Marking the 121st anniversary since the first Antarctic expedition in human history, an international team of nine scientists embark on a journey to the frozen continent. Their choice of transport: a small sail boat.
This documentary is an intimate account of a small group of ambitious individuals, who are passionate about introducing a more sustainable way of conducting Polar research to the science community. The harsh beauty of the Antarctic landscape is reflected in the rawness of the footage, which will be captured by the scientists themselves - above and below water. Some of the most deeply poetic and profoundly personal texts have been produced by the original explorers during what we today refer to as the “Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration”. While the old diaries speak of the struggle for survival, this documentary rather resembles a first-hand video journal about the fervour that comes with realising ones aspirations, the hope for making a change, the strains of the sea, and the intensifying pressure of no escape.
- “For me, what drives this story is not just the stunning imagery from above and below this pristine place, but most importantly it’s the characters. The nine individuals who are part of this expedition are in it with their heart and soul. To go against common practice of how Antarctic expeditions are conventionally organised, against the wider science community’s trust in the mission’s success, and to go back for more after a failed first attempt, that takes real bravery and determination. To me this proves true passion and curiosity to find out more about our planet, and work towards its preservation.” - Lilian Hess
Lilian Hess is an award winning producer, director and editor based in the UK. Currently she works on two independent documentary projects, and oversees the production of VR/experimental technology experiences for the London based tech venture Satore. Previously, she produced for the BBC and Channel 4, and her graduate documentary “Revising Anneliese”, which she directed during her MA Screen Documentary at Goldsmiths University in London, won her an award for Best Edit at the BAFTA-listed Underwire Film Festival in 2017.
- "We are imprisoned in an endless sea of ice... We have told all the tales, real and imaginative, to which we are equal. Time weighs heavily upon us as the darkness slowly advances." - Frederick Albert Cook, Journal entry, 1898
With a multinational crew, which included the famous explorer Roald Amundsen, the original Belgica set sail from Antwerp on 16th August 1897 under the command of Adrien de Gerlache. This expedition was the first scientific expedition to reach Antarctica, and the first to overwinter in its extreme conditions.
Several months of hardship were endured, the crew was poorly equipped and did not have enough winter clothing for every man on board. Attempts to free the ship and its crew from the clutches of the ice failed over and over again, until finally in February 1899, they were freed.
In the framework of the RECTO project (Refugia and Ecosystem Tolerance in the Southern Ocean), and funded by the Belgian Science Policy Office, the researcher Bruno Danis from the Université Libre de Bruxelles is going to be leading his team on the tracks of their predecessors to carry out a thorough biodiversity census in the Antarctic Peninsula, a region experiencing one of the fastest‐paced environmental changes on the planet.
The Belgica 121 expedition has chosen to use a sailboat as its research platform, in order to limit its environmental impact and to reach areas which large ice‐breakers cannot access. In February 2019 the expedition will set sail from Ushuaia, Argentina, and head South and cross the Drake Passage to the Gerlache Strait (West Antarctic Peninsula), where the team will stay for six weeks.
The main objective of the expedition is to explore and catalogue marine biodiversity in a region which is both challenged by fast environmental changes and for which major knowledge gaps persist. The team will focus on the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the fastest warming regions of the world. Climate change, invasive species, and increasing pollution levels pose extreme challenges to the Antarctic organisms that are adapted to very specific ecological niches. This expedition aims to create an ecological census baseline in order to better understand this under-sampled ecosystem.
Please visit the B121 website for more detailed information on each of the nine scientist’s background and individual field of research.
Risks and challenges
We're good to go!
The date for the expedition is set and will not be delayed or moved, as we have to avoid the Antarctic winter (not keen on getting frozen in like they did 121 years ago...).
We've had our fair share of difficulties to overcome during our first attempt in February 2018, as you've seen in our prequel to the documentary. It was a bitter pill to swallow at the time, but it meant that we are now more than prepared for 2019 with no concerns clouding our view apart from Leopard Seals and a stormy Drake passage.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (31 days)