Written by Staff Writer at CNN
Ian Frazier was working as an animator in South America when he and three friends decided to travel around southern Argentina. It was around this time that the four of them decided to create a documentary film about the dolphins that inhabited the estuary that is off the Pichanga River. “There was a lot of overlap between our interests in the freshwater dolphin and our interest in civil war. There was a vague idea of film exploration, but nothing specific,” says Frazier.
With a large camera — the studio version of his camera had a field test of 150 frames per second — and a base in the water, the four embarked on their first journey down the Pichanga. “We set out to film the dolphins and the humans that had been swimming through the estuary for more than a century, ignoring the danger they posed to us, our way of life, or both,” explains Frazier.
The four embarked on their first journey down the Pichanga River. Courtesy Ian Frazier
“But then we discovered these giant creatures of towering length, their six-foot-long skulls overlaid by vast, invisible legions of indestructible feet. The guys at the helm of the boat let us stay on board the boat for a while while the crew-members did their important work in finding the best photograph that would reveal all these beings. Here was an opportunity for society to remember and remember again. Something was captured; people would remember. What more could you ask for?”
‘This was an opportunity for society to remember and remember again’
After some adjustment, the filmmakers carried out their initial mission by moving forward in time, and in doing so, pieced together an accurate portrait of the rest of their exploration. By Frazier’s count, they discovered 28 species, including two of those that were only discovered in Argentina, and the largest stagid Beaver dam ever to be recorded.
Frazier picked up another film project in the midst of filming his dolphins, this time in the southern Italian region of Puglia. Before the Chilean dolphins came along, in 1976, the Beaver Dam had probably not been seen until 1976. At this time, two summers before the attack that claimed the lives of 13 men and one woman, for instance, the Beaver Dam was being engineered. According to “ID: The Unknown Divers,” some 12,000 workers were employed by a chain of companies, and their designated tasks were to build the dams that would generate the needed power to give South America a healthy way of life. A huge wave would have to be triggered before the old dam was raised high enough to bring the new one through.
In 1902, 11,620 cubic yards of stone were excavated into a 65-foot-deep depression over a period of 16 months. The biggest part of the dam was built in 1858 by American engineer Ernest D. Calkins. According to the Chilean newspaper “Presidencia”, 200,000 cubic yards had been excavated out of the old Beaver Dam.
Upon completion, about nine million cubic feet of stone were poured into the dam reservoir. The ice coolers were used to pump water from the reservoir to fill this enormous machine.
On November 11, 1968, it failed. Soon after, an outbreak of the deadly Cryptosporidium Burgdorferi bacterium began. It spread, and in October, 6,000 workers were exposed. In only seven days, 27 people died and a further 1,000 were sickened, according to “The Day Without a Demon.” The cause of the bacteria’s spread was eventually determined to be the cooling machines, which were contaminating the water with waste water. The cause of death is unknown.
Calls were made for reassessment of the project. “At a time when the news was dominated by stories of an end to a long era in American democracy, these young men and women were at work building a dam whose purpose was cruel,” noted “ID: The Unknown Divers.”