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April 19, 2015

Antarctic Edge: 70° South

Antarctic_edge“Let’s go make some sweet, sweet science.” When a cheerful crewmember on Oscar Schofield’s research expedition ship utters those peppy words in the face of enormous physical challenges — the Antarctic Ocean is a treacherous and unforgiving environment — it comes with a sense of the determination and humor necessary to tackle the monumental task put before a group of 22 biological oceanographers during their annual expedition to the Western Antarctic. Over the course of the month of May (2014) these scientists collect hundreds of thousands of samples toward unpacking information about why the planet is changing as rapidly as it is.

Dena Seidel’s straight-ahead documentary captures the majestic beauty of the West Antarctic peninsula where the ice-sheet melt has been deemed “unstoppable.” The Antarctic is considered ground zero for climate change because it is the fastest winter-warming place on Earth, where the temperature has increased 11 degrees over the last 50 years.

With a pragmatic use of graphics, time-lapsed photography, and vérité storytelling techniques the filmmaker follows scientists, like seabird ecologist Donna Fraser, to Humble Island (at 64° South) where they study the effects of warming conditions on the steadily decreasing population of Adelie penguins. Adult Adelie penguins pant as they attempt to shade their babies from the Sun’s glaring heat. The Earth is out of balance.

We get not only a sense of the enormous threat to humanity posed by global warming, but an in-depth understanding of the myriad ways scientists are working to understand the problem in hope of developing solutions. The film can’t help but include the quirky behaviors and personalities of the heroic scientists putting their lives on the line for the sake of humanity. These are the kind of people you want to go drinking with. They’ve got stories for days.

Not Rated. 72 mins. (B) (Three Stars - out of five/no halves)

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