The Last Frontier

Image for The Last FrontierNot currently available on BBC iPlayer

Episode 6 of 7

Duration: 58 minutes

The documentary series reveals the extraordinary riches and wonders of the polar regions that have kept people visiting them for thousands of years. Today, their survival relies on a combination of ancient wisdom and cutting-edge science.

Most Arctic people live in Siberia, either in cities like Norilsk - the coldest city on earth - or out on the tundra, where tribes like the Dogan survive by herding reindeer, using them to drag their homes behind them. On the coast, traditional people still hunt walrus from open boats - it is dangerous work, but one big walrus will feed a family for weeks. Settlers are drawn to the Arctic by its abundant minerals; the Danish Armed Forces maintain their claim to Greenland's mineral wealth with an epic dog sled patrol, covering 2,000 miles through the winter. Above, the spectacular northern lights can disrupt power supplies so scientists monitor it constantly, firing rockets into it to release a cloud of glowing smoke 100 kilometres high.

In contrast, Antarctica is so remote and cold that it was only a century ago that the first people explored the continent. Captain Scott's hut still stands as a memorial to these men. Science is now the only significant human activity allowed; robot submarines are sent deep beneath the ice in search of new life-forms, which may also be found in a labyrinth of ice caves high up on an active volcano. Above, colossal balloons are launched into the purest air on earth to detect cosmic rays.

At the South Pole there is a research base designed to withstand the world's most extreme winters. Cut off from the outside world for six months, the base is totally self-sufficient, even boasting a greenhouse.

  • BBC News: Greenland by dog sledge

    BBC News: Greenland by dog sledge

    Since the Cold War, Denmark has staked its claim to northern Greenland - and its untapped mineral wealth - with dog sledge patrols. This is the Sirius Patrol in numbers.

    Read the article
  • BBC Nature: The greatest light show on Earth

    BBC Nature: The greatest light show on Earth

    Could our planet be under attack from the unearthly forces that cast a mysterious glow across the poles, disrupting life as we know it?

    Read the article
  • BBC Scotland: The Hudson's Bay Boys

    BBC Scotland: The Hudson's Bay Boys

    From the 1960s to 1980s, a generation of young men left depressed Scotland to journey to the frozen extremes of the Canadian Arctic to take up work with the Hudson's Bay Company. Sent to remote outposts, their job was to trade goods for fur with the Inuit, but these young men took on far wider responsibilities: pulling teeth, administering penicillin and even delivering babies.

    When the fur trade collapsed, instead of coming back to Scotland, many of the Scots stayed in the Arctic, married the natives and set about rebuilding the Inuit communities broken by the dying fur trade.

    Now, the last of the 'Bay Boys' have come together for a hunting trip reunion in order to tell their incredible story.

    Visit The Hudson's Bay Boys website


Dan Rees
Executive Producer
Alastair Fothergill
David Attenborough
George Fenton


Featured in...

  • Our Amazing Planet

    Programmes capturing the incredible diversity and wonder of planet Earth.

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