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Ice Worlds (2001) – DVD Review

Ice Worlds



  • Behind the Scenes featurettes
  • Antarctic facts
  • Websites on Antarctica

Released by: Artisan
Region: 1
Rating: NR, safe for all ages
Anamorphic: No.

My Advice: Discovery Channel addicts only.

Ice Worlds is an absolutely fascinating introduction to the wildlife, landscape, and conditions of the polar regions. The DVD is basically a set of three specials. “Life on the Edge” investigates how creatures survive and prosper in such extreme cold, focusing upon polar bears in the Arctic, and emperor penguins in the Antarctic. “Polar People” looks at the cultures who call the poles their home, including the Inuit, the Eskimo, the Saami, scientific teams, and even the oil workers who must face these harsh conditions to make their livelihood. “Secrets of the Crystal Ball” discusses how the condition of the poles impact the rest of the world, and what we can learn from changes at the poles, with regard to global weather and other geophysical properties.

Viewers learn a great deal about the world of the poles. We learn that the only animal who stays in the Antarctic all year is the emperor penguin, who has somehow adapted to the extremely harsh conditions to live and even breed there during the winter, unlike the other polar animals who all breed in summer. We learn that Arctic foxes follow polar bears to glean some leavings from polar bear kills. We learn how special blood chemicals keep the tiny springtail bugs from freezing, living as they do in the snow, and why polar cod get as large as they do. We learn how male penguins manage to find food for their young as the eggs hatch, when they have themselves not eaten for four months, and then have to walk for up to sixty miles to find a hole in the ice where they can hunt. Of course, while Nature is often beautiful, spiritually moving, and a source of great wisdom, it can also be red in tooth and claw; viewers should be warned that some of the images in this program are difficult to watch if you have any compassion for prey.

An interesting aspect of the program is a look at an Arctic research team who is trying to minimize the environmental impact of the oil drilling. The scientists are testing some forward-looking infrared to find polar bears denning deep in the snow before oil workers harm them; the technique could also be used to find lost oil workers. One might presume that a nature show should would be anti drilling, but this show made a point of showing what the oil industry is legitimately doing to minimize their environmental footprint.

The disc has a number of special features, which is unusual on an “educational” disc of this type. We get two behind-the-scenes featurettes, “Making the Series” and “Making the Music.” The specials show the creative process behind the logistical nightmares of planning the shows and let us see the faces behind the command decisions, as well as those who hauled cameras and other supplies into the snowy wastes, braving polar bears and more to get the story. It’s interesting especially to hear how the composer made choices that would complement the native music we hear, as well as the icy vistas before our eyes.

We also get several pages of “Antarctic Facts” pages that inform us about famed people associated with the region, such as Shackleton and Robert Falcon Scott, as well as the environment, the geography, and the wildlife. Next, we get a very cool Lonely Planet Travel Guide that provides a map of the Antarctic, a selection of useful facts for the traveler, things to see that are off the beaten track (as if the whole place isn’t), how to get there and back again, how to get around once you’re there (which is a huge deal in an area that’s mostly a scientific and wildlife preserve), and suggested reading. Marvelous. Finally, there’s a selection of useful websites to feed your jones further for icy info, including some research and other sites.

Anyone fascinated by how living creatures could survive in extreme environments, or who appreciates the mystery and fascination of “life on the edge,” will love this special. Teachers can show this program to any life or physical sciences class, while general viewers will appreciate this show, not just for the wonderful education it provides, but for the sheer beauty of an aurora over an ice field. The glitter of polar snow will stop you in your tracks, as will the shots of polar bears, arctic foxes, seals, penguins, and other critters who call the poles their home.

Buy it from Amazon.