Upfront with BBC’s Frozen Planet II

Upfront with BBC’s Frozen Planet II

Life on thin ice with a mix of wonder, fun, and a blunt lesson on climate change

FOR people living remotely away from the large expanses of land in the Arctic and Antarctica, the tundra regions may seem nothing more than bare white plains and peaks, so unvaried and humdrum.

But Frozen Planet II filmed by BBC’s Natural History Unit tells a different story. In six exciting episodes, it shows the tundra and polar regions in an exhilarating splash of vivid colours teeming with life.

The producer of Episode 4 (Frozen South) Orla Doherty, succinctly puts it: “I fell in love with the place. You can look at it and say ‘but it’s just white.’ For me, that’s the wonder of it. Yes, it’s this absolutely giant white void, but it is magical.

“There’s a scale to this place that I hope the audience will appreciate from how we’ve captured it. For me, the key was to try and give the audience a sense of just how vast and significant these ice sheets are.

Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, Frozen Planet II brings a strong message on climate change. Attenborough narrates that the animals that inhabit frozen lands need one thing more than any other – and that is for the planet to stop warming. – BBC pic

“And then, when you are on the edges, you start to really look at what’s going on, and there is life absolutely everywhere.

“You’ve just got to tune your eyes to see it, and also start to understand what’s happening beneath the surface. Because that’s so critical to what you see above the surface.

“So it’s a real paradox. It looks like there’s nothing there but actually, there are some of the most extraordinary creatures on Earth. The biggest animal that has ever lived is the Antarctic blue whale, the biggest of the four blue whales.

“To me, that speaks to everything about the scale of what goes on in the seemingly bleak void of ice.”

The documentary points out to its audience that the diversity of the world’s frozen habitats is huge. On every continent, there are frozen regions from the Artic to Antarctica and Central Asia. Frozen Planet II brings to light all these frozen habitats – literally, from out of the cold.

The kea parrots in a social congregation use play tactics and group dynamics. Their intelligence and curiosity are both vital to their survival in a harsh and frozen mountain environment. – BBC pic

The feature covers the entire cryosphere – that part of the Earth’s climate system including solid precipitation, snow and sea ice, frozen lakes and rivers, icebergs and glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets as well as ice shelves, permafrost, and seasonally frozen grounds.

Frozen Planet II which premiered earlier this month is a sequel to its predecessor Frozen Planet which was released 11 years ago.

Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, the feature film was created to inform, educate and entertain – apart from making people realise that they are closer to these places than they would have ever thought.

And there is a great diversity of life and animals that depend on and live in these frozen worlds that are under threat.

Animal dramas tell the story

Speaking to The Vibes via Zoom from London, executive producer Mark Brownlow says: “Frozen Planet II explores life in the Poles and beyond. The documentary witnesses the wildlife dramas that play out in the world’s coldest regions.

“And at the same time, it captures the impact of climate change over the last 11 years since Frozen Planet.

“The documentary teaches that climate change doesn’t just affect the polar regions, but that it also impacts all other frozen habitats and the world at large. The impact of this climate change will be felt as early as 2035,” Brownlow warns.

Two polar bears, a male and a female skate and play-fight on the snow much to the camera crew’s surprise. Earlier, they seemed to be in a confrontational mood. – BBC pic

He said by using ultra-modern camera technology, the shooting crew was able to detail greater emphasis on the threats to the inhabitants of these regions – most notably as a result of global warming.

“We were able to record the changes across the cryosphere using sophisticated long-term time-lapse cameras and other technologies available today to highlight the impact of climate change as ice sheets melt and sea waters rise all over Asia and the Indian Ocean.”

The filming crew accomplished 102 shoots throughout the documentary covering frozen landscapes across the world in 18 different countries.

Thirty-one of these shoots were directed remotely using local crews and the entire filming was done over 2,188 days on the field over four years.

The Siberian Tiger makes an appearance in Frozen Planet II hunting for prey in the most unexpected places. – BBC pic

Frozen Planet II has recorded some extraordinary “animal moments” too that were never filmed before.

In the frozen peaks episode, the cameras reveal how the kea (Nestor notabilis) – a parrot species native to New Zealand and the only parrot to live above the snowline – uses play tactics to help create healthy “group dynamics” in a social congregation.

The kea parrots are known for their intelligence and curiosity, both vital to their survival in a harsh and frozen mountain environment.

They are known to solve logical puzzles, such as pushing and pulling things in a certain order to get to the food, and will work together to achieve a certain objective – and hence, their group dynamics sessions were candidly captured by the BBC.

In the icy plains of Mongolia, the BBC’s cameras zoom in to capture the Pallas’s cat (Otocolobus manul) in a sequence that has never been filmed before, as this species is known to be grumpy and temperamental – an elusive target that is difficult to capture on film.

(Above) The chameleon mother must give birth in a race against the clock as the nightly frost threatens to kill her newborns. (Below) An anecdotal moment on the frozen peak of Mount Kenya where the chameleon unexpectedly gives birth. This is a new story, not been told for television before. – BBC pic

In the Swiss Alpines, the golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos) play a gruesome homicidal food hunt. They hunt a goat called the chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) which is many times more than their weight.

The goat is picked up by the eagle and taken on a cruel flight before being dropped off a cliff to maim and disable it. The helpless goat is voraciously eaten. Morsels of meat are also brought home in “take-away” style to their nests for their offspring to feed on.

This scene is truly horrifying, yet incredible and awesome.

Series producer Elizabeth White shared an anecdotal moment on the frozen peak of Mount Kenya where the high casqued chameleon (Trioceros hoehnelii) lives in freezing conditions.

“It’s a cold-blooded reptile that lives up on the heights of the mountain in East Africa. It survives in this extreme location where the temperature goes from -15° at night to 30° during the day.

In the icy plains of Mongolia, BBC’s cameras zoom in to capture the Pallas’s cat in a sequence that has never been filmed before. This cat is said to be the grumpiest in the world. – BBC pic

“The chameleon mother must give birth in a race against the clock as the nightly frost threatens to kill her newborns. The crew waited for the reptile to give birth within that short period but that did not happen in good time.

“However, just as the crew was packing up to leave the scene, unexpectedly the birth took place and our cameras swirled into action, capturing the scene. This is a new story, not told for television before,” says White excitedly.

Most people are probably used to seeing pandas but they’re mostly filmed in captivity. However, Frozen Planet II caught wild pandas on camera traps up in the mountains in China.

And in a first, the camera caught a “twerking” Panda – as males perform headstands and gyrate their bums against trees to mark out their territory!

In another scene, two young polar bears explore the Arctic in an unexpected bonding. The camera captured footage of the two white hulks – one male and the other a female swimming together and play-fighting in the snow.

Snow monkeys in the Japanese Alps, like all other animals, survive with a combination of cunning and resourcefulness in the harsh cold lands. – BBC pic

Attenborough narrates: “Large males pose a threat and could inflict fatal injuries in a fight with vulnerable females. It was tense at first but the female stood her ground. Remarkably, rather than fight, they start to play.”

Among the other scenes that lend emotion and poignance to Frozen Planet II are sequences showing baby hatchling turtles whose bodies totally shutdown (clinically dead) over the winter months – but only to thaw out and come alive when spring arrives; the queen bee that survives a Lapland winter in her underground bunker because of the thickness of her coat but emerging in spring to collect pollen, develop her ovaries and lay the eggs to start a whole new colony; or the Siberian tiger shown hunting its prey in the most unexpected places.

This scene took three years to be filmed using camera traps.

Other scenes captured include Amur leopards (Panthera pardus orientalis) that live in Russia and China and are critically endangered, as well as snow monkeys (Macaca fuscata) in the Japanese Alps – all surviving with a combination of cunning and resourcefulness.

Males pandas performing headstands and gyrating their bums to mark out their territory. – BBC pic

And the take-home message for the audience? Brownlow says: “It has the right mix of wonder, entertainment, and education.

“There are a lot of new stories, breath-taking new drama, wonderful moments of humour, stunning landscapes, but underscored with the message that these places are changing and changing faster than we ever imagined.

“We are capturing this fast-changing, dynamic world in its exquisite beauty but also tell the story of how these changes are impacting the wildlife.”

Frozen Planet II ends with an episode devoted to the scientists who had worked at the glacier’s edge of climate change research. And that work is so vital to nature’s survival.

Attenborough is clear in his verdict. “The animals that inhabit our frozen lands and seas need one thing more than any other, and that is for the planet to stop warming. It’s now up to us to make that happen.”

source – The Vibes


Share This


Wordpress (0)
Disqus (0 )