Going from France to England during this film tour has involved quite a change in setting.
I note that audiences in France have nothing personal, cultural or ideological invested in the story of Roald Amundsen: I say this on the basis of guest lectures and/or film screenings I have given at the Sorbonne, Université Grenoble-Alpes, Université Paris-Cité, Université de Perpignan, Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale and many other places. In England, I sometimes encounter the disconcerting attitude of people defending Robert Falcon Scott’s legacy at all costs: I have heard many people seek to disqualify Amundsen’s discovery of the South Pole as underhand, unfair, not sporting, not fairplay. Such people often cast Scott as a British martyr to science in a national pantheon of tragic heroes. Some of these views are reflected in interviews I conducted for the film itself.
My film actually takes a different position on the matter, focusing less on heroes, villains, towering egos and patriotic national agendas than on the sharing of tacit and experiential knowledge between Europeans and Aboriginals.
During Amundsen’s two-year apprenticeship with Inuit in Nunavut, they taught him all about physical and psychological health, the countless varieties of snow and ice, how to eat, how to dress, how to shelter himself from extreme weather, how to avoid snow-blindness, how to run dog-teams and occasionally eat the weaker dogs to get a life-sustaining source of fresh meat … whereas Scott lacked access to that knowledge, and it proved his undoing.
I am curious to see how The Blinding Sea will be received in London. Michel Tsamados, Associate Professor in Polar Observation & Modelling at University College London, is hosting an international conference devoted to sea ice, and is streaming the film and welcoming my presentation in person, as part of this event.
Actually, the sea ice project run by Michel Tsamados works very closely with people in Inuit Nunangat (the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, the territory Nunavut, Nunavik in northern Québec, and Nunatsiavut of Newfoundland and Labrador). So the group is very interested in positive interactions between scientific researchers and Aboriginal people, and how modelling satellite imagery can help Inuit travel safely on the ice-covered polar sea.
The feature image at the top of this blog is by the French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, ESA/NASA.