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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.
Series: Frozen Planet

The Big Freeze

   1993    Nature
As almost all animal inhabitants of Antarctica are forced to migrate north, the sea underneath the frozen ice still provides a home to many specially adapted fish whose cells are protected from freezing through an 'antifreeze' liquid. Many of them feed on the faeces of other animals. The most notable larger animal that does not migrate north is perhaps the Weddell Seal, which can be found as close as 1300 kilometres to the pole. Groups of seals tear holes into the ice to dive for food and come up to breathe. The females come back to the ice to give birth. This episode also describes primitive plant life such as lichen, which can still be found on the continent in winter, even in the extremely dry and permanently frozen valleys conditions under which dead animals can lie frozen for many centuries without decomposing. It details the life of the Emperor Penguin, 'the only birds to lay their eggs directly on ice'. While other animals retreat, Emperors migrate not just to the ice, but into the Antarctic continent. The females lay eggs which are incubated by the males under the harshest conditions on Earth (huddling closely together for warmth), while the females return to the sea.
Series: Life in the Freezer

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.
Series: Frozen Planet
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