A short film by wildlife cameraman Rolf Steinmann.
The film takes us straight into a swirling, wind-whipped landscape, white with snow. Mountains rise formidably in the background and no trace of life is apparent in this inhospitable, frozen environment. That is, until out of the icy, windswept terrain, a shadowy form slowly comes into focus. First it looks like a jumble of snow-encrusted boulders, unmoving and barely visible in the icy gale.
As the form becomes visible out of the whitewash curtain of a blizzard, we see curved horns pointing skyward and the huge frosted muzzle of a musk oxen. Seemingly unperturbed by the hostile conditions that buffet their enormous bodies, a herd stands stoic and still against the ceaselessly roiling elements that pummel against them.
“The ice age has been dying for the last eleven-thousand years..”
The planet is emerging out of a long-standing ice age, and it just so happens that our place on this grand planetary time scale–within which humanity’s existence only makes up a tiny fingernail of a fraction–is what the narrator describes as the “In Between”.
Having existed on the seemingly inhospitable Arctic tundra for thousands of years, musk oxen are exceedingly well-adapted to their environment thanks to their sheer massive girth and a multi-layered coat of shaggy hair that protects an insulating undercoat of finer, more dense hair. Their powerful hooves break the snow’s crust so the animals can survive on the underlying growth through the winter.
But these animals are living in a vanishing world, one that is, as the narrator states, “dying by degrees,” and it is humans that are hastening that death.
In an interview with Lost at E Minor, cameraman Rolf Steinmann explains what a thawing landscape can mean to these ancient beasts.
“I really learnt that the coldest part of the winter is not the problem for musk oxen. Problems seem to be hot summers (they start to overheat easily), parasites and diseases (which can spread way easier if wildlife has already been weakened) or rain in the winter that can lead to frozen ground, which makes feeding impossible.”
As powerful as these imposing creatures are, they can do nothing in the face of a rapidly changing climate except stand stolid as the enduring age of ice releases its ever weakening grip on this planet.
The film has an artistic melancholy about it and, despite fading in and out of a snowy whitewash, the message is made crystal clear: “Nowhere else in the world are temperatures rising faster than in the Arctic.” As warming temperatures creep ever northward, musk oxen, who exist at the top of our world, have nowhere to run. All they can do is wait, as they are caught, pinned, in the In Between.
To view the short film, visit here.
Tags: Arctic, climate change, conservation, Filmmaking, ice age, musk oxen, snow, wildlife