Arctic Passage

Arctic Passage

"Arctic Passage" is the U. S. title of a two-hour TV documentary on the Arctic explorers Sir John Franklin and Roald Amundsen, co-produced by ITN Factual in Britain and NOVA/WGBH in the U.S. ITN Factual handled the production and filming; the film was directed by Louise Osmond, and Harald Gunnar Paalgard was the director of photography. The documentary aired in the UK in March 2005 under the title "Search for the Northwest Passage", and in February 2006 in the U. S. under a two-part title, "Arctic Passage: Prisoners of the Ice/Ice Survivor".


The first hour of the program covers the lost British Arctic expedition of Sir John Franklin, who in May 1845 sailed with two ships, "Erebus" and Terror, with orders to pursue the British Admiralty's long-sought goal of a Northwest Passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The program combines dramatic segments and re-creations of the original expedition with interviews with a variety of historians and scientists. In the dramatic segments, Anthony Gardner plays Sir John Franklin, Bodhan Poraj is Captain Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier, and Thom Fell is Commander James Fitzjames; Franklin's widow Lady Franklin (née Jane Griffin) is portrayed by Maureen Bennett. The historical experts include Francis Spufford, Russell Potter, and Benedict Allen; among the scientists are John Falkingham, Roy Koerner, and Anne Keenleyside. The program re-creates the expedition's route, with on-location scenes of the graves of Franklin's men on Beechey Island, and follows them through Franklin's death in May 1847, and the abandonment of the ships in 1848. Many different kinds of evidence -- climate records in ice cores, signs of cannibalism and lead poisoning in human remains studied by forensic scientists, and oral testimony from the Inuit, are considered.

The second hour re-creates Roald Amundsen's voyage of 1903, in which he finally became the first to sail the entire Passage, thanks in part to the small size of his ship, the Gjøa, and to his crew. Amundsen is played by Norwegian star Kåre Conradi, while Gustav Wilk, Amundsen's right-hand man, is portrayed by Christian Pedersen. The experts who speak on-camera include Tor Bomann-Larsen, Bard Kolltveit, and Benedict Allen; Peter Irniq, then the Commissioner of Nunavut, is also interviewed about Inuit culture and society. A highlight of the Amundsen segment is the re-creation of his winter's stay in a settlement near the harbor he dubbed Gjoa Haven, which is now a Canadian Inuit settlement of the same name. Numerous Gjoa Haven residents appear in the film; many also worked on the set.


"Arctic Passage" was released in Australia on DVD in 2005; in the US it appeared on DVD in May 2006.


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