01x03 - Frozen Peaks

Episode transcripts for the TV show "Frozen Planet II". Aired: September 11, 2022 - present.
David Attenborough narrates `Frozen Planet II', an exploration of the wildlife in some of the coldest regions found in the world.
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01x03 - Frozen Peaks

Post by bunniefuu »

The equator.


It runs across
the scorched plains

of East Africa.


This is as far from the poles
as you can get.

But ice and snow
are here too -

up in the mountains.

Every continent on Earth
has such high snowfields.

And each has
its own community of animals

that have adapted
in their own way

to the crushing conditions
that come with the cold.

Dawn in East Africa,

on the high slopes
of Mount Kenya...

... , metres up.


The temperature
is just beginning

to creep above freezing.

It's hardly the place
where you would expect to find

a cold-blooded reptile.

But there is one
that lives up here -

the high-casqued chameleon.

This female has survived

the night's freezing

by allowing both
her metabolism

and her heart rate
to drop significantly.

Now, in the morning,
she needs to eat.

But it's so cold,
she can't move her legs.

Her spring-loaded tongue,
however, still works.

As the sun rises
higher in the sky,

frozen land begins to thaw...

...and the giant lobelias

spread their leaves
to soak up the sunshine.

With her body temperature

still only
five degrees Celsius,

the chameleon
becomes more mobile...

...and climbs up
to bask in the sun.

Her skin darkens...

...enabling her to absorb
the sun's heat more quickly.

She is pregnant,

and soon her temperature
reaches degrees Celsius,

which gives her

the energy she needs
to give birth.

Most chameleon species
lay eggs,

but here it's too cold

for an egg to develop
in the open...

...so she produces live young.

It takes just an hour

for her to give birth
to six baby chameleons.

One of the advantages
of life on the frozen peaks

is that there are
fewer predators here...

...and less competition
for food.

But there's a reason
why comparatively few reptiles

live in the high mountains.

As the sun sets,

the temperature falls
to below zero

in a matter of minutes.

The babies must act fast.

To escape the nightly freeze,

they need the cover
of thick vegetation.

A young chameleon
caught out in the cold

will quickly lose
its ability to move

and may well die.

Most, however,
react instinctively

and find shelter
as quickly as they can.

Peaks on the equator,
such as Mount Kenya,

are frost bound for
only a few hours each night.

But north of the equator,

in the -mile-long
European Alps,

the cold endures for months.

The high mountains
are continuously frozen

for half the year.

A testing time

for the Alps'
greatest aerial predator.

The golden eagle.

In winter,

there is just enough prey
up here, d*ad or alive,

to sustain them.

But when spring arrives,
the mountains are transformed.

For a male
and his lifelong partner...

...the need to find food
is urgent.


They have
a three-week-old chick.

It needs to be fed
several times a day.

To do that,
both parents have to hunt.

Yet, even in spring,

few animals live up here
in the high mountains,

and finding prey is not easy.

But chamois,
a kind of mountain goat,

are here,
and they are giving birth.


One of their kids can weigh
as much as an eagle.

When eagles hunt as a pair,

they co-ordinate
their approach.

One stoops...

...reaching a speed
of over mph.

Its att*ck scatters the herd.


And that makes it easier

for the other
to select a target.

A successful catch.

It could still be alive...

...so the eagle carries it
away, high over the gorge...

...and then...

...deliberately drops it.

The impact will k*ll it


A chick can eat up
to a third

of its own body weight
in a day.


Parents can't afford
to rest for long.

Taking advantage
of the long summer days,

eagles hunt ceaselessly.

Day in...

...day out.

After eight weeks,
a chick is almost fully grown.


And then,

as summer comes to an end,

the pressure on parents
to feed their chicks...


Their young have flown
the nest.


And just in time.

The worsening weather signals

that the leaner times
of winter are on their way.

Finding prey has now
got much harder.

The young chamois
have also grown up.

A juvenile now weighs

almost five times as much
as an eagle.

Animals of this size
are no longer easy prey

for the birds.

They barely flinch
under att*ck.

But it's dangerous
for a chamois to stray

close to a cliff edge.

The eagles seize their chance.

Got it.

The eagle drags the chamois
towards the edge.

It's an extremely risky move.

If the eagle breaks a wing,

it will be fatal.

A k*ll this size
will feed a pair for days.

This is when they must build up
the fat reserves

that they will need
to sustain themselves

through the lean months
that lie ahead.

Winters in the Alps
are daunting.

But in other mountain ranges,
the challenges are even harder.

In the Far East,

warm, wet winds blow in
across the Sea of Japan.

As they meet
the , -metre-high

Japanese Alps,

they're forced upwards.


As the moist air rises,

it freezes...

...and the water droplets
they carry turn into snow.

No two snow crystals
are exactly the same.


In the mountains of Japan,

metres of snow can fall
in just a few months.

It's the snowiest place
on Earth.

To survive here,

an animal needs all the help
it can get.

In winter, Japanese macaques

can live at altitudes
of up to , metres...

...higher than
almost any other primate.

But here,
the warm volcanic pools

are always ready and waiting.

A nice hot bath lowers
stress hormones for them,

just as it does for us.

Admission to this spa, however,
is tightly controlled.

The high-ranking females
dictate who is allowed in...


...and who will be left out
in the cold.


This three-year-old male

has recently been expelled
from his troop.

He's hungry.

Macaques are largely

In the winter, when food
of any kind is scarce,

they will tackle anything
remotely edible.

However, a lone young male is
unlikely to survive much longer

unless he can find a way
of keeping warm.

And to do so,
he may have to travel through

up to miles
of empty forest.

Bare hands and feet

can become painfully cold.

Rubbing them helps restore
the circulation.

Frostbite could be fatal.

Young male macaques
are most likely to die

in their first winter
than at any other time.


But just like him,

here is another
young male outcast.

Offering to groom is
a standard way of establishing

a friendly relationship
among macaques.

And the stranger's warm embrace
is very welcome.

By huddling together,

they shield each other
from the snow,

and both their temperatures
rise... just a little.

This could be enough
to save the lives

of both of them.


Snow on lower mountain slopes
can be a major challenge

for any of the animals
that live there.

On the high peaks, however,

really heavy snowfalls
can be lethal.

The Rockies in North America.

They rise to heights
of over , metres.

In the winter, the winds
blowing across the high summits

can create snowy overhangs -
cornices -

up to ten metres thick

and weighing many tonnes.


In the spring,
as the temperatures rise,

the cornices
may become unstable...


...and that can be


As it tumbles downwards,

it accelerates to speeds
of mph or more.

Only a racer drone camera
can follow its course.

In just two minutes,

up to a million tonnes of snow
hurtle down the mountainside.

Avalanches can be
hugely destructive,

and climate change
is making them

more and more unpredictable.

In the South Pacific,

on the islands of New Zealand,

one highly intelligent

has learned
how to take advantage

of the volatile nature
of mountains.


The kea...

...a species of parrot.

It's the only one of its family

that can live
above the snowline,

and the only one
that actively looks for meat.

The carcass of a mountain goat.

This adult male kea
has a razor-sharp beak...

...which is well suited
for butchery.

Flesh rich in calories

will help him
through the winter.


But he doesn't have it
for himself for long.

A g*ng of juvenile keas.



These younger keas

shadow the older,
more experienced adults...

...to learn the tricks
of mountain survival...


...and where to find food.

But while waiting their turn...

...there's time to play.

There's a benefit to this
apparently carefree behaviour.

It helps establish
long-lasting relationships

between the youngsters...

...and even defuses tension...

...so that when one kea finds
a rare but substantial meal...

...it often willingly
shares it.

And that is very important

particularly in winter,

when food is so scarce.

In larger mountain chains,

the quest for food can become
even more demanding.

The Andes in South America.

The longest range on Earth.

It stretches
for over , miles

down towards the Antarctic.

At its southernmost end,

the sun remains so low
in the sky

that it brings little warmth,

and temperatures regularly drop
below freezing.

In winter, the land
is shrouded in darkness

for almost hours a day.

Here, a predator has to hunt

when it's so dark
that only a thermal camera

can make its activities visible
to our eyes.

The puma.

This one-year-old female
faces a daunting prospect.

She has just left her mother
and become independent

at the most demanding time
of the year...

...when prey
is at its most scarce.

The only substantial targets
are a kind of llama.



An adult stands
one-and-a-half metres tall

and is twice the puma's weight.

This female, however,
has one advantage -

excellent night vision.

If the youngster can get within
five metres of a guanaco,

she has a chance of success.

But the guanaco do have
a very acute sense of smell...

...and excellent hearing.

After six hours of patient
stalking from downwind...

...the puma is finally
within striking distance.


A wasted opportunity.


Three failed attempts
in one night

have drained her reserves.

Her inexperience is leaving her
close to starvation.

Another faint scent.

But it's leading this youngster

into the territory
of another puma.

Her neighbour, a female,

is older and more experienced
than she is...


...and has already made
a successful k*ll.

The younger female
must approach with caution.

Adult pumas are solitary
by nature...


...and don't normally
welcome rivals.


She falls back
in a gesture of submission.


But if she doesn't eat
within the next few days,

she's unlikely to survive.

The larger female is now
no longer actively feeding...

...so she makes
another approach.





At last, the owner ignores her.

Pumas are the only
solitary big cat

known to share a meal
with a neighbour.

Maybe the young puma,
with the help of its neighbour,

will after all
survive her first winter.

And maybe the older cat one day

will be in need
of a favour returned.

The lower slopes of the Andes
are harsh.

But climb higher,

and the mountains become

Their altitude
prevents rain clouds

from blowing in
from the east...

...whilst another, lower range
nearer the west coast,

prevents rain coming in
from the Pacific Ocean.

This creates, between them,

one of the driest high-altitude
deserts on Earth...

...the Atacama.

There is, nonetheless,
a lake here -

a volcanic one that is filled
with extremely salty water

from underground.

And this attracts flamingos.


They come here each summer.

And here they nest
and raise their young,

taking advantage
of the lake's plentiful algae.

But with the arrival of winter,

temperatures at night drop
to below freezing...

...conditions that
even these hardy birds

cannot endure for long.

The adults start to leave and
head for warmer temperatures

lower down the mountain.

But they leave behind

their four-month-old chicks,

which are old enough
to feed themselves

but not yet strong enough
to fly.

With each passing night,

temperatures continue to fall.

And then, one morning,

after a particularly
cold night,

the chicks find themselves
surrounded by ice.

Huddling together

allows some to preserve

precious body heat.

But those on the outside

are left even more exposed.

And some have already succumbed
to the freezing conditions.

The salty ice is now so cold

that it congeals
on the chicks' feathers.

Weighed down, their chances
of flying are even more remote.

Now mph winds
whip across the lake,

driving down temperatures
even further.

Yet this very wind
that could k*ll them

might just be their saviour.

The youngsters turn to face it.

If they can catch it
just right,

it could give them
the lift they need

to take
their very first flight.

For those encumbered
with heavy loads of ice...

...the struggle
is almost too much.

Freedom at last.

Many animals that live
amongst the frozen peaks

have, over thousands of years,
become adapted

to meet the challenges
of a high-altitude existence.

But now their world
is changing

because of global warming.


Ice that has remained frozen
deep within mountain glaciers

is starting to melt...


...accelerating their movement.

Over the three years that
it took to film this series,

the Quelccaya Icecap,

, metres up
in the Peruvian Andes,

has receded by
a staggering metres.

In Europe, some alpine glaciers

are now shrinking by
metres a year.

One of them,

the Sankt Annafirn Glacier
in Switzerland

has almost completely

Most of the others are expected
to have followed it

by the turn of the century.

The warming
of the frozen slopes

could thr*at the life
of perhaps

the most famous
mountain resident of all.

Hidden within the bamboo
forests of Western China...

...is a hot and bothered
male giant panda.


He has spent the winter

sheltering lower down
the valley.

Now it's early summer,

and his thick coat
that protected him

throughout the winter
has become very uncomfortable.

He needs to reach the cold
of the higher slopes.

But before
he can start the ascent,

he needs a good meal to
give him the necessary energy.

Giant pandas eat almost nothing
except bamboo.

But bamboo is so low
in calories

that he needs to spend
ten hours a day eating.

With breakfast over...

...he begins his climb
to higher ground.

But in no time at all...

...he's hungry again.

This is going to be
a long journey.

And it may be an even longer
one in the near future.

As climate change raises the
temperature in these mountains,

giant pandas may well need to
climb higher and higher

to find cooler conditions.

But the cold-loving bamboo
they most favour

cannot move so easily...

...and may disappear from the
warmer lower slopes altogether.

So far,
these snow-covered peaks

continue to provide this male
with enough space

to feed and find a mate...

...so he scent-marks
his territory...

...panda-style -

with a handstand.

It may well be
that in the next few decades

the mountains of the world
will warm.

Should that happen,

many species
will inevitably disappear.

But we should never forget
the versatility and endurance

of the animals that have
succeeded in colonising...

...these icy islands
in the sky.

In the frozen peaks,

the team's
greatest challenge

was to film a successful
puma hunt at night

for the first time.

The crew travelled to Patagonia

in the depths of winter
to Torres del Paine,

home to over pumas,

the highest density on Earth.

Still to find them
in this remote wilderness,

greater than
the size of London,

theyjoined the local puma
expert Diego Araya,

who has over
years' experience

of tracking these big cats.

This is something
completely new for us,

because we've never been
actually in pitch black

following cats,

and being able to keep up
with them on foot

I think is going to be
an incredible task.

This far south, at the tip
of South America,

winter only gives them
nine hours of daylight

to find the pumas
before night descends.

But it's not long
until they are treated to

a surprise encounter.

Definitely, we are not part
of the menu, huh?

Getting this close
to a wild puma

is a rare privilege for
camerawoman Helen Hobin.

It's very surreal, actually,

being in real life
and seeing one.

By day, these well-studied
pumas are approachable.

But as dusk descends,

they pick up the pace as they
switch to hunting mode.

We're just going into
the pitch black pretty soon

and we have to rely on

thermal the rest of the night.

Armed with a state-of-the-art
thermal-imaging camera

and spotting scopes,

they attempt to follow the puma
in the pitch black.

The cats are moving so fast
at the moment,

they can cover miles,

and it's quite hard to keep up,
with all of our equipment,

and not really being able to
see where you're going.


A few hours later,

and the pumas have given them
the runaround.

You can see a heat signal
on the hill.

RADIO: Do you see them?

Yeah, I think we've got
eyes on them.

Where is she?

I'm on the guanaco.

I feel like we had a puma
that we all lost somehow.

But I'm pretty sure we've been
standing here

staring at a bush
with a hare in it.

As weeks pass, the crew
experience the full force

of the Patagonian winter -

mph gusts of wind
and blizzard conditions.

It's just one thing after
another at the moment.

Finally, with a break
in the weather,

their persistence pays off.

The situation is that
we found a puma

and there's
a group of guanacos.

This could be the break
the team need

and offer them the opportunity
to film another night hunt.

To optimise their chances,

Helen launches
her secret w*apon.

A thermal camera drone

that will act as their eyes
in the sky...

...guiding the ground crew
to within metres

of the hunting big cat.

It's pitch black.
There's a puma.

It's a little bit unnerving.

- She's off. She's moving.

She was so close to that one
to start.

She just didn't quite reach it.
It was like that close.

Super frustrating, because now
we're getting to walk

many more miles.

Over the coming nights,

the team continues to follow
the young puma

as she attempts
hunt after hunt.

HELEN: It's just
a roller-coaster all the time.

Something looks like
it's gonna happen,

your adrenaline gets pumping,
trying to get the sh*t,

and then just...

Lost count how many
failed attempts. Too many.

With only a week left to film
a successful night hunt,

the pressure is mounting
on the crew.

We're still struggling to get
the key behaviour

we're looking for.

But then the young female does
something truly remarkable.

(WHISPERS) She didn't manage to
make a k*ll,

but she came across another cat
that has,

and she's been slowly
over the course

of the last...
I don't know how long,

I think it's been hours,

creeping towards her
really submissively,

trying to ask
for a bit of food.

It's quite the experience
when you're standing

in their proximity
and you can't see 'em

but you can just hear
the crunching of the bones.

It's just so amazing to see.
You can hear it

echoing all around as well
when they growl.

- Ooh!

Until recently, pumas were
considered solitary animals,

but the crew's success
with the thermal camera

reveals two unrelated cats

sharing the same k*ll at night.

You realise how far they are
from solitary individuals.

This is like a fellowship
of creatures

living in the same territory.


New technology
has shed light on

the surprising survival
strategy of the Andean puma.

Just one of the many
mysterious animals

that inhabit our planet's
remote frozen peaks.
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