Nature "Penguins of the Antarctic" on WXXI-TV

Nature "Penguins of the Antarctic" on WXXI-TV

Sun, 08/01/2010 - 8:00pm

Pictured: Chinstrap Penguin

Credit: Ben Osborne ©BBC

Emperors and kings, chinstraps and adelies â€” the penguins of Antarctica all make their home in one of the most unforgiving environments on Earth.

As night falls in Antarctica, biting winds cast snow across the dark backs of a mass of huddled penguins. They shift from side to side and press together for collective warmth, since this will be no ordinary night - the temperature is 50 below zero, the gales are 90 miles per hour and the sun won't rise again for more than two months. Moreover, these male emperor penguins are charged with a crucial task for their species' survival — sheltering an egg until springtime, when the female partners return with food for the newborn chick.  

This and much more remarkable close-up footage, which puts viewers atop icebergs and underwater with these extraordinary birds, explores penguins' arduous existence and the challenges ahead for them when NATURE "Penguins of the Antarctic" encores Sunday, August 1 at 8 p.m. on WXXI-TV (DT21.1/cable 11/cable 1011).

"Current feature-length and animated films on penguins are proving immensely popular, and this film offers an even more in-depth look at different penguin species and their means of survival," notes Fred Kaufman, executive producer of NATURE. "It's an example of classic nature filmmaking, an unhurried and intimate view of these animals in a habitat few humans ever experience."

In addition to their colonies on land, "Penguins of the Antarctic" captures the birds gliding through their most comfortable element, the water â€” a balmy bath compared to the air temperature above â€” where the emperors can hold their breath up to 20 minutes and dive a mile deep. "Penguins of the Antarctic" also swims ashore on Zavodovski Island, an active volcano where two million chinstrap penguins breed and travel on their own "superhighway" between the sea and their colonies on higher ground — taking care to evade the occasional 12-foot-long leopard seal, which can consume six penguins in an hour. 

Antarctica, with its thickening ice cap but thawing peninsula, has drawn scientists who are studying global warming; they look to the migration patterns of the different penguin groups, each of which faces its own challenges, for evidence of climate change. "Penguins of the Antarctic" observes the chinstraps as they move farther south, following their main source of food, krill, which amass under the ice. AdĂ©lies feed under and rest atop ice floes, but are finding open water where once there was solid ground. The emperors face another urgent problem â€” the ice is melting faster than chicks can grow their adult swimming feathers, imperiling entire colonies. Meanwhile, the king penguins, relatives of the emperors, prefer warmer climates; they may be the best off as the air and water temperatures rise around their colonies on South Georgia Island, far north of the mainland. But the varied penguins of the Antarctic all share the need to adapt to a changing habitat â€” and the prospect of an uncertain future.

This program is offered with Descriptive Video (DVi), which provides concise descriptions of the sets, scenery, costumes, action, and other important visual elements between the dialogue of the program.