, scientists for the first time found a shrimp-like creature and a jellyfish frolicking beneath a massive Antarctic ice sheet.

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Dangers of Antarctic travel

Ocean travel -- particularly into largely uncharted Antarctic waters -- is not without risk.  Violent storms and rogue waves can send even the largest ship to the bottom of the ocean.

Moreover, a sudden gust of strong wind can endanger the zodiac passenger, as some tourists recently discovered:

During this excursion, some gravity-driven—“katabatic”—winds arrived. We had never heard of these winds before the trip. They arise when cold air over an ice sheet flows downhill; accelerating in the process, before arriving suddenly with great force at the bottom, in our case, the bay. In minutes, the sea was full of 1-2 meter waves, and strong winds. Our bird guide, Steven, suggested to our Russian boatman that we return to the ship.

We tried.. . . .
This traveler's scary story highlights the importance of packing warmth-retaining apparel -- not to mention carrying a waterproof sack for your camera.  

As for surviving the voyage itself, it's a good idea to research on an expedition company before you sign up.

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Meet C-28, Antarctica's big new iceberg baby

NPR reports;
A massive iceberg struck Antarctica, dislodging another giant block of ice from a glacier, Australian and French scientists said Friday.

The two icebergs are drifting together about 62 to 93 miles (100 to 150 kilometers) off eastern Antarctica following the collision on Feb. 12 or 13, said Australian Antarctic Division glaciologist Neal Young.
Wikipedia:
 The newly formed iceberg has been named Iceberg C-28, because it is the 28th substantial iceberg to have broken off the Antarctic ice shelf, in the quadrant that faces Australia, since 1976. The iceberg is 400 metres (1,300 ft) high, has a surface area of 2,545 square kilometres (983 sq mi) and weighs in at about 860 billion tonnes. According to Australian glaciologist Neal Young, such an event occurs once in 50 to 100 years.
Here's a picture of the aftermath of the collision (NASA) :


 Here's a nice Australian picture of the small iceberg in the bay between the two large icebergs -- visible in the above photo.  Spacefellowship explains, "Measuring roughly 8.5 by 9.5 kilometers (5 by 6 miles), this iceberg is surrounded by smaller chunks of ice, which may have broken off the Mertz Glacier Tongue at the same time as the large iceberg, or after it calved."


The coolest images of the iceberg come to us from the European Space Agency (ESA) website.  Check out this time lapse photo:
 This animation, made up of eight Envisat radar images, shows the 97-km long B-9B iceberg (right) ramming into the Mertz Glacier Tongue in Eastern Antarctica in early February 2010. The collision caused a chunk of the glacier’s tongue to snap off, giving birth to another iceberg nearly as large as B-9B. The new iceberg, named C-28, is roughly 78-km long and 39-km wide, with a surface area of 2500 sq km (the size of Luxembourg).

Envisat’s Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) acquired these images from 10 February to 4 March in Wide Swath Mode, providing spatial resolution of 150 m. ASAR can pierce through clouds and local darkness and is capable of differentiating between different types of ice.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Shonan Maru No. 2 rams Sea Shepherd trimaran Ady Gil

Jotman has a summary of the confrontation and a video taken from the Japanese whaling ship.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The perils of penguin watching

Canada.com reports:

More than 100 penguin-loving tourists, including dozens from Britain, are trapped by ice off Antarctica aboard a Russian icebreaker cruise ship, officials and the tour operator said Monday.

The Kapitan Khlebnikov is in a bay near Snow Hill island, located off the northeastern end of the Antarctic Peninsula, and cannot leave as the bay is sealed off with ice, the Russian transportation ministry said.

"The wind has currently slowed down in the area and the massing of the ice has ended. Everything is calm aboard the icebreaker, nothing is threatening the passengers and crew," the ministry said in a statement.

"When the wind changes to a favourable direction, the icebreaker will head into clear water and on to the port of Ushuaia," at the extreme southern end of Argentina, the ministry predicted.

There were 105 passengers aboard the vessel and the total delay in the ship's scheduled trip could be around two days, it added.

The ship has been at its current location for four days, German Kuzin, an official with the Far Eastern Shipping Company, the ship's owner, said in televised remarks.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Penguin social custom ?

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Monday, July 6, 2009

Antarctica, land of penguins

"Antarctica" is now available for purchase.

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

How safe is it to visit Antarctica?

The Economist reports:

Help is usually not far away. Although cruise ships plan their itinerary so as to keep out of each other’s sight, there are generally 20 to 30 boats heading to or from the Antarctic peninsula on any one day, according to Steve Wellmeier of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators.


Even so, surviving an accident is something of a lottery. It depends partly on the weather. Not all the ships have the covered lifeboats recommended for polar conditions. Small boats, like the Explorer, have a better chance of being able to transfer their passengers if they get into difficulties. But some cruise ships visiting Antarctica now carry almost 3,000 passengers—more than ten times the limit that offers a reasonable chance of timely rescue, according to Chile’s navy.



The navy is chafing at the cost of patrols, rescue operations and cleaning up fuel spills. It wants legally binding rules, backed by penalties, for Antarctic cruise ships. But that is hard to achieve. Under the 1959 Antarctic Treaty no country can exercise sovereignty over any part of the continent and its waters are international. Some rules on tourism have been written under the treaty: cruise ships carrying over 500 passengers cannot make landings, for example. But these are not legally enforceable. Neither will be rules being debated by the United Nations’ International Maritime Organisation on safety requirements.


Some tour operators say they would welcome tighter regulation and higher safety standards. Others insist that safety is already adequate. The world recession may place a temporary brake on the trade. But Chilean officials reckon that the trend to big cruise ships, with their cheaper fares, will resume once recovery comes. If so, a tragedy may be only a matter of time.

It's quite clear that the big ships ought to be kept away.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Marine gas oil safer for Antarctica

Antarctic waters are largely uncharted, stormy, and there are more hazardous icebergs bobbing around than ever. A bad spill is inevitable sooner or later. But if proposed regulations go into effect, the first bad spill won't be as bad as it might otherwise have been.

Telegraph:

. . . . suggested changes to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (Marpol) will come into force in mid-2011.

The new rules will mean that cruise ships sailing in the Antarctic will only be able to carry and use marine gas oil, which could cost large-scale cruise operators several million extra pounds per season. Currently, cruise liners use marine gas oil when sailing south of 60 degrees latitude and heavy fuel oils when north of this point. The proposals would mean that cruise liners would be required to use marine gas oil for the whole voyage.


Steve Wellmeier, executive director of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (Iaato), said: ". . . . 'cruise only' type voyages – with no actual landings ashore in Antarctica – are not likely to be able to offer Antarctic cruises once the amendment comes into force."


Tourism to Antarctica began in the Fifties and soared in popularity during the Nineties. In 1991, 4,698 travellers visited the region, rising to 46,069 during the 2007/08 season....



The move has been welcomed by environmental groups.

Better to put these rules into force before there is a major accident that spoils the Antarctic environment. I don't see why people should always have to wait for a spill before doing the right thing.

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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Penguin goes for a walk

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