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Thursday, May 17, 2007 - 19:30

Man Made Marvels: The World's Highest Railway

Michael Stedman
Film maker

Embassy of Hungary

Michael Stedman, Managing Director of Natural History New Zealand (NHNZ), will show his company's documentary on the making of the Qinghai-Tibet railway.

The 1142 kilometer Qinghai-Tibet railway runs five kilometers above sea level passing through some of the world's most remote and spectacular terrain. The temperature sinks to minus 40 degrees; the permafrost, which is up to half a kilometer deep, is rock hard in the winter and melting in the summer. The challenge was for the railway's engineers to find ways to keep the air and ground temperatures around the track at the same level all year. Ironically, the summer conditions when the ground melts to a spongy mass were the most treacherous.

Huge embankments were built to insulate the permafrost against the varying temperatures. In some areas, high-tech heat-radiating pipes filled with liquid ammonia functioned like a refrigerator, drawing warmth away from the ground and replacing it with cold air. Bridges, tunnels and stations also required a variety of innovative engineering techniques.

Natural History New Zealand has worked extensively in China and was the only company authorized to film the railway's construction. The film was co-produced with the Discovery Channel and won the Jury's Special Award for Science Film at the 2006 Beijing International Science Film Festival.

NHNZ has filmed above and below every ocean and across every continent, including Antarctica, where it has produced more films than any other company. Its programmes are seen in more than 200 countries. Michael Stedman has worked in the film and television industry for over 30 years.