Tuesday, 30 October 2007

When Hell Freezes

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Monday 29th October, 20.00, C4
0.8M viewers, 3.5% Audience Share

Digiguide: Antarctic roleIn 1912 Australian explorer and geologist Douglas Mawson pulled off an extraordinary feat. After an horrific journey across hundreds of kilometres of frozen wasteland during which his two companions perished, Mawson was the sole survivor of a doomed Antarctic expedition. Some questioned how it was possible, and there were suggestions that he'd eaten his dogs and even considered eating the bodies of his dead comrades. Mawson was knighted and became a hero, but the question of how he lived when others died has tantalised scientists, historians and explorers ever since.

This part-documentary/part re-enactment attempts to find an answer. Having been almost killed during his own solo trek to the South Pole in 1999, Australian adventurer Tim Jarvis confronts the ice, as Mawson did, with the same meagre rations and primitive clothing and equipment.

There's been mixed critical reaction to the programme. On the one hand, there's praise for Jarvis, who recreates Dawson's terrible trek as fully as he can. On the other, there's suggestions that since he can't totally reproduce Mawson's dilemma - Jarvis is morally obliged not to eat his dogs, for example - the exercise is a tad pointless. That niggle aside, it's a worthy piece of documentary-making that's well worth catching.

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