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Nature's Great Events - The Great Melt (BBC)

Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

YOU COULD be forgiven for thinking that The Great Melt was another programme about global warming. But you would be wrong. It was, in fact, the first in a new BBC six-part series entitled Nature’s Great Events.

There were, of course, the inevitable references to the shrinking Arctic ice cap – and rightly so. There was even an iconic image of a mother polar bear and her cub resting on a floating iceberg. However, The Great Melt actually refers to the greatest seasonal change that takes place on the planet – the Arctic winter giving way to summer.

Combine stunning photography and a fascinating, thought-provoking commentary by Sir David Attenborough and you have a sure-fire recipe for success.

And it’s not all about polar bears. As temperatures in the Arctic rise, an influx of visitors arrive to breed or simply take advantage of the relatively benign conditions – auks, guillemots, beluga whales, narwhals or as they’re commonly known, Arctic unicorns, and bowhead whales.

Even so, life isn’t easy. The narwhals, for example, must negotiate cracks in the ice; cracks that could well close over, causing them to drown. The migration of these elusive creatures was filmed here for the first time with aerial cameras as well as the patience, dedication and resilience of the teams involved – as the concluding Diary sequence revealed.

The young guillemot chicks also face a terrifying ordeal. From their cliff-side nest sites, they must ‘fly’ on immature wings to the sea far below. Many make it but a great many don’t. Instead, they’re caught by enterprising foxes, food for their hungry cubs. And it’s here I have my only gripe – was it really necessary to show quite so many hapless chicks meeting their fate? And yes, I know it’s nature but I got the picture pretty smartly.

That said, The Great Melt was beautiful to look at and filled with a breathtaking array of facts and figures – some you’ll remember, others you won’t. One that stuck in my head concerned walruses, cumbersome creatures that feed on clams gleaned from the ocean floor. Clams, however, produce “lots of wind” which, in turn, makes walrus colonies not very fragrant places! You have been warned!

The Great Melt certainly augers well for this new series which continues on Wednesday (February 18) with The Great Salmon Run – as good a reason as any for a great night in.