Destination: North and South Poles
Although travel to the “last” continent, Antarctic seems almost commonplace these days, a cruise into the Antarctic sea or a night or two in a luxury camp still is comparable to sailing by the Atlantic Barrier Islands on the East Coast and saying that you’ve been to North America. Tourists see only the edges. Very few of us are the world-class adventurers who will brave the stupendous winds, the towering mountains, the treacherous, ever shifting ice to see the sights shown in this DVD set. Not to mention how expensive it is to survey that expanse.
No matter how much you have read about either pole of the Earth, when you watch Frozen Planet: The Complete Series (David Attenborough-Narrated Version), you’ll come away from this experience with new knowledge. For instance in the Arctic, the film makers pursue the solitary life of a male polar bear who treks miles and miles and miles–sometimes in the footsteps of the female he is pursuing–mates, then fights off adversaries, mates again just to be sure, and then trudges off a bloodied and scarred shadow of his original pristine white, while she goes in search of a safe place to birth and raise her cubs.
No one quite equals David Attenborough in narrating the phenomenon of nature films. A lesser voice of authority would not quite pull off the long list of superlatives that he is called upon to orate. However, the Discovery Channel’s U.S. version of Frozen Planet substitutes Alec Baldwin for Attenborough. Okay, I like Baldwin. He’s very good. But he’s not Attenborough, who at 85 has been narrating from mountains and oceans and deserts all over the world for decades.
Being the curious sort who likes to learn just how in the heck the film crew captured some of the amazing stuff on the DVD, I was delighted that seven special features and 47 video shorts show in detail just how long it took to catch the penguins emerging from an ice hole–and just how many months it took the crew to “effortlessly” catch just the right moment to share with us. Just what kind of equipment can stand up to the punishment of wind and weather and moisture? Not only that, but how incredibly courageous they had to have been to dive underwater in the Antarctic, into an ice cave, under the ice to get underwater shots. The cameramen climb down into a volcano and enter ice caves (Yes! Ice caves inside a smoldering volcano) under the Antarctic just so you and I can watch the formation of icy art. EGADS! I’m hoping no film makers were harmed in the making of this film.
On Disc 3 of the three-disc set, the sequence entitled “On Thin Ice” sums up what we have seen in terms of the rapid changes taking place and also looks at the history of scientific observation of the poles. The solid sheet of ice covering the northern-most region is cracking and shrinking. Perhaps as early as 2020 there will be open water in the north where in human history we have only know solid white. As Attenborough lies on the ice beside a baby polar bear, you realize that the bear’s life and all of us are equally affected by the changes.
Inuit people of the Arctic region, who known the paths across the ice like we know the freeway exits near our home town, still traverse their land in dog sleds, gliding over known fissures that open up predictably each year. But now there are new, unpredictable cracks in the ice. The Inuit, formerly roaming the ice to fish and hunt, now carry GPS devices to map the new cracks so that scientists can keep track.
The production has been criticized by those who think it did not go far enough in discussing global warming. Some people wanted the producers to explain why we are seeing the rapid change. Personally, I agree with their choice to show the facts. Frozen Planet draws us in to observe and become fascinated by the beauty and wonder of the extremes of the earth. It shows us quite clearly how rapidly things are changing. People have to be interested and care before they will take the next step of seeking change, and Frozen Planet accomplishes that goal.
The series aired on TV in March on Discovery Channel, and if you want to watch it in segments (with commercials) it is on the Discovery website. The BBC released the e-Disc collection earlier this spring so that you and your kids can keep enjoying the superlatives of the Poles whenever you want.
Looking for tours? Tauck offers three icy adventures.
And Quark has lots of choices.
Rather read a book? Sarah Wheeler, writer about the polar regions, recommends five books on the Arctic and Antarctic at The Browser, always a dependable guide to good reads.
Movies about Antarctic? Here’s a long list from silly to serious.
Disclaimers: The DVD set was provided to me for review free of charge, but as usual that does not affect my reaction. The photos here are NOT from the DVD, but instead come from kind photographers who share at Flickr with a Creative Commons license. Please click on each photo to learn more about the photographer. Links to Amazon are affiliate links, meaning that when you shop through those links you are financially supporting A Traveler’s Library and we are most grateful for that support.