The Vanishing Antarctic: Review

The Vanishing Antarctic

Wednesday December 19th, 10pm, Eden

On these cold December nights, I find it greatly comforting to stay inside and watch television down by the fireplace. Nothing surely could be more appealing than sipping a mug of tea, wrapped up all snug, as you flick through the channels in search of something suitably warming to watch.

However, the schedule is an absolute mess, with most of the channels saving their best offerings for next week. And in between ad breaks for some ham-fisted bloopers programme you find yourself watching a documentary about the Antarctic and how incomprehensibly cold it is there.

“Since the 19th century, survival on this continent has been a constant struggle,â€? wheezes Richard Wilson, the shivering presenter of Vanishing Antarctic.

As a former BBC environment correspondent, he’s been here many times before, although he’s never gotten used to the cold. Even the seventy layers of clothes that he appears to be wearing can’t keep the frost from nibbling at his alarmingly red face. Yet despite the sub-zero temperatures, Richard says that the enormous glaciers behind him are melting at a startling rate.

But hold on: before you start recycling the lucratively controversial opinions of Jeremy Clarkson, Richard wants you to know that this documentary isn’t about how man-made global warming is destroying the world. Nor is it implying that these melting glaciers are necessarily just a natural phenomenon.

Regardless of what you believe, he says, rising sea levels could potentially be fatal for those living in high-risk areas.

What’s got Richard particularly concerned about this issue is the development of the Larsen ice shelf over the past ten years or so. During 31 January 2002–7 March 2002 an enormous part of the ice shelf, roughly the size of Rhode Island, shattered into thousands of pieces and drifted out into the sea.

Over the course of the documentary, Richard meets up with various scientists who can help shed some light on how and why this happened. In one especially jaw-dropping scene we watch on in awe as marine biologist Simon Morley plumbs the icy waters in search of clues.

However, without a doubt the most amazing parts of Vanishing Antarctic are the stunningly beautiful pan shots of gigantic glaciers, which are set to a soundtrack that’s remarkably similar to the score from the film Koyaanisqatsi.

Richard’s a naturally engaging personality with endless enthusiasm for the subject that he presents to us. Perhaps conscious about irritating a minority audience of global warming sceptics, he seems to choose his words very wisely, merely reporting the facts, never his own opinion or predictions.

In doing so, Richard is able to present an enlightening environmental documentary that paints Antarctica as a gorgeous, largely uninhabited wilderness. And although most of us will never set foot upon the frozen continent, its future may have a considerable impact on our own.