The Sedna’s Arctic mission

Five filmmakers travel the North, exploring the terrain and discovering the effects of climate change



Speaking on a cell phone from on board a 51-metre, three-masted sailboat, filmmaker Jean Lemire bubbles with excitement.

The steel-hulled Sedna IV is in port in Cap-aux Meules in the Magdalen Islands waiting to embark on an epic journey stretching from the east coast of Canada through the Northwest Passage to Vancouver.

During the six-month journey, five filmmakers will direct their crews to shoot footage to be used in five separate documentaries about the effects of climate change in the North.

Lemire has been dreaming of this environmental awareness journey for 12 years, and the $5.9-million project is almost ready to launch. They have had to delay their departure by almost two weeks because of heavy ice conditions on the Labrador Coast.

The crew is loading 7.2 tonnes of food and 78,000 litres of fuel to help them travel the 10,000 miles ahead of them, Lemire says.

“Now I just can’t wait to set the sail and say, ‘Goodbye!’” Lemire says, laughing.

The ship was originally a North Sea fishing boat that was bought in 1992 by a German millionaire and refurbished into a sailboat.

In 2001, Lemire and five others acquired the vessel and transformed it again — this time into an expedition boat. What used to haul fish now carries cabins to sleep 20, two editing suites, three high-density cameras and a satellite system so images can be broadcast to a Web site during the journey.

A nine-member crew, along with five filmmakers, will be joined at some points along the trip by other researchers and scientists.

Once the Sedna leaves the Magdalen islands it will sail to the Labrador coast, through the Hudson’s Strait and Isabella Bay near Clyde River before visiting Pond Inlet for two or three weeks. Then it will move on to Resolute Bay and wait for the best window to the Northwest Passage. From there it will move into the Beaufort Sea and come through the Bering Strait to reach Vancouver in November.

But while the trip is extraordinary in the miles covered alone, its goal is to raise awareness of how important the North is in terms of climate change.

Geoff Green, logistics coordinator for the expedition, explains the ship was acquired for use as an educational vessel.

“The overall mission for the Sedna is she’s going to be the platform for education, science and film,” Green says, “a Canadian ambassador for the world’s oceans with this mission of science, education, conservation, kind of like Calypso, the old [Jacques] Cousteau boat.”

The Arctic is like the canary in a coalmine, he says. The effects of climate change are being seen first in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. The filmmakers hope to raise awareness about what’s happening here as a result global warming and climate change.

The five documentaries collected under the project title Arctic Mission will include one-hour segments devoted to the voyage, an explanation of what climate change is, its effects on wildlife, its effect on the region’s Inuit and an analysis of the global politics surrounding climate change.

“It was important for me to make something on the North with people in the North, to be sure we really get Inuit involved,” Lemire says. “Very often what we do is go up North then come back and make the film. I think now it’s important to give a chance to the Inuit to say what they have to say about the climate and global warming.”

Two of the film’s directors will be Iqaluit this week to meet and discuss the effects of climate change on both wildlife and Inuit with hunters, elders and politicians.

“The great thing about it is it’s not just an adventure. There’s a real purpose to this journey and it’s to make a film,” Green says. “Canada needs to look more at its Arctic region and focus more importance on what’s happening up there.”

The five hour-long documentaries, produced by Lemire for Glacialis of Quebec, Eric Michel for Canada’s National Film Board and Stephane Milliere for Gedeon Programmes of France will be broadcast in October 2003 on Tele-Quebec in French, CBC’s The Nature of Things in English and also on European TV.

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