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Polar Bears Stranded on the Thames!

A life-like 16ft high sculpture of an iceberg featuring a stranded polar bear and its cub was launched on the Thames today to mark the launch of the new Natural History TV channel Eden.

Story by Lizzie Guilfoyle

YESTERDAY (January 26, 2009), a sixteen foot high sculpture of an iceberg featuring a stranded female polar bear and her cub was launched on the River Thames, providing Londoners with a timely reminder of the dangers of global warming.

The sculpture, which was specially commissioned to mark the launch of Eden, a new digital TV channel devoted to natural history, graphically brought to life one of the most iconic images of climate change – the melting ice caps.

A team of 15 artists spent two months constructing the 20ft by 20ft square structure which was launched in Greenwich, South East London at 6:30am, before travelling up the Thames to stop beside Tower Bridge and the Houses of Parliament for a national photocall. The structure weighing 1.5 tonnes was winched into place in freezing temperatures, before travelling 7.5 miles along the Thames.

The melting ice caps will not only affect polar bears. There will also be serious repercussions for the two billion people who depend on the glacial meltwater that feeds their rivers. The polar bears’ presence in London highlights these issues which will also be addressed in Eden’s Fragile Earth series which runs throughout the week.

The Thames sculpture received support from renowned naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, who said: “The melting of the polar bears’ sea ice habitat is one of the most pressing environmental concerns of our time. I commend Eden for highlighting the issue; we need to do what we can to protect the world’s largest land carnivores from extinction.”

And Eden’s Channel Head, Adrian Wills, said: “The Earth is a fragile place and we were keen to launch with a message that would draw attention to the uncertain state of our finely balanced environment. Our aim is to reflect one amazing world, with one amazing channel that can address issues like climate change whilst providing an entertaining, informative experience by airing a range of high-end premieres, landmark natural history programmes and first class wildlife documentaries.”

Although the polar bears have now finished their journey along the Thames, they will be taking the message about global warming to Hampstead Heath as well as key cities across the UK, including Birmingham and Glasgow.

The Thames is familiar with unexpected visitors. In January 2006, a seven-tonne bottle-nosed whale became trapped in shallow water near Battersea Bridge. Crowds gathered as the British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) attempted to save its life. However, despite the team’s efforts to move it into deeper water, the whale died.

Other visiting mammals include a family of Harbour Porpoises, spotted near Vauxhall Bridge in December 2004; while three years earlier, a Bottle-nosed dolphin was discovered swimming past Tower Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge.

Eden, which is available on Sky Channel: 532 and Virgin TV Channel: 208, started at 9am, Monday, January 26, 2009, with Attenborough Explores…Our Fragile World. Further information about the programmes can be found at the Eden Website

View photos from the event