The Making of “The Blinding Sea”

Roald Amundsen

Roald Amundsen

The Blinding Sea is a high-definition biographical documentary (which I shot using Nikon, Sony and GoPro cameras), about the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen (1872-1928). Altogether there will be four different versions of the film: mid-length and feature-lengths versions in English, and mid-length and feature-length versions in French under the title Éblouis par la mer. The mid-length versions in English and French were completed in April 2016. The feature-length versions are coming in early 2017.

Bow wave: photo by Mike Stewart

Bow wave: photo by Mike Stewart

The polar regions were once considered “the ends of the Earth” – unbelievably remote, unspeakably cold, and almost completely uninhabited. In the popular imagination, the desolate, God-forsaken regions of the Arctic and Antarctic could support only the tiniest communities of aboriginals, and scientists on the verge of starvation. But for Roald Amundsen, they were a place where he could perfect his skills as a navigator and expedition leader, and test his mettle. On most of his expeditions, he was locked in the ice pack, and out of touch with the rest of the world for years on end.

Freda Arqviq

Freda Arqviq: photo by GT

This documentary follows the human story, by finding people intimately involved with Amundsen’s legacy, who have important things to say. Who was Roald Amundsen? How did he learn about polar survival and travel, where so many other European explorers had frozen to death? What contacts did he establish with Canadian Inuit, Alaskan Iñupiat and Siberian Chuckhi, not to mention fellow Norwegians, and why do they still remember him fondly to this day? What does his story tell us about the relationship between humans and husky dogs? What does his story tell us about mutual respect between peoples, and the sharing of traditional and modern knowledge in a multicultural setting?

The Blinding Sea includes interviews with descendants of polar explorers, who share family stories:

Anne-Christine Amundsen Jacobsen is Roald Amundsen’s great-niece:

Anne-Christine Amundsen Jacobsen

Anne-Christine Amundsen Jacobsen: photo by GT

Johan Leon Amundsen is Roald Amundsen’s great-nephew:

Johan Leon Amundsen: photo by GT

Johan Leon Amundsen: photo by GT

Gloria Corbould is Roald Amundsen’s granddaughter by adoption: Amundsen legally adopted Gloria’s mother Cakonita, a young Chukchi girl, as his daughter:

Gloria Corbould

Gloria Corbould: photo by GT

Falcon Scott is Robert Falcon Scott’s grandson:

Falcon Scott: photo by GT

Falcon Scott: photo by GT

Bernard de Gerlache is Adrien de Gerlache’s grandson:

Baron Bernard de Gerlache: photo by Guillaume Falardeau

Bernard de Gerlache: photo by Guillaume Falardeau

The Blinding Sea shows how challenging it was for Amundsen to undertake his polar expeditions. The film also provides context for modern viewers, by comparing conditions a century ago, with those prevailing today. Nowadays, in the early 21st century, we are all aware that the polar regions are undergoing significant pressures, as a result of climate change, environmental pollution, greatly enhanced communications and all-weather transportation.

Comité d'accueil en Antarctique

Welcome committee in Antarctica: photo by GT

Actually, I found making this film a terrific adventure, because Nature at the poles is still stronger than human ingenuity. I shot the film using a handheld HD camera, to provide a fresh and dynamic first-person perspective, in sometimes trying conditions: on the tall ship Europa under sail on the Southern Ocean between Cape Horn and the Antarctic Peninsula, in gales with 10-metre waves; in wind chill of -57°C on the Canadian research icebreaker Amundsen wintering in the Beaufort Sea; on a dogsled at Gjoa Haven in wind chill of -68.3°C (or -91°F). Sometimes the camera simply froze; other times, I was the one to freeze!

George Konana in wind chill of -68.3°C r-91°F

Dog musher George Konana in wind chill of -68.3°C (or -91°F): photo by GT

Polar travellers today are confronted by raging winds, mountainous seas and icebergs lurking at or just below the surface that can cut through a ship’s hull like a knife through warm butter. This is what has made The Blinding Sea such an adventure to produce! In the polar regions, Nature commands our respect. I hope you join the adventure!

Amundsen crossed many glaciers

Amundsen crossed many glaciers: photo by GT