Of Ice and Men

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Timeshift, Series 11 Episode 7 of 12

Duration: 1 hour

Timeshift reveals the history of the frozen continent, finding out why the most inhospitable place on the planet has exerted such a powerful hold on the imagination of explorers, scientists, writers and photographers.

Antarctica is the coldest, driest and windiest place on earth. Only a handful of people have experienced its desolate beauty, with the first explorers setting foot here barely a hundred years ago.

From the logbooks of Captain Cook to the diaries of Scott and Shackleton, from the Rime of the Ancient Mariner to HP Lovecraft, it is a film about real and imaginary tales of adventure, romance and tragedy that have played out against a stark white backdrop.

We relive the race to the Pole and the 'Heroic Age' of Antarctic exploration, and find out what it takes to survive the cold and the perils of 'polar madness'. We see how Herbert Ponting's photographs of the Scott expedition helped define our image of the continent and find out why the continent witnessed a remarkable thaw in Russian and American relations at the height of the Cold War.

We also look at the intriguing story of who actually owns Antarctica and how science is helping us re-imagine a frozen wasteland as something far more precious.

Interviewees include Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Francis Spufford, Huw Lewis-Jones, Sara Wheeler, Henry Worsley, Prof David Walton and Martin Hartley.

  • Blizzard by Martin Hartley

    Blizzard by Martin Hartley

    This photograph shows Patrick Woodhead (right) and Alastair Vere Nichol training in bad weather at Patriot Hills, prior to their Trans-Antarctic crossing in 2005.

  • 'I am just going outside' by Martin Hartley

    'I am just going outside' by Martin Hartley

    This photograph is based on the famous painting of Captain Lawrence Oates by John Charles Dollman. Ironically, Martin first saw this painting hanging up in a London pub called The Polar Bear. The painting (and photograph) was based on a note in Captain Scott's diary from March 17th 1912, where Oates left the tent with the words "I am just going outside and may be some time".

  • The Amundsen Route by Martin Hartley

    The Amundsen Route by Martin Hartley

    This photograph shows Paul Landry, David DeRothschild, Patrick Woodhead and Alastair Vere Nichol training around Patriot Hills Base Camp prior to a successful Trans-Antarctic expedition. In this expedition the team used the Axel Heiberg Glacier as a way of access to the South Pole. It's the same route that Amundsen used in 1912, beating Captain Scott to the Pole.

  • Frozen Planet

    Frozen Planet

    More Antarctica from BBC1's epic series Frozen Planet presented by Sir David Attenborough.

    Frozen Planet Homepage


Robert Gwilym
Executive Producer
Michael Poole
Series Producer
Ben Southwell
Robert Murphy
Robert Murphy


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