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Kiwi scientists shine in Continent 7: Antarctica

Wednesday 9 Nov 2016 5:00 a.m.

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An evocative documentary series commissioned by National Geographic is set to broadcast the work of New Zealanders in Antarctica to 440 million people in 171 countries.

The six-part show, Continent 7: Antarctica, which had its world premiere in Christchurch on Tuesday night, depicts the extreme hardships scientists and support workers endure on the ice.

Based in New Zealand's research facility on Antarctica, Scott Base, it is a visual feast, showing off the raw beauty of the frozen continent and its hardy inhabitants.

The filmmakers follow scientific endeavours, including a traverse of the Ross Ice Shelf, with its notoriously crevassed shear zone, and work on the volcanic Mt Erebus, cleverly explaining the complicated science with massive full-screen graphics.

The Kiwis shine in the first two episodes, which premiered to applause at Christchurch's Flying South Cinema on Tuesday. The viewers, largely Antarcticans who either starred in the show or personally knew its main characters, gave their own glowing reviews of the work, despite a few quiet complaints about its audacious style.

There was the occasional clash between that big, bold style, which involved dramatic backing music and constant references to danger, and the quietly confident approach of the New Zealanders on centre stage, but it wasn't enough to detract from the compelling storytelling and marvel of the series.

Speaking from New York, the show's executive producer, Yoshi Stone, told Newshub it was the first time a documentary series has ever been filmed on Antarctica. It was his first visit to the frozen continent.

"As soon as you step off that flight, the first breath you take feels like it freezes you from the inside out. The air is clean and cold and you are immediately struck by the vast nothingness that is unlike anything I have ever experienced before," he said.

"It's certainly the landscape itself; the frozen continent is a character. In the best and worst sense of the term, she is beautiful and otherworldly, and she is dangerous and can get angry, and I think you will see all of that in the series."

The series, which was supported by Antarctica New Zealand, will be broadcast globally on National Geographic Channel from November 15 with a potential audience of 440 million people in 171 countries and 45 languages. Screenings of the first two episodes will also be held at AUT University, Waikato University, Victoria University, Canterbury University and Otago Museum in the coming week. 

A second series is already in production, with filming underway at Scott Base again this summer.

Newshub.

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