This is a gallery of excerpts and out-takes from The Blinding Sea. On this page you can view my original videos from the Southern Ocean, Antarctica, the Beaufort Sea, the Yukon, Nunavut, Quebec, Belgium and Norway. More videos will be added from time to time. Stay tuned!
The Blinding Sea explores the relationship between humans and huskies, which has kept me busy shooting scenes in white-out conditions. Here is dog-musher Louis-Philip Pothier with his dog-team during a blizzard on Baffin Island.
In Svartskog, Norway, first cousins Johan Leon Amundsen and Anne-Christine Amundsen Jacobsen try on Inuit snow-goggles, made of caribou bone. The Inuit showed Roald Amundsen how to use these snow-goggles to avoid snow blindness, a condition which struck many polar explorers of the time.
Next to Anne-Christine’s house in Svartskog is Uranienborg, the house where Roald Amundsen lived from 1908 to his death in 1928.
At his mountain cottage in southern Norway, Johan chops wood, using an axe Roald Amundsen once gave to Johan’s grandfather Leon.
Researching and making this film means leaving the books behind and heading out to sea. I sail from Ushuaia in southern Argentina across the Southern Ocean to the Antarctic Peninsula, on the Dutch three-masted bark Europa.
I am fascinated by the sights and sounds of the bark Europa, as we make our way under sail to Antarctica. For me, this is a completely new world.
Roald Amundsen’s first experience of polar exploration was as second officer on the Belgica expedition, commanded by Adrien de Gerlache. Once the long Antarctic night fell, and the icepack of the Bellingshausen Sea began closing in on the three-masted bark Belgica, officers and crew were haunted by a nightmarish vision: they were now in an extremely hostile environment, and might never make it home again.
During the long Antarctic night, expedition commander Adrien de Gerlache often anxiously pictured to himself the Château de Gomery, the seat of his family in Belgium. I visit the château for this film, to interview Adrien’s grandson Baron Bernard de Gerlache.
Wintering in the Beaufort Sea on the Canadian research icebreaker Amundsen gives me a first-hand view of winter conditions in the High Arctic. Initially, I assume the thick sea-ice surrounding the ship is like lake-ice in southern Quebec. Big mistake! Actually, sea-ice is porous, constantly moving under the effect of tides, currents and winds, and subject to being bunched together to create hummocks, and to being torn apart to create patches of open water. So one false step can see me falling into the Beaufort Sea!
The Amundsen is a river-class icebreaker, originally designed for service in the St. Lawrence River and Gulf. The action of breaking the ice throws spray into the air, which actually freezes instantly before falling again. Not surprising, since the air temperature here is -44°C (-47.2°F).
Officers, crew and scientists on the Amundsen take a moment to play soccer on the Northwest Passage. We also play ball hockey on an adjoining rink.
These sun dogs over the Beaufort Sea show what happens when sunlight passes through ice crystals suspended in the air.
In a private home in Gjoa Haven, Nunavut, Kathy Keknek and Janet Aglukkaq give me a demonstration of Inuit throat-singing. A traditional musical art-form cherished by Inuit, throat-singing combines rhythmic chanting and gutteral tones like growling, and each song ends when one of the women singers bursts out laughing. It is a challenge to keep a straight face.
In Gjoa Haven, Paul Ikuallaq and his nephew George Konana show me the art of building an igloo or snow house. This is an art Inuit have practiced for thousands of years, and one they showed to Roald Amundsen, who built an igloo during his South Pole expedition when his tent blew down. At the very end of this video, that’s me crawling out of the igloo!
Paul Ikuallaq is full of joy when singing the hymn Amazing Grace for me, in Inuktitut, in the Anglican church of Gjoa Haven.
George Konana takes me dog-sledding on the ice-pack. The temperature today is -50°C (-58°F) and the wind-chill is -68.3°C (-91°F). My cameras freeze, and so do my fingers. This experience gives me an idea how resilient the Inuit are. It also teaches me to respect huskies.
I film some of the dog-sledding scenes for the film in Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory, with dog-musher Sean Fitzgerald of Haines Junction. Dog-sledding can be hazardous! Watch this video to the very end, to see what I mean!
I come across an eccentric skier in the Yukon, who combines dog-power and skis, although not quite the way Amundsen did!
Should Roald Amundsen be considered solely as a lone hero, a polar explorer of legend? But that would be treating him as an abstraction. Wasn’t he also defined, as a person, by his relationships with other people? While making this film I discover that Amundsen legally adopted a Siberian Chukchi girl named Cakonita, during the Maud expedition of 1918-1920. Cakonita in turn had a daughter, Gloria Corbould, who lives in Mexico. I am amazed to meet up with Gloria on horseback in the Sierra Madre mountains.
Amundsen knew great success, but things did not work out that well with the Maud expedition. After two years in the ice north of Siberia, Amundsen returned to Norway with Cakonita, leaving the scientists and crew on board. The expedition continued, but followed an erratic course in the ice and did not manage to drift across the Arctic Ocean as originally planned. Amundsen went bankrupt, the Maud was seized in Seattle for non-payment of debts, and the polar ship was sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company, which ultimately beached her in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut.
Polar explorers from polar countries like Norway and Canada start out with an advantage. They grow up knowing instinctively about cold weather, and how to equip themselves for expeditions in extreme conditions. Here, the icebreaker Amundsen keeps the St. Lawrence River open for navigation at Quebec City.