Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Med Maud over Polhavet / [On the Maud over the Arctic Ocean] (2013 digital restoration by Nasjonalbiblioteket, 2K DCP)

Med Maud over Polhavet / [On the Maud over the Arctic Ocean]. NO 1926. PC: Bio-Film. D, pilot, cinematographer, photographer: Odd Dal. Featuring Harald Ulrik Sverdrup, Oscar Wisting, Gennadi Olonkin, Kakot. 80 min. Based on a dupe negative struck in 1966 from nitrate sources. 2013 digital restoration by Nasjonalbiblioteket, 2K DCP with Norwegian intertitles and English subtitles.  Recorded music score by Stephen Horne (August 2013, piano and other instruments). Viewed at Nasjonalbiblioteket, Oslo (Nordic Meeting of film archives), 6 Nov 2013

English Wikipedia on the Northeast Passage: "In 1918, Amundsen began an expedition with a new ship Maud, which was to last until 1925. Maud sailed West to East through the Northeast Passage, now called the Northern Route (1918–1920)."

"With him on this expedition were Oscar Wisting and Helmer Hanssen, both of whom had been part of the team to reach the South Pole. In addition, Henrik Lindstrøm was included as a cook. He suffered a stroke and was so physically reduced that he could not participate."

"The goal of the expedition was to explore the unknown areas of the Arctic Ocean, strongly inspired by Fridtjof Nansen's earlier expedition with Fram. The plan was to sail along the coast of Siberia and go into the ice farther to the north and east than Nansen had. In contrast to Amundsen's earlier expeditions, this was expected to yield more material from academic research, and he carried the geophysicist Harald Sverdrup on board."

"The voyage was to the northeasterly direction over the Kara Sea. Amundsen planned to freeze the Maud into the polar ice cap and drift towards the North Pole (as Nansen had done with the Fram), and he did so off Cape Chelyuskin. But, the ice became so thick that the ship was unable to break free, although it was designed for such a journey in heavy ice. In September 1919, the crew got the ship loose from the ice, but it froze again after eleven days somewhere between the New Siberian Islands and Wrangel Island."

"During this time, Amundsen participated little in the work outdoors, such as sleigh rides and hunting, because he had suffered numerous injuries. He had a broken arm and had been attacked by polar bears. Hanssen and Wisting, along with two other men, embarked on an expedition by dog sled to Nome, Alaska, despite its being over one thousand kilometres away. But they found that the ice was not frozen solid in the Bering Strait, and it could not be crossed. They sent a telegram from Anadyr to signal their location."

"After two winters frozen in the ice without having achieved the goal of drifting over the North Pole, Amundsen decided to go to Nome to repair the ship and buy provisions. Several of the crew ashore there, including Hanssen, who had not returned to the ship. Amundsen considered him to be in breach of contract, and as such, dismissed him from the crew."

"During the third winter, Maud was frozen in the western Bering Strait. She finally became free and the expedition sailed south, reaching Seattle for repairs in 1921. Amundsen returned to Norway, needing to put his finances in order. He took with him two indigenous girls, the adopted four-year-old Kakonita and her companion Camilla. When Amundsen went bankrupt two years later, however, he sent the girls to be cared for by Camilla's father, who lived in eastern Russia."

"In June 1922 Amundsen returned to Maud, which had been sailed to Nome. He decided to shift from the planned naval expedition to aerial ones, and arranged to charter a plane. He divided the expedition team in two: one part was to survive the winter and prepare for an attempt to fly over the pole. This part was led by Amundsen. The second team on Maud, under the command of Wisting, was to resume the original plan to drift over the North Pole in the ice. The ship drifted in the ice for three years east of the New Siberian Islands, before it was finally seized by Amundsen's creditors as collateral for his mounting debt."

"The attempt to fly over the Pole failed, too. Amundsen and Oskar Omdal, of the Royal Norwegian Navy, tried to fly from Wainwright, Alaska, to Spitsbergen (now Svaldrup) across the North Pole. When their aircraft was damaged, they abandoned the journey. To raise additional funds, Amundsen travelled around the United States in 1924 on a lecture tour. Although he was unable to reach the North Pole, the scientific results of the expedition, mainly the work of Sverdrup, have proven to be of considerable value. Many of these carefully collected scientific data were first lost during the ill-fated journey of Peter Tessem and Paul Knutsen, two crew members sent on a mission by Amundsen. The scientific materials were later retrieved by Russian scientist Nikolay Urvantsev from where they had been abandoned on the shores of the Kara Sea."

Two films were made of the eight-year (1918-1925) expedition: Med Roald Amundsens Nordpolsekspedition (covering the years 1918-1923) and Med Maud over Polhavet (covering the years until 1925).

A work of distinction in the history of expedition films. Roald Amundsen with his several impressive films is evidently a central figure in this tradition.

Most importantly, Med Maud over Polhavet is a sober record of the hard work of exploring the Arctic Ocean. As we know, with global warming this part of the globe has become a center of increasing attention during recent years.

The documentary value is great due to the matter-of-fact approach of the movie.

There are also moments of drama and thrills such as hunting walruses and icebears. There is an interesting episode about the polar biplane Kristine. After three test flights it crashes fatally. The most dramatic episode is about the pack ice which almost crushes the ship. Then a crack in the ice opens, saving all. Thrilling is also the footage about transportation of men and dogs on ropes over crevasses.

Memorable: the junkyard of the ship Maud after years in the Arctic Ocean. Also memorable: the footage of the reconnaissance on canoes.

The first people the men of the Maud meet are the natives at Kolyma. They also visit the Kolyma area and meet American merchants there. I believe this was before Kolyma became the most dread location of the Gulag system, unforgettably described by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I believe the Gulag system expanded there around 1932.

The Maud expedition brought to an end the entire traditional era of polar expeditions. After that the expeditions were conducted by air. The movie ends with shots of a Zeppelin and the Norwegian flag.

"No one can understand the meaning of the open sea like the men of the Maud did after leaving the polar ice area".

No comments: