Produced by the BBC’s Natural History Unit, Frozen Planet is the most ambitious series on the Polar Regions ever undertaken.For four years, camera teams braved temperatures down to -50 degrees C, 200 mile per hour katabatic winds, midnight sun and long dark polar nights to capture the essence of these remote and highly seasonal ends of the earth.More than 2300 filming days were spent in the field, by small crews working in the most remote corners of Antarctica and across the Arctic. The aim was to take the viewer on a journey through the Polar Regions – north and south – some of the greatest, least explored wildernesses on the planet.
In the south, one of the key locations was the sub-Antarctic Island of South Georgia. The team undertook 4 major filming trips to document the lives of some remarkable animals whose dramas play out on this remote and spectacular island.But filming here isn’t for the faint-hearted: 900 miles from the Falklands, over some of the roughest seas on the planet, this is an unforgiving place with no margin for error. Their filming platforms varied from the small and nimble 65ft yacht, Golden Fleece, to the majestic HMS Endurance, the Royal Navy’s Ice breaking patrol ship and her Lynx helicopters which gave unique aerial opportunities to the series.Six different camera teams were deployed to South Georgia over a period of around 3 months, covering stories as varied as the whaling history to Shackleton’s epic walk. By far the most effort, however, was spent documenting the lives of the animals, which visit the island during the different seasons.
60p – For spring, the key story was the arrival of the Southern elephant seals. South Georgia plays host to a raft of marine mammals, the biggest aggregations on earth, and the elephant seals are some of the most impressive. The 3,000 kg blubbery ’beach master’ males fight to gain harems of females by rearing up and bashing together their large proboscises. This is their only chance to sire the next generation and the competition is brutal. Gingerly approaching the giant males – which can reach a remarkable 5m in length – the camera team used a mixture of traditional and high-speed cameras to capture the action in all its glory.
70p – While many animals come to South Georgia for its brief summer, others have spent the long cold winter here too. This includes the wandering albatross chicks, which spend their formative months at breeding grounds on Bird Island, on the west side of South Georgia. For these comical young, learning to fly with the world’s largest wings, is anything but easy.
Cameraman John Aitchison spent several weeks at the Bird Island albatross colony, waiting to film the rite of passage faced by every young bird as it takes to the air for the first time. Arriving at the island, he was dismayed to hear that even Lance Tickell, whose pioneering research had revealed so much about these giant birds, had never actually witnessed the moment when a young wanderer takes to the air.
John waited day upon day beside these swan-sized babies as they practiced and tried, until finally one opened its wings into the wind and lift clear off the ground. This special moment touched John as one of the few people in the world ever to have witnessed such a moment in a young birds life. This could be the start of sixty years spent mostly in flight cruising the whole of the Southern ocean.
95p – Autumn is a funny season in the poles, broadly described as the time that the temperature drops abruptly and many animals rush to leave. For the fur seals of South Georgia, it’s the time when the adults leave and the weaned pups are left alone on the beach waiting the moment when they too will go to sea. At the peak of the breeding season there are around 4 million fur seals on South Georgia, but these numbers dwindle abruptly once mating is over and the pups are weaned.
One in 1000 fur seals are born blonde, and these are the ones which captured the hearts of cameraman / producer team Ted Giffords and Miles Barton. They are instantly recognisable as individuals in a crowd of several thousand brown seals and inevitably attract the most attention. But their individuality doesn’t seem to do them any harm as the team also saw a blonde adult bull with a harem of females as well as a couple of blonde mothers with their own brown pups.
£1.15p – Most of the breeding animals leave South Georgia by the time winter comes. The most prominent year-round resident is the king penguin. Their young take 10-13 months to fledge, and at St Andrews Bay, the largest colony, there is a healthy population during every season. As the snowstorms get harsher, the chicks huddle together to share warmth. Their thick brown fur coats provided a pretty backdrop to the falling snow, but sometimes the snowstorms rolling down from the hills was so strong that the crew – cameraman Martyn Colbeck and director Chadden Hunter – sometimes lost sight of the chocolate-coloured huddles standing just metres away from them. This stamp shows the remarkable walk that each king penguin parent must do when it returns to the colony from a long fishing trip at sea. The adult, alert and moving with purpose would push through thousands of fluffy brown chicks in the falling snow listening out for the call of their one and only offspring.
£2.50p – souvenir sheet showing a Wandering Albatross in flight against the South Georgia backdrop.
Frozen Planet broadcasts on BBC One in autumn 2011. The series is presented by Sir David Attenborough, who himself first visited South Georgia in 1982 while filming for the television series, Living Planet.The theme of these stamps, like the series they represent, is the extreme seasonality that occurs in the Polar Regions.(Text by Dr Elizabeth White, BBC Natural History Unit)
Technical Details:Designer: Andrew Robinson,Printer: Cartor Security Printing,Process: Stochastic lithography,Perforation: 13 ¼ x 13 ½ per 2cms,Stamp size: 28 x 42mm,Sheet Layout: 4 within pictorial sheetlet plus single stamp souvenir sheet,Release date: 15,September 2011,Production Co-ordination: Creative Direction (Worldwide) Ltd
Photographic credits and copyright:-:Stamps ,Spring – elephant seals Fredi Devas,Summer – albatross chic Fredi Devas,Autumn – blonde fur seal Chadden Hunter,Winter – king penguin Chadden Hunter,S/S – wandering albatross Ian McCarthy,S/S – icebergs Chadden Hunter,Sheet Borders- Spring Chadden Hunter,Summer Fredi Devas,Autumn Miles Barton,Winter Chadden Hunter,FDC -Mountain backdrop Chadden Hunter(Source:Frozen Planet http://bit.ly/o3698k)