By Howard Meyerson
Filmmaker Keith Reimink is the embodiment of wanderlust. Some would say he is a bit unconventional, too.
But the 34-year-old Zeeland native still remembers the day the red onion disappeared.
It was 2008. He was living at the South Pole. The onion had vanished during the dark winter months long after the last plane had departed for the winter season.
Reimink, a production cook, was part of the 43-member crew that stayed behind to keep the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station operating, The facility is managed by the National Science Foundation, and it is cheaper to run it than shut it down, he said.
The red onion had been left to sprout. It’s colorful tendril came to symbolize life in a landscape where darkness prevails for months, and the average temperature is 72 degrees below zero.
“One morning, we came to breakfast, and the onion was gone, Reimink said. “Everyone was pissed for a week that someone took it or threw it away. It was the only color we had and the only thing growing.”
Reimink’s documentary film, “No Horizon Any More: A Year Long Journey at the South Pole,” looks at the people who live and work there year-round, the human dramas that develop and what people do to cope. It provides a glimpse of Antarctica’s barren majesty, the expeditions that come and go, the science conducted there, and the motivations of those who are drawn there to work.
“I was determined to capture them on film and tell their story,” Reimink said. “What brings people to the South Pole? Why do they keep coming back?”
“No Horizon” screens at 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10 and Saturday, Feb. 16 at 3:15 p.m. in Mount Pleasant as part of the Central Michigan International Film Festival. A schedule of films can be found at cmfilmfestival.com
If you can’t get to Mount Pleasant, you can see it elsewhere. Reimink is submitting the film to festivals around the country.
“No Horizon” also could be called “No Heroics.” There are no dramatic survival scenes, though everyone is required to train for them. There are no adrenaline-jagged physical challenges for the sake of sports glory.
“We would ski up and down the runway when we had a day off and the planes weren’t
flying,” said Reimink, who recently moved to Pittsburgh.
“It’s difficult (to go out and play). The landscape is flat, and there are no real hikes. A lot of time, my work prevented outdoor activity where scientists might have to go outdoors to do their work.”
For all that “No Horizon” shows about the others at the pole, Reimink, who got his film degree from New York University, remains largely a shadow figure.
His year at the pole was not his first adventure. Reimink spent three summers after film school cooking at an Alaskan Elderhostel at Denali National Park. That was followed by two summers as a cruise ship cook, then three summers cooking at McMurdo Station on the coast of Antarctica.
In 2007, he decided to stretch his legs on an 1,100-mile trek from Arles, France to Santiago, Spain, along the famous Christian pilgrimage route, El Camino De Santiago.
“When I first went to the pole, I was looking for the next thing to do,” Reimink said. “The first year you go for adventure. The second year you go for money, and the third because you don’t fit in anywhere else.”
Reimink’s younger brother, Troy Reimink, former MLive buzz reporter and now a Detroit Free Press Web editor and collaborator on the “No Horizon” soundtrack, admires his brother’s spirit of adventure.
“He is a pretty seasoned world traveler, and that is something I’ve always respected,”
Troy Reimink said. “He has a spirit of wanderlust that I don’t necessarily have.”
“He’d been doing this so long that the first time he said he was going to the South Pole, I was surprised, but I wasn’t shocked. It would have been a lot more surprising to hear he’d decided to take an office job and look at a screen all day.”
Steve and Jackie Reimink also were surprised. As parents, they worried about their son and his travels. But as parents also sometimes do, they came to learn about their son through his adventures.
“He was not your typical high-school guy going out for sports,” said his father, Steve.
“He was in the drama department in high school and really flourished and went on to Western as a performance art major. Then, his direction turned to filmmaking. I guess you could say he was quite adventurous. I think he did pretty well.”
Keith Reimink said the toughest part of living at the South Pole proved to be “the monotony of day-to-day life” and the challenge of getting along with the few who went out of their way to be difficult. His biggest concern was long winter months with no air support in or out.
“What if something drastic happens?” Reimink recalls thinking. “The medical staff there can stabilize and treat you, but if you face a life-and-death situation, you are stuck there. You have to suck it up and deal with the consequences.”
“My favorite part was being able to do it and come back. It’s something that will always live with me.”
Reimink is working on an idea for a second film. “No Horizon” was his first.
Fewer than 2,000 people have gone to the South Pole, but Keith Reimink can say he lived there for year.
Email Howard Meyerson at email@example.com
This column appears on: MLive Outdoors
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