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Series: Frozen Planet

 

Frozen Planet: On Thin Ice

   2011    Science
Sir David Attenborough journeys to both Polar Regions to investigate what rising temperatures will mean for the people and wildlife that live there and for the rest of the planet. David starts out at the North Pole, standing on sea ice several metres thick, but which scientists predict could be Open Ocean within the next few decades. The Arctic has been warming at twice the global average, so David heads out with a Norwegian team to see what this means for polar bears. He comes face-to-face with a tranquilised female, and discovers that mothers and cubs are going hungry as the sea ice on which they hunt disappears. In Canada, Inuit hunters have seen with their own eyes what scientists have seen from space; the Arctic Ocean has lost 30% of its summer ice cover over the last 30 years. For some, the melting sea ice will allow access to trillions of dollars worth of oil, gas and minerals. For the rest of us, it means the planet will get warmer, as sea ice is important to reflect back the sun's energy. Next David travels to see what's happening to the ice on land: in Greenland, we follow intrepid ice scientists as they study giant waterfalls of meltwater, which are accelerating iceberg calving events, and ultimately leading to a rise in global sea level. Temperatures have also risen in the Antarctic - David returns to glaciers photographed by the Shackleton expedition and reveals a dramatic retreat over the past century. It's not just the ice that is changing - ice-loving adelie penguins are disappearing, and more temperate gentoo penguins are moving in. Finally, we see the first ever images of the largest recent natural event on our planet - the break up of the Wilkins Ice Shelf, an ice sheet the size of Jamaica, which shattered into hundreds of icebergs in 2009.

Frozen Planet: Autumn

   2011    Nature
For the animals in the polar regions, autumn means dramatic battles and epic journeys. Time is running out - the Arctic Ocean is freezing over and the sea ice is advancing at 2.5 miles per day around Antarctica. Polar bears gather in large numbers on the Arctic coast as they wait for the return of the ice. Soon, tempers fray and violent sparring contests break out. Meanwhile 2,000 beluga whales head for one special estuary, a gigantic 'whale spa' where they will thrash their snow-white bodies against the gravel and exfoliate. Inland, the tundra undergoes a dramatic transformation from green to fiery red. Here, musk ox males slam head-first into each other with the force of a 30mph car crash as they struggle to defend their harems. Frisky young caribou males play a game of 'grandma's footsteps' as they try to steal the boss's female. Down in Antarctica, Adelie penguin chicks huddle together in creches. When a parent returns from fishing, it leads its twins on a comical steeplechase - sadly there's only enough for one, so the winner gets the meal. Two months later and the chicks are fully feathered apart from downy Mohican hairdos - they're ready to take their first swim - reluctantly though, as it seems penguins are not born with a love of water! And with good reason - a leopard seal explodes from the sea and pulls one from an ice floe, a hunting manoeuvre that has never been filmed before. As winter approaches and everyone has left, the giant emperor penguin arrives and makes an epic trek inland to breed. The mothers soon return to the sea leaving the fathers to hold the eggs and endure the coldest winter on earth.

Frozen Planet: Spring

   2011    Nature
Spring arrives in the polar regions, and the sun appears after an absence of five months; warmth and life return to these magical ice worlds - the greatest seasonal transformation on our planet is underway. Male Adelie penguins arrive in Antarctica to build their nests - it takes a good property to attract the best mates and the males will stop at nothing to better their rivals! But these early birds face the fiercest storms on the planet. In the Arctic, a polar bear mother is hunting with her cubs. Inland, the frozen rivers start to break up and billions of tons of ice are swept downstream in the greatest of polar spectacles. This melt-water fertilizes the Arctic Ocean, feeding vast shoals of Arctic cod and narwhal. The influx of freshwater accelerates the breakup of the sea-ice - an area of ice the size of Australia will soon vanish from the Arctic. On land, a woolly bear caterpillar emerges from the snow having spent the winter frozen solid. Caterpillars normally become moths within months of hatching, but life is so harsh here that the woolly bear takes 14 years to reach adulthood. Once mature it has only days to find a mate before it dies! Alongside the caterpillars white Arctic wolves race to raise their adorable cubs before the cold returns.

Frozen Planet: Winter

   2011    Nature
There is no greater test for life than winter, as temperatures plummet to 70 below and winds reach 200kph. Darkness and ice extend across the polar regions and only a few remarkable survivors gamble on remaining. We join a female polar bear trekking into the Arctic mountains to give birth as the first blizzards arrive. Out on the frozen ocean, the entire world's population of spectacled eider ducks brave the winter in a giant ice hole kept open by ferocious currents. Arctic forests transform into a wonderland of frost and snow - the scene of a desperate and bloody battle between wolf and bison, but also where a remarkable alliance between raven and wolverine is made. Beneath the snow lies a magical world of winter survivors. Here tiny voles dodge the clutches of the great grey owl, but cannot escape the ultimate under-show predator - the least weasel. Midwinter and a male polar bear wanders alone across the dark, empty icescape. Below the snow, polar bear cubs begin life in an icy den while fantastical auroras light the night skies above. In Antarctica, we join male emperor penguins in their darkest hour, battling to protect precious eggs from fierce polar storms. Weddell seals escape to a hidden world of jewel-coloured corals and alien-looking creatures but frozen devastation follows as sinister ice stalactites reach down with deadly effect.

Frozen Planet: To the Ends of the Earth

   2011    Nature
Our journey begins with David Attenborough at the North Pole, as the sun returns after six months of darkness. We follow a pair of courting polar bears, which reveal a surprisingly tender side. Next stop is the giant Greenland ice cap, where waterfalls plunge into the heart of the ice and a colossal iceberg carves into the sea. Humpback whales join the largest gathering of seabirds on earth to feast in rich Alaskan waters. Further south, the tree line marks the start of the Taiga forest, containing one third of all trees on earth. Here, 25 of the world's largest wolves take on formidable bison prey. At the other end of our planet, the Antarctic begins in the Southern Ocean where surfing penguins struggle to escape a hungry sea-lion and teams of orcas create giant waves to wash seals from ice floes -a filming first. Diving below the ice, we discover prehistoric giants, including terrifying sea spiders and woodlice the size of dinner plates. Above ground, crystal caverns ring the summit of Erebus, the most southerly volcano on earth. From here we retrace the routes of early explorers across the formidable Antarctic ice-cap - the largest expanse of ice on our planet. Finally, we rejoin David at the South Pole, exactly one hundred years after Amundsen then Scott were the first humans to stand there
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