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Film, found in Arctic, is a documentary about Antarctic explorers of the 1970s

14 January 2020 20:17

ARKHANGELSK. KAZINFORM Experts of the Russian Arctic National Park restored and made a digital copy of a film dated the 1970s, which had been found on the Heiss Island (Franz Josef Land).

The park’s head of the heritage department, Evgeny Yermolov, told TASS that when the film was found, specialists did not doubt it was a documentary about the USSR’s northernmost polar station named after Krenkel, but as they were making a digital copy, the documentary turned out to be about the Molodezhnaya station in Antarctica.

The Ernst Krenkel geo-physics polar observatory on the Heiss Island was opened in 1957. About 200 people could be accommodated there at a time. After a fire in 2001, the station was closed and resumed work in 2004. Nowadays, the staff there is about 5-6 people, TASS reports.

«The movie film’s roll was found in an abandoned house at the Krenkel observatory on the Heiss Island, and it was clear that was an amateur movie, home video as we call it now: different parts of film - colored and black-and-white, are connected almost with bandage. But the true value is that this is a video from distanced polar stations, which are very few; existing samples are mostly official documentaries, which do not show everything. Of course, we couldn’t doubt the film contained images of the Heiss Island, and how astonished we were to see pictures from the Earth’s other end - Antarctica,» he said.

How comes penguins?

The film was in an extremely poor condition, but the specialists decided they would try to restore it, no matter at what price. On the first frames they could see ice, and something which they believed was a walrus. «Loading it into the camera was out of question - it would’ve fallen into ash,» the expert said.

Restoration specialist Elena Schneider used to tell him in detail about the recovery progress. «She says, the process moves on, we can see polar explorers, they start fireworks, bathe in the snow, we can see aircraft, helicopters, images of the station, the greenhouse, - that is everything which was on the Heiss Island. And here she adds: we can see there penguins. I say: no, there can’t be any penguins, those might be little auks or kairas (Arctic birds of black and white colors, could be taken for penguins - TASS). Therefore I remain waiting patiently for the restoration to be completed.»

Finally, we see those were penguins, and the film is a movie about polar explorers in the Antarctica. «We could see it was the Molodezhnaya station, in some 1970s,» the scientist said. «Thus, it was a specific connection between Arctic and Antarctic, a very close connection. Those, who worked in the Arctic, could well work also in the Antarctic. The author must have brought the film to show the movie to his colleagues on the Heiss Island - about how he had worked in the Antarctic.»

The restored movie’s duration is 39 minutes. «It’s an author’s movie, though without titles, it is a documentary, which has not been published, it is not to be found in archives, and surely there are moments, which you can never see in official documentaries of those days. »

The Molodezhnaya station, which could accommodate 150 people at a time, began working in the Antarctic in 1962. «It is a coastal station, on the ocean coast. Back then, it was a town there, a very powerful and advanced station, it was even dubbed the capital of the Soviet Antarctic,» the expert said. In 1999, work at the station was suspended, and since 2006 it is used only during summer seasons.

Sounding rockets

The part with penguins is followed by a fragment, showing how an M-100 meteorology rocket is launched. Such rockets could go as high as 100km, much higher than weather balloons. A rocket registered temperature, humidity, air pressure and other parameters. The rockets’ first part with equipment chuted down, and explorers had to search for it, hoping it does not fall into the sea. Later models transmitted data while in the air.

In polar areas, specialists paid special attention to launching rockets during the Northern Lights season to collect data on the ionosphere. «The Soviet Union had a few stations: from almost the North Pole on the Heiss Island to the Antarctic. Plus a few inside the country, as well as in India, and on vessels at sea,» the scientist said. «It was most important to launch rockets across the globe. Most probably the movie’s author worked to launch those rockets, as the movie shows a few launches.»

Between October 1957 and December 1990, specialists made more than 1,500 successful launches of M-100 rockets. The polar explorers used the long hangars with huge windows to assemble those rockets as greenhouses. «Look here, can you see growing cucumbers, tomatoes,» he said showing the movie. Colored parts have suffered more than black-and-white passages, but still red tomatoes amid green leaves are seen quite clear.

In the movie, the author shows a few times unloading of the service vessels, for example the Mikhail Somov, which now works in the Arctic. «That very Mikhail Somov, to which we are so used here in the Arctic, is by the ice pier, and here are jumping penguins,» the historian said. The curious birds wandered across the station, following people wherever they go.

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