Secrets of the Giant Freezer

An ABC3 television crew visited Antarctica last summer as part of the Australian Antarctic Division’s media program. The team filmed footage for their new Australian children’s show Antarctica: Secrets of the Giant Freezer.

When we first spot the blue ice runway we look at each other in anticipation. This is it. We’re minutes away from landing on the most isolated and mysterious continent on the planet. For my cameraman, Josh Zaini, and presenter, Kayne Tremills, it’s their first glimpse of this frozen world. For me it’s been a six year journey to return to Antarctica, having filmed for six weeks with Totally Wild in 2006–07.

The 2007 audience has grown up. It’s time for a new, tougher crowd of 8–12 year olds: one that expects even more from the content we make; one that is immersed in social media and new technologies; and one that has a big voice and wants to feel part of the whole process.

Hopefully Antarctica: Secrets of the Giant Freezer will answer these challenges. It’s essentially a half hour special where Kayne Tremills takes an intrepid journey down south to uncover the most remarkable, jaw-dropping secrets that are ready for the ice-picking.

As well as looking at Antarctica’s amazing wildlife, what it’s like to live and work there, and its rich explorer history, we wanted to unearth some lesser known secrets. For example, did you know you weigh more in Antarctica than you do in Cairns? Did you know Antarctica is home to the largest flea in the world? How about the fact that a Spanish galleon sank off the coast of the icy continent, weighed down with five million dollars in gold—a treasure that has never been found? We hoped to uncover all these secrets, and more, culminating in a world first — something that no Antarctic explorer has ever done before (no spoilers here; you’ll have to watch the show to find out).

Highlights included sleeping out in a home dug ice cave, visiting the half buried Wilkes station, taking photos at the Antarctic Circle sign, working out whether ‘goop’ would freeze if left out overnight (it does), checking out the southern-most veggie patch in the world, filming penguins at Shirley island (I dare anyone not to laugh at these amazingly comic birds), chatting with the scientists, almost being attacked by a skua (seriously, these guys have no fear!), plus jumping into the water looking for buried treasure (arrrrrr me hearties). Not surprisingly, this last challenge wasn’t on the original activities list. Due to unforeseen circumstances we were unable to spend a day filming on a small boat, so we improvised. I don’t think Kayne has quite forgiven me (brrrrrr).

Of course, none of the filming would have been possible without some key players, including Media Program coordinator Patti Lucas, Casey Station Leader Anthony Hull, and all the scientists and expeditioners who were at Casey station that week. I’ll never forget when we asked for volunteers to dress up in penguin onesies and ski down a slope—more than seven turned up! We really appreciated the amazing support from everyone.

On top of filming traditional television, ABC3 also has a huge online presence (over 120 000 Club 3 members in fact). Naturally, we wanted to get these guys involved too. Not only did we put out the question ‘What do you want us to find out about Antarctica?’ we also ran a competition.

In light of the fact it’s 103 years since Mawson’s infamous trek in Antarctica, we wanted to take 103 of our fans with us on our filming trip. Not literally of course! We asked the ‘threeps’ to upload photographs of themselves, with or without their friends or sports team, and then to tell us why they thought they should go with Kayne to Antarctica. We picked 103 faces and then I spent my spare time down on the ice taking photographs of these 103 faces. The 103 faces gallery will go online during the lead up to promoting the broadcast of the program. We’ll also upload a smorgasbord of bloopers, behind the scenes and extra content that we shot down south.

It wasn’t possible to uncover all of Antarctica’s secrets in just one week (looks like I’ll just have to go back down). But hopefully ABC3’s half hour program and online content will inspire and inform the youth of Australia about this super special continent; enough to want to protect it now and for future generations.

Antarctica: Secrets of the Giant Freezer will air in June 2014 on ABC3.

Marie Davies
Series Producer ABC3