Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Miraculous 'Leap of Faith' geese captured by Viking Wilderness

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It doesn't have the glossiness, or hushed Attenborough tones, of 'Frozen Planet' and 'Life' but 'Viking Wilderness' on Animal Planet filmed something that the two BBC big hitters failed to capture. It is, what I consider to be one of the most shocking behaviours in the arctic, something that I tried desperately to film in 2009. Barnacle geese chicks and their 'leap of faith'. 

In  a bid to get their chicks to the feeding grounds on time, the Barnacle geese parents encourage their flightless offspring to jump straight down sheer rock faces, sometimes as high as 150 feet. As the chicks abandon the safety of their rocky nests, gulls and foxes wait for the falling feast. Miraculously some of these tiny balls of fluff survive to reach the grassy bounty. Here they congregate to feed under the watchful eye of their parents. Once they are large enough they migrate to their winter feeding grounds in Scotland and the Netherlands.

As far as I'm aware, this 'leap' hasn't been filmed since 1985 so my hat is docked to the 'Viking Wilderness' team.

Read my field diary from 2009, and get an idea of the challenges we faced.

(Photo: Barnacle Geese on Svalbard, Paul Williams)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Mesmerising timelapses of Auroras & Earth from space

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Time lapse sequences of photographs taken by the crew of expeditions 28 and 29 onboard the International Space Station from August to October, 2011.

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael K├Ânig on Vimeo.
Images from the Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center, The Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth

Shooting locations in order of appearance:

1. Aurora Borealis Pass over the United States at Night
2. Aurora Borealis and eastern United States at Night
3. Aurora Australis from Madagascar to southwest of Australia
4. Aurora Australis south of Australia
5. Northwest coast of United States to Central South America at Night
6. Aurora Australis from the Southern to the Northern Pacific Ocean
7. Halfway around the World
8. Night Pass over Central Africa and the Middle East
9. Evening Pass over the Sahara Desert and the Middle East
10. Pass over Canada and Central United States at Night
11. Pass over Southern California to Hudson Bay
12. Islands in the Philippine Sea at Night
13. Pass over Eastern Asia to Philippine Sea and Guam
14. Views of the Mideast at Night
15. Night Pass over Mediterranean Sea
16. Aurora Borealis and the United States at Night
17. Aurora Australis over Indian Ocean
18. Eastern Europe to Southeastern Asia at Night

 Northwest coast of United States to Central South America at Night

Aurora Borealis Pass over the United States at Night

 Evening Pass over the Sahara Desert and the Middle East

Aurora Australis south of Australia

The Brinicle of Death - how on earth did they film that!? #FrozenPlanet

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Frozen Planet, Tonight 9pm, BBC One

If I remember just one thing from Frozen Planet then the 'Brinicle of Death' in tonights episode will be it. Not only for the 'how on earth did they film that' sense of awe and respect, but also for the 'holy cr*p, that's something out of science fiction' disbelief. Even though I've heard about this phenomena from the team, spoken with the cameramen Hugh Miller and Doug Anderson who filmed it, and now watched the sequence - I still can't quite believe such a thing exists, it sends shivers down my spine.

Watch the clip below and see for yourselves, and don't forget to tune in for another episode of this years most talked about wildlife series - BBC One, 9pm.

(Filming the 'Brinicle of Death' - photo by Doug Anderson)

You can read the full of how cameramen Hugh Miller and Doug Anderson filmed his wonder of Nature, and find out more about it on the BBC Nature news site.

"With timelapse cameras, specialists recorded salt water being excluded from the sea ice and sinking. The temperature of this sinking brine, which was well below 0C, caused the water to freeze in an icy sheath around it. Where the so-called "brinicle" met the sea bed, a web of ice formed that froze everything it touched, including sea urchins and starfish" - Doug Anderson

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Children in Need Pub Quiz 2011 - including Audiovisual Rounds @BBCCiN

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Children in Need raised over 26 million pounds on the television telethon (8 million more than last year). If you haven't donated yet then it's not too late - visit the Children in Need website.

On Thursday I hosted my annual Children in Need Pub Quiz in the BBC Bristol Club. I've posted the full quiz here and would be more than happy if you would like to use this to run your own Charity Quiz. A donation to Children in Need would be appreciated.

The answers are at the bottom of the page and you can download answer sheets here. For more of my quizzes click here.
Thanks and good luck, Paul

Picture Round
Name the 10 countries

Round  1 - Random

1. Where does Marty McFly live?

2. Who was the first contestant to be eliminated from Strictly Come Dancing 2011?

3. On this years Big Brother on Ch5 who joined the housemates on launch night claiming she would leave a 'skidmark on every housemate'? 

4.  What colour is the flight data recorder on a commercial aircraft? 

5. What man made structure on Earth can be seen from outer space? 

6. Where is the only place that the American flag flies 24 hours a day - never raised, never lowered, and never saluted?

7. What is Paul McCartneys Middle Name? 

8. Which ONE of these indicates a genuine Cornish pasty? A. Carrots in the filling. B. Crimping on top. C. Crimping on the side? 

9. Which element has the atomic number of 1?

10. With which famous person are the following perfumes associated? Passion, White Diamonds, Black Pearls, Diamonds & Emeralds, Diamonds & Rubies.
Round  2 - Back in Time (Play Huey Lewis & the news)


1. January this year represented the 50th anniversary of the inauguration of which US president?

2. In April 2011 we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first man in space - what was his name?

3. What was controversially made available on the NHS by Enoch Powell, health minister, in December 1961?

4. What began construction 50 years ago in August and was, at its longest, over a hundred miles long? 

5. Which ship was launched from Belfast in May 1911?

6. The author of Thomas the Tank Engine was born in June 1911. What was his name? 

7. Who was awarded a second nobel prize in December 1911?

8. Also in December 1911, who was the first person to reach the South Pole?

9. Which monarch was crowned on 22nd June 1911?


10. Which building was completed 300 years ago and holds a plaque stating ‘if you seek his monument, look around’?

Round 3 Sport & Games (Play Grandstand theme tune)

1. Who scored for England in the 1966 World Cup final? 

2. Who was Mr Universe between 1978 and 1980?

3. How many times have the Olympic Games been cancelled due to war?

4. Which sport uses the lightest ball?

5. Which video game and film takes place mostly in Racoon City?

ROUND 3 – Science (Play Weird Science)

6. The word HENNA can be made using the periodic symbols of which three elements?

7. Who were the first two people to stand on the moon?
For a bonus point - who orbited the moon in the command module while the other two played around on the moon?

8. What are the three main types of rock?

9. What is the fourth planet closest to the sun?

10. Which scientist apparently shouted Eureka whilst in a Bath upon discovering that the volume of displaced fluid is equal to the volume of the submerged object?

ROUND 4: Video, Movies

Name these 10 films
11. 9 of these 10 films have one thing in common - what is it?
12. Which is the odd one out?

ROUND 5 – Around the World (Play around the world)

1. According to a UN report published last week, who ranked number 1 as the best country to live in? 

2. After which animal are the canary islands thought to have been named? 

3. What is the only active volcano in MAINLAND Europe i.e. not on an island?

4. Where is 'Thatcher Day' celebrated on January 10th?

5. What is the name of the railway that was opened in 1901 and runs from Moscow to Vladisvostok? 

6. The Zonda in Argentina, the Puna in Peru and the Sirocco in North Africa are all the names of what? 

7. How many yellow stars are there on the flag of China? 

8. Mount everest straddles the borders of which two countries?

9. What is the only letter of the alphabet which does not appear in any of the names of the 50 American states? 

10. In Paris twelve Avenues meet at which famous landmark?

Round 6 - Anthems

The following national anthems represent the nations that have hosted the past 5 summer olympics.

Questions 1 to 5 - Name the country
Question 6 - Put them in order with the most recent first

Click on the icons below to play the tunes.
If the tracks don't play below then click HERE for a pop-up link to the original files on Box.net.

ROUND 7 MUSIC – Musical Covers
Click on the icons below to play the tunes.
If the tracks don't play below then click HERE for a pop-up link to the original files on Box.net.

1. I've mixed together a little medley, the original artist followed by three cover versions - Name the four artists (4 points)

2.  This version of a cover from 2002 was listed as the worst ever cover version by a poll of music. But who sang this?

3. Who sang the original? 

4.  This track was voted the second worse cover of all time - name the two girl bands. 

5. Who sang the original version in 1975?

6.  This one was voted the best cover version ever - who sang it?

7. Name the track.

8. Whats the next line after I stop the track? 

9. Who were the original artists?

10. Which two artists recorded this charity single in 1985 when they realised they wouldn’t be able to sing a duet at Wembley? 

11. Part of which event was it first broadcast on the BBC on the 13th July 1985? 

12. This next singer is quite a character but by what name is he better known? (Clue - he's 1 year old)

13. Which film made this song an international hit? 

14. Who is singing this? 

15. Here’s what you’ve been waiting for – my favourite band of all time. Who is singing this cover? 

16. Who sang the original?

Round 8 – Bristol (Play Wurzels 'Bristol Song' at the end)

1. In old English Bristol was named Brycgstow but what does it mean? Place at the river, place at the mill or place at the bridge?

2. What are the names of the two daily newspapers published in Bristol?

3. In which pub is it said that author Daniel Defoe met Alexander Selkirk, his inspiration for Robinson Crusoe?

4. In which century where the Queen Street Riots?

5. In which year did the BBC first open offices on Whiteladies Road?

6. On which two rivers is Bristol situated?

7. Archibald Leach was born in Horfield, Bristol, but how is he better known?

8. The world famous HMV logo was founded in 1895 but what was the name of the dog?

9. What is the name of the Bristol dinosaur, the oldest dinosaur ever found in Britain and the fifth dinosaur ever to be named?

10. Which of these comedians was not born in Bristol? Justin Lee Collins, Stephen Merchant, Russell Howard or Bill Bailey?

1. South Africa 2. Mexico 3. China 4. India 5. Republic of Ireland 6. Japan 7. France 8. Iceland 9. Greece 10. Cuba

1.  Hill Valley, California 2. Edwina Currie 3. Pamela Anderson 4. Orange to make it easier to find (often known as Black Box) 5. None of them 6. On the Moon 7. Paul (his first name is James) 8. C. It must be crimped on the side to be legally called a Cornish pasty. And must also be made in Cornwall, with a filling made from uncooked minced or roughly cut chunks of beef, swede, potato and onion. No carrots. 9.  Hydrogen 10. Elizabeth Taylor.

1. John Fitzgerald Kennedy 2. Yuri Gagarin 3. Contraceptive Pill 4. The Berlin Wall (was originally a wire fence known as the antifascist protection rampart – the concrete was added later) 5. RMS Titanic (its maiden voyage was from Southampton in 1912) 6. Rev Wilbert Awdrey 7. WMarie Curie (the first person to be awarded with two nobel prizes) 8. Roald Amundsen 9. George V (and Queen Mary.) 10. St Pauls Cathedral

1. Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters 2. Arnold Schwarzenegger 3. Three 4. Table Tennis 5. Resident Evil 6. (He) Helium (N) Nitrogen (Na) Sodium 7. Neil Armstrong, Edwin, Buz Aldrin Bonus Point: Michael Collins 8. Sedimentary, Igneous and Metamorphic 9. Mars 10. Archimedes

1. Amadeus 1984 2. Dr Strangelove or : how I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb 1964 3. The Deer Hunter 1978 4. Out of Africa 1985 5. Crash 2005 6. The Departed 2006 7. Lord of the Rings, return of the king 2003 8. Platoon 1986 9. Ghandi 1982 10. Chicago 2002 11. What do they all have in common - best picture Oscar 12. Which is the Odd One Out – Dr Strangelove

1. Norway (2nd year in a row) Britain came 28th 2. Its from the latin Insula Canaria, Island of the Dogs. 3. Vesuvius, Italy 4. The Falkland Islands, January 10th was the day back in 1983 when Margaret Thatcher first set foot on recaptured soil. 5. Trans-Siberian Railway 6. Winds 7. Five 8. Nepal & China (technically Tibet is not a country.. yet) 9. Q 10. Arc de Triomph

1. 1992 Spain - Barcelona 2. 2004 Greece - Athens 3. 1996 USA – Atlanta 4. 2000 Australia - Sydney 5. 2008 China - Beijing 6. WHICH ORDER? China, Greece, Australia, USA, Spain

1. Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, Vanilla Ice, Brittney Spears (4 points)
2.  Celine Dion and Anastacia
3. AC/DC (You Shook Me All Night Long)
4.  Girls Aloud and Sugarbabes (Walk this Way - sung for Comic Relief)
5. Aerosmith
6. Jimmi Hendrix
7. All along the watchtower (original by Bob Dilan)
8. 'and I miss your ginger hair' (Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson)
9. The Zutons
10. Mick Jagger and David Bowie (Dancing in the street, originally by Martha and the Vandellas)
11. Live Aid
12. Stewie Griffin (Everything I do I do it for you) (CLUE – He’s one year old)
13. Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves (original by Bryan Adams)
14. Johnny Robinson on the X-Factor 2011 (original artist – CHER)
15. The Wurzels
16. Take That (Up All Night)

1. "the place at the bridge” 2. The Western Daily Press and the Bristol Evening Post. 3. Llandoger Trow, on King Street 4. 1831 (19th Century) 5. 1934 6. Frome and Avon (Severn doesn’t enter the city) 7. Cary Grant. 8. ’Nipper’ 9. Thecodontosaurus antiques. 10. Bill Bailey was born in Bath.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

How long will you survive? Download the free app from @ARKive

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I just download SURVIVAL, ARKive's Free iPhone & Android Game

Tap, drag, scroll, swipe and pinch your way through a series of quick-fire mini-games to reveal the identity of some of the world's most endangered animals. It's packed with factoids and some of ARKives excellent images, but you'll have to survive to see them.

"What a brilliant idea! It’s a fun way to learn about endangered species – though I have to admit I was too slow to beat my eight-year-old goddaughter.” - Mark Carwardine, zoologist and wildlife TV presenter

Less than 800 left - a gorilla is for life not just for Christmas @SavingGorillas #MountainGorilla

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Give the gift of life this Christmas, adopt a Gorilla to help the Dian Fossey Fund continue their critical work

I have just received this 'Gorilliant' infographic from the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. It helped to remind me that as our human population shoots past 7 billion, the numbers of one of our closest relatives - the mountain gorilla, still hangs on to less than 800. It's a sobering thought to think that without the help of organisations like the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund we might already have seen the last of them. 

The most famous encounter with mountain gorillas was by Sir David Attenborough when he visited Dian Fosseys sanctuary in Rwanda whilst filming 'Life on Earth' in 1979. His words reflect on their similarities to our own species.

"There is more meaning and mutual understanding in exchanging a glance with a gorilla than with any other animal I know. Their sight, their hearing, their sense of smell are so similar to ours that they see the world in much the same way as we do. We live in the same sort of social groups with largely permanent family relationships. They walk around on the ground as we do, though they are immensely more powerful than we are. So if there were ever a possibility of escaping the human condition and living imaginatively in another creature's world, it must be with the gorilla. The male is an enormously powerful creature but he only uses his strength when he is protecting his family and it is very rare that there is violence within the group. So it seems really very unfair that man should have chosen the gorilla to symbolise everything that is aggressive and violent, when that is the one thing that the gorilla is not — and that we are." - Sir David Attenborough

So what's bothering our hairy brethren?

The Mountain Gorilla live in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo amongst some of the highest human population densities and lowest adult life spans, literacy rates, and standards of living in the world. Ultimately, human poverty is their greatest threat. They face habitat loss when their forests are converted to farmland and pasture, poachers’ snares set for other animals such as antelopes, diseases probably transmitted by humans, and poaching for the gorilla infant trade.

To help combat these threats and continue their work, the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund are running a campaign urging people to spread some Christmas cheer to our hairy pals. Adopt a Gorilla and help them continue their great work. You can find out more about the Eastern Gorilla, and the other Gorilla species that they are working to save, on their website.

Remember, a Gorilla is for life not just for Christmas.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Ecotourism or Ecoterrorism? A Big Cats Tale #Jaguar

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Jaguar - Ecotourism or Ecoterrorism?

When managed well ecotourism can do wonders for wildlife and their environment, but when the thirst for money outweighs welfare it's a slippery slope. I was unfortunate to experience this when I visited the Pantanal. For the best part of three weeks I saw jaguar every day. In fact, we saw them so often that we didn't film unless the light was perfect - it was a real privilege so spend so much time watching the worlds third biggest cat, and undoubtedly one of the worlds most beautiful animals. Sadly this was not to last...

(Photo: Paul Williams)
(Photo: Paul Williams)
(Photo: Paul Williams)

Ecotourism or Ecoterrorism? A personal account

It was August and adults were roaming their territories on the look out for a mate. We had found the perfect place to see them - along the banks where three slowly meandering rivers merged. If we sighted a jaguar we would keep our distance and head for the opposite bank (the camera lens focal distance was up to 1000mm). This was for our own safety and to do everything we could to prevent our presence from influencing their behaviour - our goal is to observe wildlife and not to direct it. Tourist boats would spot us and realise that a jaguar had been sighted, they would slow down and for the most part all would remain hushed and respectful. Many of these people are keen and experienced wildlife watchers. Sadly, egos and derterminism were to get the better of some of them, and much of the blame lies with the boat drivers. As the numbers of boats increased they became more aggressive towards one another, cutting each other up to get closer and closer until they were too close for comfort. This would often result in blocking the path of a jaguar who was trying to cross the river. My cameraman called this 'ecoterrorism'.

Our guide said that many of these boat drivers had no training in good practice and did not realise, or care about how there behaviour influenced the animals. It is likely that were paid more money to go closer. While this area is officially protected it is not officially policed and so it is down to common courtesy and an unwritten code between guides. With more companies setting up in the area this code seems to have been lost amongst many but the old guard.

Four Jaguar Fighting

Early one morning we spotted four jaguar close together - a female and three large, but immature, males. We knew that something special could happen. We slowly pulled up on the opposite bank and waited. The air was electric, we were tense with anticipation. Sure enough the jaguar started fighting. Powerful and majestic, it was something that we could have only dreamed of filming and would look sublime in slow motion.

Unfortunately, no sooner had we started rolling than did an armada of 10 tourist boats zip, at full throttle, into view. Their giant lenses and heads jutting into our frame as they rapidly encroached on the unsuspecting felines. They blocked our view of this rarely observed behaviour and in so doing denied the pleasure of this spectacle to the worlds wildlife TV audience.

From that moment on we rarely saw jaguar again. I believe that the cats had found the event so stressful that they decided to move on.

Everyone has the right to experience nature and wildlife, but the organisations and companies who manage this have a responsibility to ensure that the welfare of the wildlife is paramount.

Tourists block a female jaguar from crossing the river (Photo: Paul Williams)

 Jaguar fight as tourists creep too close for comfort (Photo: Paul Williams)

Cyberstalking Psychos to Elfs - 5 mins of fun in the office!

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Ever thought that you might be sharing too much information on Facebook? Then this video might be the trigger to sort out your security settings. Visit www.takethislollipop.com and click on the lolly. Ironically it will ask you to share your Facebook information, but that's just so the programme can temporarily use it to deliver your  personalised private horror film. This project was designed to play into fears about cyber-stalking, and to make users question what kind of information, photos and data they share publicly on social networks.

"When you see your personal information in an environment where you normally wouldn't, it creates a strong emotional response," "It's tied into the fears about privacy and personal info that we have now that we live online." - Jason Zada, the films director

 He's looking at YOU

Eek! - He's looking at me

 The Pyscho gets out of his car but who's picture is stuck to the dashboard - Gulp!

Dancing Elfs

After that shocker I'd recommend a dose of Elf Youself which will be back in two days, promising to be elfier than ever. YAY! 

 Be the Elf you've always dreamed of being

Chris Packham's guide to making wildlife films

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Chris Packham: Making your own wildlife films

Here's some tips to wildlife filmmaking from Chris Packham. I've posted a few quotes below that stick out to me but for the full article visit the Warehouse Express website. Chris goes into more detail about scripting, shot sizes and story. I'd also recommend reading 'Go Wild with your camcorder' by Piers Warren of WildEye, it's a bit dated but still full of useful advice, tips and tricks.

"Do it yourself. D.I.Y. carpentry, plumbing, gardening, schooling, aircraft building and archaeology. We can and do them ourselves. It’s an industry, a phenomenon, a state of mind and an attitude which encourages us to take things quite literally into our own hands. But if we can be empowered to it least attempt stonemasonry, bagpipe playing and space rocket design why don’t we get to grips with do it yourself wildlife film-making?"


"If you want to save a lot of time, a tremendous amount of effort and frustration then think very hard about realistic ideas before you even pick up the camera and start to shoot any sequences."

"When it comes to preparing a project as ambitious as a wildlife film, research and not expertise is the key element to success."   

Know your subject

"My advice would be to choose a subject which is eminently accessible to you. Of course ‘The Wild Dogs of the Kruger Park’ are very sexy indeed but not generally as available to us all as the ‘The Wild Voles of Marshy Vale‘... Pick a topic where you can miss things or make mistakes and immediately return to put them right, where your part-time hours mean you can chip away at that project until it comes together, a topic which you can financially afford to complete one day."

"... because of the big budget series on the BBC, Discovery and National Geographic, and those on Channel 4 and five for which programmes are made over years, all over the world by large teams of people, it is often presumed that the far more accessible wildlife in your garden, park or county could never compete - that its just not interesting or exotic enough. What rubbish! The absolute essential to good television is viewer involvement, usually through a mix of entertainment and education, and at its absolute core is a good story. We like stories , pure and simple , and there are stories unfolding beneath logs under my shed that are better than some of those I have seen screened from the Serengeti!"


"As long as you have kit which is in anyway respectable you can get the results. If your films are good then no-one will be nit-picking over the pixels. A genius could make Gone With The Wind on a mobile phone so there is no reason why you can’t make 101 Badgers, Apocalypse Newt or One Flew over the Dunnocks Nest on a handy cam." 

Read Chris Packham's guide to make your own wildlife films on the Warehouse Express website. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Frozen Planet - Watch preview clips - Spring arrives at the frozen kingdoms #FrozenPlanet

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Frozen Planet, Wednesday 2nd November, 9pm, BBC One

If you haven't seen the eye popping spectacle that is Frozen Planet, then head to BBC iPlayer and join the millions of people who are still picking their jaws up from the floor after last weeks episode 'To the ends of the Earth'. This week Spring arrives, and after five months of night, warmth and life return to these frozen kingdoms - the greatest seasonal transformation on our planet is underway.

Spring arrives to turning heads

Male Adelie penguins arrive in Antarctica to build their nests
It takes a good property to attract the best mates and the males will stop at nothing to better their rivals! But these early birds face the fiercest storms on the planet. Eventually, the female Adelie penguins arrive, chased from the water by killer whales. Mating and chick rearing lie ahead of them

In the Arctic, a polar bear mother is hunting with her cubs.
Unicorns of the North are on the move
Inland, the frozen rivers start to break up and billions of tons of ice are swept downstream in the greatest of polar spectacles. This melt-water fertilizes the Arctic Ocean, feeding vast shoals of Arctic cod, and narwhal who use cracks in the ice as temporary highways. The influx of freshwater accelerates the breakup of the sea-ice - an area of ice the size of Australia will soon vanish from the Arctic.

Arctic wolves race to raise their cubs before the cold returns.

Elephant seals fight furious battles amongst the greatest mass of animals on the planet.