Media darling

I’ve heard it said more then once that as you go through your scientific career you know more and more about less and less. This is often true, you become focused on smaller and smaller details, trying to better understand a certain process or improve part of a model. These details can be very significant and important but what can be hard is not to loose sight of the bigger picture, the wider implications of the research. It is increasingly important that all scientific research be communicated beyond the particular scientific community from which it comes and there are many ingenious ways people do this. 

Well before I traveled here I was told there was a filming project going on this season and asked if I would be part of it. I have had the odd foray into TV (Swedish interestingly enough!) but given the choice tend to favour more anonymous forms of media. However, I bravely agreed. In fact it is an amazing project, called The Antarctic Experience, the inspiration of White Sparks Pictures. It is a 360 virtual reality documentary and app, creating a lifelike experience of living and working in Antarctica. There were to be four main filming sections, each focusing on a different person, including penguin research, station life, field and safely training and glacier research, of which I was to be the ‘talent’.

Marty trying out the VR camera view

The filming came at a busy time for me, we were just starting to think about the end of the season and retrieving equipment from the ice as the weather was becoming a little less cooperative. As a result, I hadn’t really thought very much about it until the night before I was due to be filmed! Finally I sat down and talked to Briege and Phil, who were filming, to find out what I needed to do and say. The following day I would be interviewed in the helicopter and on the ice at Horseshoe Lake Tower but other than a short brief of their main ideas I could decide what I wanted to say. They told me they would do as many takes as was needed and I shouldn’t worry. Although I did think it was a possibility that the helicopter might run out of fuel before I got it right and so obviously my mind went completely blank and I didn’t sleep a wink!

The following morning there was work to do first, I needed to replace the memory card from the camera at the top of Horseshoe Lake Tower. It was a little bit breezy and cold and took a long time to get into the camera housing. All the time I was thinking about what to say, the numerous ways I could mess it up and generally it was making me feel a bit sick! Before I knew it I was in front of the camera, a 360 camera, fondly named Wilson, and then I didn’t really have time to worry. Phil and Briege were both lovely and didn’t even flinch when I forgot my own name in one take. We did everything multiple times but they insisted it was all good! I do remember looking up at one point and thinking, did I put the same memory card back in there instead of the new one….not of course I wouldn’t do something so stupid!

Quick nap while someone else was the filming focus for a few minutes! Photo curtesy of Briege Whitehead

I do think the only part done in one take was at the end, flying close to the calving front of the glacier I was asked to say something that would start people on the journey back to the station. I think I said something like, ‘I hope you’ve enjoyed your trip to the Sørsdal Glacier now, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride’. I’m still cringing now, although maybe I should be a flight attendant in my next life.

I knew I was right though, just I was finally starting to relax at the end of the day I checked the memory card from the camera and it was empty…I’d put the same one back in. As always you are your own harshest judge and I was so annoyed with myself. It was pointed out that everyone makes mistakes and it was a fairly small one in the grand scheme of the work….by the second glass of wine I was almost ready to agree!


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