"Voices From the Ice"

I have learned that "Voices From the Ice" is no longer playing in the Begich-Boggs Visitor Center at Portage Glacier in Alaska.  It played here for twenty-seven years.  

I have no idea how many people have viewed that film. It played every hour in the Visitor’s Center for it’s 27 years there. For a time Portage Glacier was the most visited destination in Alaska, because of it’s proximity to Anchorage. Tours with limited time could easily take visitors there. But the number of viewers has been in the thousands.



I finished producing and editing that film in 1986.  Bill Bacon and I had spent the summer of 1985 doing the photography in locations along the southern coast of Alaska, filming glaciers and indigenous  wildlife.  Glaciers was the primary theme, but wildlife was an important facet of the film as well.  

We had equipped ourselves to film in what was then known as the Panavision format...a 35mm wide screen medium for theatrical  exhibition.  It was my first 35mm film, but in many ways not so different from filming in 16mm.  Just heavier.

However, editing was somewhat different. I was using what was called a 'flatbed' editing machine...a desk-like piece of equipment that could play the film and two sound tracks simultaneously in sync.  

The final edit of this new film resulted in one picture roll of the entire 20 minutes, and 13 sound rolls, each as long as the picture.  Since this was 35mm, both picture and magnetic tracks, all of them together weighed in at about 120 lbs.

I had booked mixing time at Lucas Films in Marin County at that time.  Hand carrying those tracks and picture on the plane was a chore.  I remember that all the tracks together weighed 120 lbs when I checked at the airport.  The sound mix took three days, with Randy Thom doing the mixing, who had won Academy awards for his audio work on both "Apocalypse Now", and "The Color Purple".  He was fun to work with, and complimentary of my own audio work.  

In any case that film played for 27 seasons in the theater which had been specially built to display it.  Behind the screen was a huge window from which Portage Glacier could be seen.  The last scene in the film was a shot of Portage Glacier I had filmed from the top of the theater while it was still under construction.  As the film would end, the screen would rise, the curtains slide open and reveal for real what viewers had just seen on screen.  (As a consequence of this, the credit roll was never seen.)

That ending flourish worked for a few years, but the Glacier has now receded completely out of sight from the Visitor's Center, and a new film has replaced "Voices From the Ice" for the first time in many a season.   I had never expected it to play for so long anyway.