Single on Ice

Experience the tensions and triumphs of filming in the world’s most inhospitable environment in this rare, behind-the-scenes view of the filmmakers’ art.

Produced by NHNZ

Dawn over South America, and kiwi adventurer, producer and cameraman Mike Single takes his watch at the helm of the 70 foot charter yacht Fernande as it passes the infamous Cape Horn. For Single, life doesn’t get much better than this.

But this journey is just the beginning of an adventure. Single and a crew of underwater divers are heading to the icy shores of the Antarctic Peninsula to film the key sequences he needs to finish off his film on icebergs and the creatures which live around these floating ice communities.

Certainly finding the bergs is not a problem, as Single ponders the dilemma of how to best portray these monster ice islands.

As the divers prepare for their first foray into the frigid waters everything must be thoroughly checked ¾ the dry suits, apparatus and specially-designed underwater cameras. Just getting into the suits is a challenge, but once in the water conditions are cloudy and the results are disappointing.

Still, as the days pass, other essential shots are checked off the list: glaciers “calving”, stunning time lapse images of boiling cauldrons of clouds in watercolour landscapes, and icebergs reflected in cobalt bays.

As the polar summer offers yet another crystalline blue day, Single takes to the water in Fernande’s rubber dinghy ¾ a more manoeuvrable way to obtain the shots he needs. Then, choreographing the yacht through a bay packed with grounded icebergs provides stunning images of surreal shapes, as the yacht is dwarfed by mountainous sculptures of ice.

Crab eating seals arrive on cue, and as Single takes to a stable iceberg to film them the divers once more enter the water to obtain close-up shots of these graceful creatures.

That night, empty dry suits hang from the boom in an eerie parody of gallows, as below decks the crew does a debrief on the day’s filming. Single demands a high quality of work, both from himself, and his crew.

With only three and a half weeks to complete the key sequences for his film, every day ¾ and every shot ¾ counts. But Antarctica has another challenge in store; a polar storm confines them to a week on the yacht, and unable to work, the crew’s frustration is compounded by cabin fever.

Finally the weather clears, and Single takes the opportunity to obtain more of the topside shots he needs… but the icy playground is curiously empty. Eventually the arrival of some Gentoo Penguins provides a much-needed boost to morale.

The final day soon arrives, and as they prepare to leave there is a sense of frustration, tinged with relief that they are on their way home.

But Antarctica has one surprise in store. Weeks of frustration disappear in moments as two humpback whales appear to see them off. And as the giant mammals sport around the yacht, the crew’s underwater cameras provide remarkable footage of Antarctica’s final salute.

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