Arctic - Life in the Deep Freeze

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Episode 3 of 8

Duration: 1 hour

The Arctic is the harshest environment on Earth: little food grows, it's dark for months on end, and temperatures stay well below freezing for much of the year. Yet four million people manage to survive here. Human Planet tells remarkable stories of extraordinary people who make their homes in nature's deep freeze.

In springtime, Amos and Karl-Frederik set out across the sea ice with their dogs to catch a real-life sea monster: a Greenland shark! Inuit mussel-gatherers venture underneath the sea ice at low tide for a perilous race against time as they gather their food.

And the children of Churchill, Manitoba, set out on the most dangerous trick or treating Halloween in the world: they risk coming face-to-face with deadly polar bears on the streets of their town. Who'll get the tastiest snack?

  • Arctic episode facts

    • If the Greenland ice sheet disappeared, sea levels around the world would rise by 7m as 10% of the world’s fresh water is frozen here.

    • Each year the townspeople of Illulissat gather to welcome the return of the sun at 13 minutes to the 13th hour of the 13th day.

    • There are between 50 and 100,000 Sami people living across Arctic and sub arctic Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia). Around 40,000 live in Norway with about 3,000 herding reindeer.

    • Sami folklore says that the first person to castrate a reindeer using his teeth became the first herder. By castrating the dominant males, the Sami were able to better control a large herd of wild deer and eventually semi-domesticate them.

    • Reindeer are perfectly adapted to the cold, with hollow hair that is an excellent insulator against freezing temperatures. They have a type of heat exchanger in their legs which helps prevent them from suffering from hypothermia. Reindeer have a very good sense of smell, and can detect the smell of reindeer lichen under a 70cm-deep snow covering. Like cows, reindeers have four stomachs.

  • Human Planet – Arctic - Dog sledding

    Human Planet – Arctic - Dog sledding

    Researcher Bethan Evans discusses the Inuit’s relationship with their Greenlandic dogs. There are more than 30,000 sled dogs living above the Arctic Circle in Greenland underlining their importance as a mode of transport.

    Watch the dog sledding video
  • Human Planet – Arctic - Camp tour

    Human Planet – Arctic - Camp tour

    The Human Planet Arctic team spent almost five weeks living and working on the sea ice in North West Greenland. Sound recordist Simon Forrester shows us around the production camp.

    Watch the Arctic camp tour
  • Human Planet – Arctic - May-Torill’s joik

    Human Planet – Arctic - May-Torill’s joik

    May-Torill descends from a long line of Sami reindeer herders living in Arctic Norway. She joiks about the reindeer migration from Arnoy island, and describes the landscape they live in.

    Listen to May-Torill’s joik
  • Human Planet – Arctic - Elle-Helene’s joik

    Human Planet – Arctic - Elle-Helene’s joik

    20 year old Elle–Helene is a Sami reindeer herder and lives on Arnoy Island in Far Northern Norway. Her unique joik was given to her as a child and describes her nature and personality.

    Listen to Elle-Helene’s joik
  • Nicolas Brown, Producer/Director, Arctic and Mountains

    Nicolas Brown, Producer/Director, Arctic and Mountains

    Born in Colorado, Nicolas Brown made his first film in order to get a free ski-lift pass. This led to an adventurous film career during which he has contracted a series of exotic diseases and been bitten by a variety of insects. Today he considers no trip complete without a (hopefully temporary) illness.

    The Arctic and Mountains episodes boast ridiculously cold, miserable locations—perfect for Nicolas. He even got a free lift pass in Switzerland before coming down with gastroenteritis. We're pleased to say he's since made a full recovery.

  • Willow Murton, Assistant Producer, Arctic and Jungles

    Willow Murton, Assistant Producer, Arctic and Jungles

    In 2006, Willow found herself working on location in Siberia. Here she cursed the cold and her own ability to lose gloves, hats and scarves faster than anyone else on the team. Yet she was entranced by the incomparable beauty of the frozen north and jumped at the opportunity to join Human Planet's Arctic programme.

    Despite her continued struggle to keep hold of her gloves she has seen the dawn rise over icebergs, watched narwhal glide along mint clear waters and sat in an igloo magically lit by the Northern Lights.

  • Bethan Evans, Researcher, Arctic and Mountains

    Bethan Evans, Researcher, Arctic and Mountains

    When told she would be working on the Arctic programme Bethan’s first thoughts were “I’m going to freeze to death!” However, three years on and Bethan has a love for everything Arctic, from the stunning frozen landscape to its warm and welcoming people.

    Bethan has been able to fulfil her ambition of combining work and adventure. Her most memorable experiences on Human Planet include trekking through Papuan jungles, lifting polar bears by helicopter, watching the northern lights while travelling by dog sled and undertaking hostile environment and tree climbing courses. Roll on the next adventure!

  • Dina Mufti, Researcher, Arctic and Mountains

    Dina Mufti, Researcher, Arctic and Mountains

    Dina loves characters and began making her first tape recordings aged five. Starting out as a scientist at Cambridge University she began volunteering for field work on volcanoes…. where she filmed an eruption and turned it into a BBC report, landing her a job in telly. Her most extreme moment was escaping the lava flows during a fierce storm - Dina was the last person off the volcano alive.

    Despite the dangers Dina's love of high and cold places has never waned and on Human Planet she has faced avalanches, hung off cliffs with eagle hunters, chased musk ox and lived in Himalayan villages.


John Hurt
Executive Producer
Brian Leith


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