Terrors of the deep

Werner Hertzog is never boring. He produced a documentary recently about McMurdo Sound Base in Antarctica, which is more like a small town in Arctic Canada than the edge-of-the world polar base of popular imagination. The roar of tractors and generators obliterates the silence of the sixth continent.

Mcmurdo Sound


He interviewed the chief diver on the station; it was his last day on the base before his retirement and he was speaking in the dive-hut which straddled the ice and from which the divers dropped through the floor to explore the dark of the ocean below. He was in a valedictory mood.

He thought he knew why the earliest sea creatures had struggled onto the land, exchanged their flippers for feet and after an amphibious transition become creatures of the land. He pointed to the hole in the ice and the inky blackness below. ‘That is a very dangerous place’, he said, ‘ you can’t see more than fifty yards – ever – and outside that radius everything is trying to eat you; the quicker you can get out of it the better.’

If you’ve ever done a night dive, you’ll know what he was getting at.

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