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Into The Ice - Professor Travis Everett's Review of the DW Documentary: "What Happens in a World without Ice?"





 

Into the Ice differs in its approach and presentation from other documentaries on climate change, rising sea levels, and melting ice sheets.  This film, initially released in 2022, with an English version released by Deutsche Welle in 2024, is much more accessible to those unfamiliar with the science discussed in the film.  The presentation also shows the human side of the researchers, breaking away from the stereotypical image that some viewers might envision when picturing a scientist.  This documentary is worth viewing for the breathtaking photos of the ice's textures, colors, and vastness alone.


The first part centers around the work led by Professor Jason Box and his work collecting temperature, snowfall, and ice data from different positions on the Greenland ice sheet.  Prof. Box is passionate about his work and the challenges of climate change that face the world’s population.  His words and actions are humanizing; viewers can believe this is a man who lives next door, not some stone-cold scientist locked in an ivory tower.  Watching Prof. Box and his partner perform fieldwork is a welcome change from many other films documenting scientists' work as analyzing data on a computer screen.  While still valuable in its own right, having Prof. Box explain what he is doing in real-time is a much more engaging experience for the viewer.



Photo courtesy of the DW Documentary


The middle portion features a shorter segment with Prof. Dorthe Dahl-Jensen.  While not as animated as Prof. Box, Prof. Dahl-Jensen shows off the vast ice core samples collected by her team with great pride.  After removing one from its storage, cameras film the length and breadth of the core as the professor describes how the age and snowfall events can be determined from the markings on the ice.  One of the advantageous illustrative techniques used in the film is employed here, as an animated overlay shows the viewer how snowfall can trap air pockets and produce the color variations seen on the core.


The final half of the film features the most compelling images and landscapes that can be seen.  Professor Alun Hubbard and a partner head out to investigate a “moulin” - a large hole in the ice sheet where water runoff collects.  The sheer size and depth of the moulin itself is an incredible sight to behold, let alone the blues and whites of the icicles and snow on the interior.  Watching Prof. Hubbard and his partner descend into the moulin, even approaching its edge before descent, will produce a “sweaty palms” moment in the viewer.  The quirkiness of Prof. Hubbard is also evident and makes him an easily relatable figure.  The need for the team to return later to investigate the moulin because it was too warm and wet on their first trip was a sobering reminder of how the planet’s warming is not so subtly causing significant scale changes.



Photo courtesy of the DW Documentary


Sadly, the film's end coincides with the unfortunate demise of legendary Swiss glaciologist Prof. Konrad Steffen.  His death, while accidental, is a jarring reminder that the work performed by these scientists needs to weigh “risk and hazard” - a pairing of words that Prof. Fox discusses with his wife while he is at home.  The despondence of Prof. Fox, a protege of Prof. Steffen, and his colleagues at the death of his mentor not only captures the raw emotion of loss but puts into focus the great respect these glaciologists have for each other as professionals and as fellow humans trying their best to understand the potential disasters that lie ahead as a result of climate change.  The rest of the Earth’s population could best support them by taking the work and words they share in this film with the utmost sincerity.


Watch the full documentary here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVXGXokI03Y


Date Published: January 25, 2024


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