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Documentary film about Henryk Arctowski

Direction and script: Katarzyna Dąbkowska, produkcja: Ewa Żukowska

Idea of the project

In fact, this realm of eternal ice is so different from anything we’ve seen that it seemed like a completely different world.

These words of the young Henry Arctowski are likely to be felt by anyone who reaches this extraordinary place. Antarctica from the first glance leaves its imprint in the imagination and heart. What is the magnetic power of this place that attracts people from all over the world here? The heroes of this film know this best.

Henryk Arctowski photo

My greatest happiness would be to make my life useful to humanity; this is why I would like to contribute through my work to the victory of truth and the spread of progress.

After the Belgica Expedition, Henryk Arctowski lived in Poland, Belgium, the US and pioneered the idea of establishing a network of international research stations in Antarctica and studying climate change issues.

The first documentary film about Henryk Arctowski

Since 2019, we have been working on a documentary film entitled “Arctowski.” This is the first film to tell the story of Henryk Arctowski (1871-1958) and how the Belgian Antarctic Expedition changed not only his life, but also those people who experienced travel to the Antarctic region both in the 19th and 20th centuries and today. And it is a diverse group of scientists, travelers, artists who will talk about the place and their experiences of it.

We were also able to visit this extraordinary place for the first time in early 2022. Thanks to the funding granted to us from the Polish Film Institute and courtesy of the Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics Polish Academy of Sciences, we had a chance to sail from Europe to the Henryk Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station on King George Island (South Shetland Islands) to record footage of the unloading of the ship and the transport of structural elements to the construction site.

About the film

  • We start our film story from 1897, from the beginning of the Belgica Expedition, which took place during the so-called Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration, through the establishment of the Polish Antarctic Station named after Henryk Arctowski in 1977, to the present day, when a new chapter of this story is opening—a new station is being built, along with the renovation of the entire infrastructure.
  • The construction of a modern and completely modernized station is a new opportunity for Polish science. At the same time, the dream of Henryk Arctowski, who fought all his life not only for the development of Polish science, but also for the establishment of a network of international research stations on the White Continent, is coming true. Although his trailblazing ideas at the beginning of the 20th century aroused interest, the situation in the geopolitical arena effectively stopped these ambitious plans for many decades. It was only after Henryk Arctowski’s death that some of his dreams began to take real shape and are being realized today—often without the knowledge of who originated these projects.
  • The film not only shows the story of travel across eras, but is itself a journey through time. It is a multi-stage work requiring the use of archival materials, reaching out to people in different corners of the world and to places, through which we want to tell the story of Henryk Arctowski in many international aspects of his biography. How have Henryk Arctowski’s dreams influenced subsequent generations of scientists? Will we be able to meet with the descendants of the participants of the historic Belgica Expedition to hear how Antarctica changed their lives?
  • The axis of the film narrative will be the accounts of Henryk Arctowski, which we have already managed to reach while working on the book. Henryk Arctowski’s recollections will be supplemented by interviews with Antarctic People: travelers, scientists, artists who will talk about Henryk Arctowski and what Antarctica means to them. How has it affected their lives? Did reaching the end of the world become the beginning of another journey?

Arctowski’s life goal was to establish a Polish research station in the Antarctic. The realization of his idea was possible in 1977, almost 20 years after his death. That year the Polish Antarctic Station named after Henryk Arctowski was established on King George Island (South Shetland Islands).

Now the Polish scientist’s dream is again coming true, as construction of a modern station began in 2021, and its opening in 2026 will be a new chapter in the Polish presence in Antarctica.

New building of Arctowski Polish Antarctic Station

We invite you to cooperate with us

The questions we are asking ourselves while working on the film are just the tip of the iceberg. Individuals and institutions interested in details about the production of the documentary film “Arctowski” and cooperation on the resulting documentary are welcome to contact us!