Paul Miller on Tue, 8 Jul 2008 15:40:50 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Soviet Antarctica: Ice, Ice, baby...

Earlier this year, I went to Antarctica to shoot a film about the  
sound of ice. One of the things I noticed first and foremost, is how  
much the different nation states had "scripted" their territorial  
competitions in Europe into claims onto what is essentially a moving  
and ever transforming landscape. For me, Antartica's ice was a perfect  
metaphor for today's contemporary geo-political flux. In the course of  
doing more research for the project, I found some extremely rare  
Soviet footage that will be included in my film. It's footage from the  
Soviet Antarctic Expedition of 1955.

I decided to incorporate the film into my film (I work by sampling,  
after all), and remixed the subtitles to show a "post-modern" ironic  
take on the way the European nation states scripted their research in  
colonial terms - the most outrageous being Nazi Germany's  
"Neuschwabenland" aka "New Swabia" where Third Reich pilots dropped  
Nazi flags as territorial markers over Antarctica to claim the ice in  

Here goes: it's going to be in the style of a silent movie - we have  
weird footage of the first Soviet expedition, and it will be a kind of  
science fiction type intermission in the middle of my film - very  
"propaganda" a la Stanislav Lem's Solaris or Boris and Arkady  
Strugatsky - two of the Soviet Union's top science fiction writers. By  
the way, all of the text below will be translated into old school  
Soviet propaganda fonts for the film.

The trailer for my film is at:

Paul aka Dj Spooky

Terra Nova - A Film By Paul D. Miller aka Dj Spooky
A montage of silent film tray cards reads as follows in the film script:

Scientific Revolution in Antarctica!!!

The Soviet Union Leads the way!!!

In the grand tradition of The People's Quest for Revolutionary  
Struggle, the Supreme Soviet reviews plans for an Antarctic Expedition  
to further progress human understanding of the polar regions of the  

On the eve of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) in 1955, the  
First Soviet (Complex Antarctic Expedition of the USSR Academy of  
Science) started its way to the coasts of the frozen continent.

The Academy of Science and the Ministry of Marine Fleet of the USSR  
addressed the Government with the suggestion to organize the  
Expedition. General administrative duties were placed on the Presidium  
of the USSR Academy of Science: the institution that supervised the  
Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute and was known to have  
accumulated vast experience in the Arctic studies.

The spectacle of science leads to a propaganda war for the moon, the  
stars, and after Sputnik, control of the resources of the last place  
on earth with no government: Antarctica.

The spectacle precedes the expedition.

At the Antarctic Conference in Brussels in 1955, the Soviet delegation  
an nounced about the intention to build the main base in the coastal  
section from 85 E to 105 E and establish research stations at the  
South geomagnetic Pole and at the Pole of relative Inaccessibility.

The magnetic pole is a moving fiction scripted on the blank surface of  
the ice. It moves every year, and becomes a beacon that can never be  
attained. The geomagnetic pole is one more scientific fiction made  
into a tool to create more land claims for the Great Nations.

To bring science to the Antarctic lands, the Presidium of of the USSR  
Academy of Science created a research plan to study the effect of  
electromagetism in the polar regions.

For that time, the Soviet plan seemed to be almost fantastic. The site  
of location of the South geomagnetic Pole and the Pole of relative  
Inaccessibility was a myste rious «white spot» for the explorers. The  
participation of the Soviet Union and the suggested plans immediately  
gave value to the Antarctic research operations.

The nation state is a fiction to be mapped onto the blank space of the  

The main objective of the first expedition was to build the base and  
the basic geophysical observatory at the Antarctic coast. Among the  
other tasks was general geographical study of the areas of supposed  
operations and organization of perma nent observations in the  

Three vessels were assigned for transportation of the expedition – two  
similar diesel-electric ships «Ob» and «Lena» with displacement 12600  
t., cargo capacity 4500 t. and rated power 8200 h.p. each; the third  
vessel «Refrigerator No.7» with displacement 2200 t was intended only  
for delivery of perishable provision to the coastal base.

The port of expedition departure, Kaliningrad received supplies and  
equipment arriving by trains from all the parts of the Soviet Union.  
All the country took part in preparation and fitting out the  
expedition. The cargoes arrived up to the very last moment of the  
vessels’ departure.

On November 30, 1955 the first vessel – flag-ship «Ob» left the port  
of Kalinin grad carrying onboard 127 expedition members, 75 crew  
members and 3782 tons of expedition cargo, including two airplanes  
LI-2, one AN-2 and helicopter MI-4.

The First Complex Antarctic Expedition of the USSR Academy of Science  
was headed by Dr. Mikhail Somov, Doctor in Geography, Hero of the  
Soviet Union, AARI scientist- explorer of Central Arctic.

The aviation detachment of the First CAE was equipped with 4 planes  
and 2 heli copters; the land detachment- with 13 caterpillar tractors  
C-80 and bulldozers, 4 cater pillar cross-country vehicles GAZ-47, 10  
trucks with the bodies specially fit out to carry the expedition radio  
stations, repair shops, portable electric plants, as well as car  
GAZ-69. Besides, the expedition members brought along the sledge and  
50 husky dogs.

On January 5, 1956 the diesel-electric ship «Ob» approached the  
Antarctic coasts and moored at the narrow fast ice strip of the Farr  
Bay. Soviet people touched the Antarctic continent for the first time.

A site for foundation of the first Soviet research station was found.  
The next day unloading operations were started.

Unloading from was going on several days in terrupted with frequent  
storms, fracturing of fast ice and snow roads to the barrier.

Ceremonial inauguration of the first Soviet observatory on the  
Antarctic coast under the name of «Mirny» took place.

Starting from the date of inauguration, regular meteorological  
observations and transmission of weather forecasts have been carried  
out continuously up to now.

Other types of scientific observations – geomorphological, geothermal,  
aerologi cal, geomagnetic were also carried out at the «Mirny»  

Ship-based expedition headed by leaves Mirny in order to fulfil  
oceanographic survey along the eastern coast of the Antarctica up to  
Balleny islands.

A few words about the first (in the history of Soviet research in the  
Antarctica) continental march that left the base Mirny

. The program of the work on the march included meteorological,  
aerological, magnetic, glaciological and geomorphological  
observations, seismic measurements of glacier cover thickness.

The route of the first convoy was laid in the directions where the  
continental bases Vostok and Sovetskaya would be founded in the  
future. The march was fulfilled in extremely severe conditions.

The convoy was able to cover only 10 km in the first day going up all  
the time in deep and loose snow. Heavy sledge with fuel tanks in some  
cases had to be pulled out by two tractors.

During the next year 1957, several sledge-tractor convoys were  
fulfilled using the new ten trucks that were delivered to the  
Antarctica by 2 CAE. The expedition fulfilled, as a rule, seismic  
sounding of ice cover, measurement of height values, magnetic,  
gravimetric, meteorological observations and glaciological studies. By  
the end of the year, the expedition reached the area of geomagnetic  
pole where the Vostok station was founded. The station is working up  
to now, with small intervals.

The Russian people, by organizing expeditions to the Arctic and  
Antarctic areas, contributed the information and data so valuable for  
the science, that no other nation had ever contributed.

All victory to the people's revolutionary struggle for new land, in a  
new world!
The nation state is a fiction to be mapped onto the blank space of the  

The ice is a physical clock, it moves at a geological tempo to a  
rhythm made of human fictions. We write the script, and it in turn,  
writes us. Meteorological, aerological, magnetic, glaciological and  
geomorphological observations, seismic measurements of glacier cover  
thickness - all become tools in the game of land claims.

All victory to the people's revolutionary struggle for new land, in a  
new world!

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