The Blue Planet

Season 1 Episode 4

Frozen Seas

1
Aired Unknown Oct 03, 2001 on Discovery Channel
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In winter the temperature drops to -50ºC and in Antarctica most animals escape the weather. But emperor penguins stay put and huddle together, incubating their eggs and rearing their chicks in the worst weather on the planet. Weddell seals also remain, keeping their breathing holes open by scraping away the ice with their teeth. In the Arctic, animals that do stay north for the winter are forced to seek refuge in any patches of open water that haven't frozen over. Sometimes whales become trapped in these isolated tiny holes in the ice. A group of belugas are 22km from open ocean and it will be two months before the ice melts. They are painfully thin and horribly scarred. Their wounds are not inflicted by the ice but by polar bears that have spotted an easy meal. Aware of the danger, the whales stay submerged as long as they can, but they can only hold their breath for 20 minutes. Eventually a bear makes a catch. In spring, female polar bears emerge from winter dens with their cubs. The mother hasn't eaten for five months and is starving. Seal pups are a favorite, and she can detect them hidden in the snow from 2km away. As the ice melts, thousands of belugas congregate in large estuaries for a communal exfoliation! In warm shallow water they rub vigorously against the gravel to slough off dead skin and encourage molting. On Zavodovski Island is the largest penguin colony in the world. About two million chinstrap penguins come to breed on the snow-free slopes of this live volcano. But emperor penguins stick it out on the ice. At the water's edge they are nervous as leopard seals patrol this border. These seals are Antarctica's equivalent of polar bears. As winter closes in again and the ice begins to freeze, male emperor penguins trek south, away from the open sea, to spend the dark months of winter out on the ice.moreless
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