Watch Life in the Freezer


David Attenborough presents this documentary about the seasonal cycle of animal life in Antarctica. The series follows the struggle to survive and breed by creatures such as penguins, elephant seals, and other permanent inhabitants of the icy continent as well as the habits of visitors such as the whales which return each year and the migratory birds which follow after them.

BBC Earth
1 Season, 6 Episodes
November 18, 1993
Nature
8.6/10
Cast: David Attenborough
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Life in the Freezer Full Episode Guide

  • For humans, too, survival in the Antarctic is a severe challenge. The final program traces the early exploration and exploitation of the continent and its surrounding islands. It also examines the difficulties encountered in the making of the series, and looks at other more long-term human activity on the continent: the research stations, the tourists and the attitudes of different countries which claims sections of this vast wilderness. Should its resources be exploited or should Antarctica be preserved as a National Park?

  • A season of complete darkness, and the coldest weather anywhere on the planet: midwinter in the Antarctic. The hostile landscape seems completely devoid of life, but under the ice now filmable using new diving techniques and remote video cameras life abounds. Ghost-like white fish are kept alive by anti-freeze in their blood and giant sea-spiders patrol the sea bed. Most astonishing of all are the Weddell seals, which scrape breathing holes through ice up to two meters thick and hunt as deep as 600 meters to find the fish. In the center of the continent, male Emperor penguins huddle for warmth throughout the winter, each incubating a single egg. The hatching of the chicks heralds the approach of spring the Antarctic year has come full circle.

  • Autumn comes, and the ice starts to return. As the first heavy snowfalls bury their young, the birds rush to finish breeding. Penguin chicks gather at the water?s edge and, following their departed parents, take the icy plunge. Leopard seals burst from the water to grab the unsuspecting fledgling. Storms ravage the continent; the seas begin to freeze over. Beautiful images of frost flowers, diamond dust, and other optical effects describe the gradual formation of the ice. Farther north, in the sub-Antarctic islands, fur seal pups are beginning to swim and albatross chicks are fledging.

  • During the short Antarctic summer, there is a frantic race to breed. The sub-Antarctic beaches are inundated by noisy, aggressive fur seals, and chinstrap penguins daily overcome crushing ice, predators, and a long, steep march in the hope of successfully rearing a chick. Microscopic animals (frozen in winter) melt, feed and breed during a brief period of 24 hour daylight. Antarctic terns fly far to find fish for their chicks and Adelie penguins must go to sea, leaving their young in great danger. Against the darkening autumnal skies, the most vulnerable fall victim to the skuas that patrol the colony.

  • Spring begins in the sub-Antarctic islands with petrels searching through the snow for their nests. Elephant seals return from the sea and fight for supremacy over their harems, while five million Macaroni penguins battle through the crashing waves of South Georgia to court and breed. Further south, spectacular time-lapse sequences reveal a continent only just being freed from the ice trap. With the aid of remote cameras, there is also rare underwater footage of the hardier penguins as they venture far south to reach their traditional breeding grounds.

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Life in the Freezer is currently available to watch and stream on BBC Earth. You can also buy, rent Life in the Freezer on demand at iTunes online.

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