In our age of flash celebrity, reality TV and short attention spans, finding enduring and honourable role models can be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Readers may be familiar with our Golden Age campaign to bring back some of the wonderful things from days gone by, as well as our slight obsession to big it up for utterly inspiring characters that live among us now (like Aaron Biber and Iris Apfel). When this moves from slight obsession to major monkey, is when it comes to Sir David Attenborough.

Here is a man who has done a couple of things with his life. He joined television in 1952 when “everyone did everything”, so he has performed roles including starring, producing, directing and sewing (yes, you read that right), and everything in between. Famously, he has led dozens of successful documentary series over the years – from Life  (1979 – 2007) to The Blue Planet (2005) to Planet Earth (2006), the biggest nature documentary ever made for television, and numerous other magical moments. Not to mention his many environmental campaigns. In my journey from childhood to adulthood, he has been a figure that represents adventure, new frontiers, human curiosity and the wonders that exist all around us.

What has pushed him into the forefront of my mind once again is his phenomenal new series for BBC Television, Frozen Planet (those in the UK can currently watch it on the BBC iPlayer and in Australia it’s airing on the Nine Network). This series unveils the wonders and seasonal fluctuations of the Arctic and Antarctic – from the incredible transformation of the landscape across the course of one year, to the individual struggles for survival of the species that manage to inhabit the poles. At 84 years of age, David Attenborough personally visited these extreme polar regions for the making of the show, making him the oldest person ever to visit the North Pole. While you might think the dangers are obvious, the brilliant “frozen frame” sections at the end of each episode reveal some of the technical and logistical nightmares the expedition crew encountered.

Frozen Planet contains genuinely fascinating subject matter, beyond a normal documentary. It is a privilege to view sights that humans have never seen before and, as the BBC rightly states, we may never see again: the hunting tactics of the killer whales, the mischievous behaviour of the Adelie penguins when building nests for their females and the 13-year transformation of the wooly bear caterpillar. If you’re one for cute animals and their even cuter babies, this show has that attraction wrapped up too (is there anything more adorable than a polar bear cub?).

The UK viewer numbers jumping from 6.8 million for the first episode to almost 8 million for the second gives you some idea of the Frozen Planet hysteria rightfully sweeping parts of the planet. But would it be so were the one-and-only D.A. not leading the charge? I think not.

Sir David’s appearance on the long-running BBC Radio programme Desert Island Discs (this episode first broadcast in December 1998) is a must-hear if you want some further insight into the man behind the documentary. He details the music that has accompanied him on his travels and during his life, and the tracks that he would take to a desert island should he be stranded (this is the concept of the programme), and in doing so reveals nuggets about his life, beliefs and journey.

So make sure you tune into this latest epic tale and then get out there and explore the natural environment around you, whether that’s foraging in your local park, picnicking in the garden or committing to do a big trek some time in the future. As in the words of our modern hero:

“An understanding of the natural world and what’s in it is a source of not only great curiosity but great fulfillment.”   David Attenborough

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11 Responses to “Frozen in time? Not this icon: The marvel that is David Attenborough”

  1. [...] The BBC Radio website is a font for amazing life stories and words of wisdom from inspiring people icons - from philosophers to musicians to writers and politicians – through their Desert Island [...]

  2. Claudia says:

    I really love yor work.
    Claudia from the Netherlands

  3. Barry Blower says:

    The Production team deserve the highest awards; this is world class television.

  4. Deirdre Stewart says:

    David Attenborough is a National Treasure, team him with the extraordinary cameramen, crews and all the other people involved in making this and all the previous series and you have what surely must be the most wonderful images committed to film. We are really fortunate to have a TV Company in the BBC that commits the time money and expertise to bring us these astonishing images. It shows that we should cherish this planet and everything natural on it. We as a species really don’t deserve it.

    • Senga says:

      HI,
      I agree with everything you say. David Attenborough and all the progammes he has made are the best on tv. This planet is an amazing place and we should take care of it.
      cheers Senga

  5. MaartenF says:

    A few years ago I decided the world is much too wonderful and life is too short to waste time watching tv. So I stopped doing that. I hardly watch any now, except the news and events like the world cup or the olympics. I make one exception and that is the BBC. I am not from the UK. However I found out long ago that the BBC is by far the greatest broadcast organisation in the world. And it’s the only one you’ll ever need. And among all their excellence the nature documentaries with mr Attenborough are the top. I can say the works of these production crews have changed my life. I hope Sir David will reach 100 years of age.
    Maarten, Enschede, the Netherlands

  6. eric tapley says:

    FROZEN PLANET. WHAT A WONDERFUL SERIES THIS IS. THE PATIENCE OF THE CAMERA TEAM AND THE RISKS THEY TAKE FOR US TO WATCH AND MARVEL. IVE WATCHED THE UP TO DATE SERIES OVER AND OVER AND NEVER TIRE.THE WHOLE TEAM DESERVE TO BE KNIGHTED FOR THEIR WORK.AND SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH WHAT A DEDICATED MAN HE IS.WITHOUT HIM NARRATING IT WOULD NOT BE THE SAME. MAY HE AND THE TEAM LONG LIVE.SINCERELEY.ERIC TAPLEY.

  7. lisa says:

    This has been the most amazing series and full credit to everyone involved, from David Attenborough to the camera crew the sound everything is perfect it deserves to win all the awards I am sure it will be showered with .well done BBC!

  8. [...] Planet – you’ve already heard us raving about David Attenborough and Frozen Planet, but it’s worth another [...]

  9. Cosmo says:

    I have recently turned my cable back on in time for the olympics and have fallen in love with BBC and all things BBC. David Attenborough’s programs are enough TV to hold me over until the olympics, and with “DVR” I never miss an episode of anything.

  10. [...] 9.       Frozen in time? Not this icon: The marvel that is David Attenborough [...]

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