The walking chairs travel roughly eighty to a hundred feet during their few brief weeks of life. We filmed them during the summer of 1988 in Antarctica.
The walking chairs are not "true" chairs; they are land-dwelling arthropods, habituated to life on the ice by eons of evolution and a knack for self-abnegation. They hatch on the glacier and then they travel slowly and painfully uphill, thousands of them. They are eyeless. Except for their feeding tubes and the joints in their legs, they resemble straight-backed wooden chairs of Shaker manufacture. Their front legs are slightly shorter than the hind legs. This appears to be an adaptation to their habit of travelling only uphill.
Their movements are exceedingly slow and deliberate: The Antarctic climate is not ideal for arthropoda, and their metabolisms are not rapid. They drag their feeding tubes on the ice, ingesting microscopic algae and spores as they go. It's enough to sustain them. Filming them during this period is simplicity itself: The light is constant and good, and the animals themselves are not skittish. They didn't appear to have any awareness of the crew, nor in fact of the rest of their surroundings: When a newly-opened crevasse swallowed several, those behind followed. Roughly a third of the year's hatchlings were lost.
By the time they reach their destination, they're very tired, somewhat gaunt, and ready to call it quits. Eggs are laid and fertilized as the long Antarctic winter closes in. The chairs expire. Their husks desiccate in the cold, dry air, and are removed by the wind. Our equipment was damaged by airborne fragments and we were unable to secure as much footage as we would have liked.
By hatching time in the spring, the movement of the glacier will have carried the eggs downhill to the point where their parents hatched.