Radiation by Fiona Rae


Spencer Stoner: going with the flow of slow TV

The beauty of slow TV, says Spencer Stoner, is that it’s different things to different people – a travelogue, an immersive experience, an awesome screensaver. After the success of last year’s Go South, Stoner has spent a month at sea filming Go Further South, a 12-hour journey from Bluff to Antarctica.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Go Further South is perfect for self-isolation.

It’s kind-of an unhappy accident. I’ve been in the final stage of editing and every day I feel like I’m sailing through the Ross Sea in Antarctica and it’s cool to think that people will find an opportunity to relax and feel that they’re able to step outside a bit and travel with this programme.

Do you know how long viewers watched the first journey, Go South?

It’s a bit hard to even provide those kinds of stats, because the nature of how you watch slow TV is so different from the way that you watch normal TV – it’s not like bingeing 12 hours on Netflix. It’s really something that has this place in your house for a while and you might be going about your daily routine, making a cup of tea or reading a book, and you check in and out. It’s the sort of thing where when you start paying attention to it, you notice all these elements. I’ve watched it probably 100 times now and I’m constantly finding new things – a penguin that falls off an iceberg and takes an awkward hit into the water that I’ve never noticed before. It does reward that kind of close watching, but at the same time you can watch it for the relaxing flow of it all.

Can you tell us about where you go?

The journey starts at Bluff and we sail down the Southern Ocean through several of the subantarctic islands. We stop at the Snares, which are full of all these incredible sea birds, then we go down to the Auckland Islands, which have this fabulous history of attempted settlement and shipwrecks, and down to the Campbell Islands, where there are just the most insane amount of albatrosses you’ve ever seen. One of the differences from the first series is that we go ashore and move through the island and investigate the history and wildlife of these places before getting back on the boat.

Then down to the Ross Sea?

Yeah, open water, icebergs, sea ice and then we arrive in the Ross Sea at Cape Adare, that’s roughly half-way, so the second half of the programme is continuing to sail south along the coast of the Ross Sea and we stop off at really important wildlife colonies, historic sites, modern research bases. There’s quite a bit of activity that goes on in the Ross Sea and you see the interplay of the natural world and modern human activity side-by-side.

What was the most extraordinary thing you saw?

One really surreal moment was cruising along the Ross ice shelf and a pod of about four dozen orca came up right in front of the boat, riding the pressure wave as if they were dolphins. Another moment was when we arrived in Cape Adare and it was the middle of the night, but it was summer, so you’ve got this beautiful pastel pink light and everywhere you look you’re surrounded by Adele penguins and they’re running around chasing each other, dolphining through the water and riding icebergs and it’s a bit like showing up in Times Square, but you’ve got these crazy mountains and this pink light. It’s the closest I’ve ever felt to landing on an alien planet.

Are there any people?

Yeah, occasionally you’ll see the other passengers on the boat and we go by several of the research stations. We randomly saw two researchers with Niwa who were down on Ross Island, we spotted them at a distance wearing these bright orange jackets and we have them on camera trying to lasso penguins. There’s icebreakers and helicopters and we saw people doing construction work – you imagine it’s going to be this pristine, white landscape, but there’s a lot of variety to it.

It sounds more action-packed than the last one.

It is more action-packed, because of the wildlife and I think it’s really easy to forget how little wildlife there is in our day-to-day lives. When you go to some of these places not even that far south of New Zealand, there’s so many birds around the boat it’s like you’re surrounded by living clouds. That was a huge takeaway, you realise what our impact has been. At the same time, it’s uplifting to realise that there are still places where that still happens.

Go Further South is now available on Sky Go (free registration required to view). There's also a three-hour highlights reel for those of you with busy lives.

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