MELISSA BLOCK, host:
This coming Saturday, musicians will be performing on all seven continents for Live Earth. The worldwide concerts are intended to focus attention on climate change. Among the nearly 100 acts - Melissa Etheridge, Shakira, Duran Duran, The Police, and a band that is huge in Antarctica.
(Soundbite of music)
BLOCK: Representing Antarctica for Live Earth is Nunatak. It's a five-person band of scientists with the British Antarctic Survey. By day, they research evolutionary biology and climate change. By night, they are the house band at Rothera Research Station on Adelaide Island, about halfway up the Antarctic Peninsula that stretches toward Chile.
Tristan Thorne is the research station's communications engineer, and he's Nunatak's fiddler.
Mr. TRISTAN THORNE (Communications Engineer, Rothera Research Station; Fiddler, Nunatak): We started off life just as a collection of musical people, really. And it was a bit of a moveable feast who played. But we started off under a different name that came from a disease that was prevalent in Punta Arenas at the time that we all came south. It was a bit of a tongue-in-cheek affair, though.
BLOCK: Punta Arenas is in Chile?
Mr. THORNE: Yeah.
BLOCK: Yeah. And what was the name of the disease?
Mr. THORNE: Well, the rough translation was rot (censored by network) death. So we thought that was very appropriate for a band playing the sort of soft rock covers and country music and indie-folk rock fusion.
Mr. THORNE: It had a bit of a goth feel to it, which we felt was very appropriate for such a beautiful-looking band.
BLOCK: Do you have T-shirts?
Mr. THORNE: No. In fact, we don't have any T-shirts from those heady, early days of the collective. There are T-shirts with Nunatak, the more media-friendly name.
BLOCK: What does Nunatak mean?
Mr. THORNE: Nunatak means the peak of a mountain that's protruding through the overlaying ice sheet of which there's quite a number on the Antarctic Peninsula and, indeed, the continent.
BLOCK: Okay. So does it come about that you're ensemble in Antarctica has come to be part of Live Earth? What happened?
Mr. THORNE: Well, it stems from Al Gore's close association with Professor Rapley, the director of the British Antarctic Survey. And Al Gore, as I'm sure you know, is a linchpin of Live Earth. In the first instance, the idea was to use Rothera as a venue for an actual headlining act on that elusive seventh continent.
But once the Live Earth logistics people were disabused of that idea, because you can't really get an aircraft or a ship in here on the proposed date of the concert, then Chris Rapley and Linda Capper came out forward with the idea that we use the existing Rothera band. Of course, you've got to remember that we -although we've got a very big following within the British Antarctic Survey, and in particular, Rothera Station, we may not have the worldwide renown that some of the other acts have.
BLOCK: You think you might not have quite the same fan base as, you know, Metallica or Genesis, Melissa Etheridge.
Mr. THORNE: Well, I'm led to believe that, yeah, of course, of course. We don't really know here. We could be as big as Metallica or even Linkin Park.
BLOCK: Well, after this, yeah, maybe.
Mr. THORNE: Well, we could even have it now, you know? We don't have that much contact with the outside world.
BLOCK: The other acts, we've mentioned some of them, Genesis, Linkin Park, Metallica, the other acts will be playing at, you know, a giant stadium in New Jersey and Wembley Stadium in London. What's your venue exactly?
Mr. THORNE: Well, on the day, we'll be starting off proceedings round about 3 p.m. local time, which is our - the brightest time of our day. There's a faint glow in the northern sky at that time. And we'll start off with a couple of our most popular numbers outside on our small stage that we have erected at the southern end of the Rothera airstrip. Temperatures on that day will probably be around minus 10 Celsius, which is not too bad if there's no wind. But if there's any sort of a wind, then it'll get very cold. So after our opening two numbers, we'll move indoors to the very popular venue known as the sledge door, which is a kind of barn where the polar guides hang out and service their sledges, tents and other field equipment.
BLOCK: It sounds intimate.
Mr. THORNE: Well, it is intimate. I mean, we're playing to sell out audience of 17 people, which is the entire complement of the Rothera base. So it's as much of a success on Adelaide Island as it possibly can be. But, yeah, you're right. Intimacy is and always has been one of the band's main attractions, in fact.
BLOCK: Tristan Thorne, it's been great talking to you. Have fun with Live Earth.
Mr. THORNE: Yeah, Okay. Thanks very much, Melissa. It's been good to talk to you, too.
BLOCK: That's Tristan Thorne, fiddler for the band, Nunatak. On July 7th, they'll be performing on the seventh continent, Antarctica, as part of Live Earth.
Now, because of the difficulties of broadcasting from Antarctica, that live show on the 7th will be just for those 17 devoted fans Tristan talked about. You will be able to see video of Nunatak recorded earlier on the Microsoft network. And you can see photos of the band on the ice at our Web site, npr.org.
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