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Only one creature has carved a life for itself
in every habitat on Earth.
That creature is us.
All over the world, we still use our ingenuity to survive
in the wild places,
far from the city lights, face to face with raw nature.
This is the Human Planet.
At the top of our planet lies
one of the most remote places on Earth.
In winter, the region is frozen and dark for months on end.
There are no trees and there are no plants to eat.
We humans weren't built to withstand a landscape as hostile as this.
And yet, four million people live here.
Their survival relies upon an intimate knowledge of this,
the most hostile habitat on Earth.
The beginning of a new Arctic year.
After months of winter darkness,
the sun finally returns to this frozen land.
For the Inuit of Saattut, Greenland,
the sun's return marks the beginning of their hunting calendar.
Now that the residents have enough daylight,
a world of opportunity opens up.
They can embark on expeditions far from town,
travelling across the thousands of kilometres of sea ice
that lead to their hunting grounds.
Today, Amos Jensen and his son Karl-Frederik
have to feed their dogs.
Their dogs are essential.
At this time of year, the dogsled
is their only means of transportation.
Because their hunting trip could take some time,
father and son will need a few comforts of home,
or even home itself.
To find the most nutritious dog food,
Amos and Karl-Frederik need to travel many kilometres across the sea ice.
What they're after is a real-life Arctic sea monster,
a Greenland shark.
To support their weight, the ice
only needs to be five centimetres thick,
about two inches.
This ice is nearly a metre thick, and it could support a jumbo jet.
Amos knows that Greenland sharks are partial to whale meat.
And he also knows they live in the deepest waters.
Now, both men and dogs have to wait for something to take the bait.
As temperatures plummet to -35 degrees Celsius,
the dogs' thick fur keeps them warm.
But without their hut,
Amos and Karl-Frederik would freeze to death.
It's time to check if the dogs will eat today.
From the vibrations he feels on the fishing line,
he knows they've hooked something.
But he won't know if it's a shark until they pull it up.
It's down so deep
they have to stretch their fishing line
along the ice in hundred-metre lengths.
They pull their catch up a staggering 800 metres,
nearly twice the height of the Empire State Building.
They've caught the Greenland shark they were hoping for.
The Greenland shark is the only native Arctic shark.
It's one of the largest predators in these seas.
Researchers have found caribou and even polar bears in its stomach.
The shark has accidentally wrapped the fishing line round its tail.
It's not the normal way to land a shark,
but a catch is a catch.
Amos and Karl can't lift the shark by themselves
so they enlist the help of the dogs.
This shark is four metres long, weighs over half a ton
and is the largest they've ever caught.
But it will only feed their 20 dogs for two weeks.
For Greenlanders, it is essential to have well-fed dogs
if they're to continue hunting and fishing.
Here in the Arctic, the bond between man and dog is so important.
It's unlikely we would have colonised
this habitat without our best friends.
As the year moves on, so does the quest for survival.
It's March, but the Arctic Ocean is still dominated by sea ice.
An area four times the size of the United States is frozen over.
The ice connects Europe to Russia, and Russia to North America.
And here in the Canadian Arctic,
people have a unique insight into what lies beneath the ice.
In Kangiqsujjuaq, northeast Canada,
Lukasi Nappaaluk is watching the tides.
Tomorrow, the spring equinox
will create the most extreme tides of the year,
and a spectacular opportunity for a meal.
The neap tide literally opens a door
for a garden of seafood just below the ice.
You just need to know where to find it.
Lukasi and his friends prefer snowmobiles to dogsleds.
And they don't bother to bring along a shelter either.
Everything they need to protect themselves from the elements
is right beneath their feet.
Even if it's -45 degrees Celsius outside,
body warmth can heat an igloo to a balmy +16,
a full 60 degrees warmer.
Cosy inside their igloo, Lukasi and his friends must now wait.
Before they can hunt, something extraordinary has to happen.
Underneath the sea ice, the tide is going out
The floating ice drops a staggering 12 metres, nearly 40 feet,
exposing the seabed, and, hopefully, the bounty they're after.
Lukasi and his friends try to get
under the ice as quickly as possible.
They have just half an hour before the tide comes back in.
The world beneath their feet is unstable.
The giant blocks of ice are no longer supported by water
and could collapse at any moment.
This is the only place on Earth where the tides are extreme enough
to allow people to dare venture under the sea ice.
And in a chamber that moments ago was underwater,
they find what they're looking for.
All they could hope for.
Now they have just minutes to gather all they can carry.
The returning tide is an unstoppable force.
As the sea steadily flows back,
it lifts the huge blocks of ice over their heads.
Even as they escape, the ice shifts around them.
The ocean reclaims its secret garden.
Lukasi can only harvest mussels for the few days of extreme tides.
Mussels are a delicious way to break up a diet
that during winter has been mainly seal meat and fish.
THEY LAUGH AND CHAT
But summer is on the way, and everything is about to change.
By June, the sun finally pushes temperatures above zero.
The sea ice begins to melt.
And as it breaks apart, it triggers an annual summer migration.
GROWLS AND GRUNTS
Animals that have spent the winter far offshore
follow the melting ice into the bays and fjords.
For Arctic hunters, this creates a unique opportunity.
Mamarut Kristiansen, and his brothers Mikele and Gedion,
are Thule Inuit from northern Greenland.
They're rushing to keep the most important appointment
in their hunting calendar.
They must be punctual.
In just a few weeks, the sea ice
they're travelling on will melt away.
Their goal is the most precious food in the Arctic.
These legendary whales are looking for a way into the bay.
This is a mythic creature...
...but it is also a source of the rarest vitamin in the Arctic.
In a landscape with so few edible fruits or plants,
the Inuit don't have alternatives.
Spotting narwhal is hard enough.
Even scientists who study them rarely see them.
But if Mikele is going to catch one,
the narwhal will have to swim a great deal closer than this.
It could be weeks before the three brothers see narwhal again.
But they have to stay alert, and there's plenty to prepare.
In this region, the law states
that hunters can only use traditional methods.
This means travelling in kayaks,
a craft the Inuit invented thousands of years ago,
and using the avatak, a buoy made from the skin of a ring seal.
Even though it's midnight, the sun still shines.
In June, the sun simply
circles the sky, never dipping below the horizon.
It's vital that one of them stands guard at all times.
But Gedion isn't just looking for narwhal.
He's watching the ice.
Already it's thinning and breaking apart.
If they're not careful,
the brothers could find themselves adrift on a melting piece of ice.
Mamarut and Gedion know not to panic.
Narwhal are extremely skittish,
so the hunters enter the water with care.
The three brothers work as a team.
They're after just one whale.
It's an ambush.
The narwhal pass within 50 feet of Mikele
but still all three hunters wait.
If he strikes too soon, the whole pod will dive.
His eye is on the stragglers bringing up the rear.
Especially in the final approach, Mikele must be silent
and directly behind his prey.
Their success will benefit the whole community.
The single narwhal will feed their families for weeks, if not months.
The most prized part of the narwhal is the skin.
They call it muktuk.
It's their primary source of vitamin C.
Ounce for ounce, narwhal skin contains
almost as much vitamin C as oranges.
it's doubtful the Inuit would have survived in this part of the Arctic.
It's now July, and the sun finally wins its battle.
The sea ice melts into open ocean.
To find food, man turns his attention to the land.
is the northernmost native settlement on Earth.
Every year, Maassannguaq Oshima is treated to a spectacle.
Millions of little auks on migration.
They come here to breed on the cliffs.
And for predators,
there's a mouth-watering supply of protein whizzing overhead.
If you can reach it.
Thousands of years ago, Maassannguaq's ancestors
worked out how to make nets out of sinew and driftwood.
And they created the same hiding spots he uses today.
On a good day, Maassannguaq can gather up to 500 birds.
But he won't eat them now.
He'll take his cue from a fellow hunter.
Arctic foxes often stuff a few birds underground,
so that when times are lean, they'll have food to fall back on.
The birds can be used to make kiviak,
a dish that you save for a rainy day.
The recipe is thousands of years old, and it goes like this.
Take one seal skin.
Stuff as many little auks inside it as you can.
At least 500.
Sew it up.
Make sure you press all the air out.
Seal fat repels flies, so be generous when coating the seams.
And finally, use a big rock to make sure no more air gets in.
Maassannguaq's kiviak won't be ready for three months,
but the frozen ground is a natural refrigerator.
Come winter, he and his family will have a vital supply of food.
It's now September.
Days are getting shorter and temperatures are plummeting.
The few plants that have managed to grow over the short Arctic summer
are dying back.
This is exactly what is happening on Arnoy island, northern Norway.
3,000 reindeer have been grazing here all summer.
But now they have to move,
because their winter food source,
lichen, can only be found 450 kilometres away.
And to get to it, they'll have to cross this, the Arnoy strait.
Elle-Helene Siri is in charge
of leading these reindeer across the water.
She belongs to a family of Sami reindeer herders.
Before the migration begins,
Elle helps split the deer into smaller groups
so they can give them vital medicine.
On the day she was born, Elle was given a portion of this herd.
Now aged 20, and a recent graduate of Norway's reindeer college,
it's up to her to make sure they all survive the perilous journey ahead.
It will take nearly a month
for these deer to migrate to their winter pastures.
But today is the toughest day of all,
because the deer have to swim 2.5 kilometres across the channel.
COWBELLS CHIME DULLY
These chilly Arctic waters are only just above freezing.
Even for adult reindeer this is a long swim.
But for this year's calves, which have never been in the water before,
it's a marathon.
SHIP HORN BLARES
As the young calves approach the halfway point, exhaustion sets in.
For Elle, it's a tense moment,
because if one calf turns around and swims back, the rest could follow.
A baby female is in trouble, and suddenly, she turns back.
Elle must stop her or the whole migration could derail.
She's done it.
The migration remains on track.
After an hour of hard swimming, Elle and her reindeer reach the mainland.
It won't be long before Elle's deer will be grazing
on the lichen they need to get them through the winter.
And it's not just animals looking for a meal at this time of year.
In Greenland, Maassannguaq and his father are already breaking into
the caches of little auks they stored up in the summer.
The birds have now fermented and have become
the Inuit delicacy known as kiviak.
It's easy to tell if your kiviak is ready by the aroma.
It should sting the nostrils.
This is why it's polite always to serve kiviak outdoors.
The flavour should resemble extremely intense Gorgonzola cheese.
Nothing is wasted. Everything is edible.
The Inuit of northern Greenland love kiviak so much
that it's the dish of choice for birthdays and weddings.
And it's nutritious, full of vitamins and minerals
that will sustain people over the winter months ahead.
As September gives way to October, winter returns to the Arctic.
The ocean ices over once again.
One of the first places to freeze lies along Hudson's Bay
near the town of Churchill, Manitoba.
Every year, the 1,000 human residents must share their town
with one of the few predators on Earth
that actively hunts human beings.
From September to November,
as many as 300 ravenous polar bears descend on Churchill
on their way back to hunt on the sea ice.
Bob Windsor is in charge of protecting the residents.
He belongs to a special task force - the Polar Bear Alert team.
'Polar bears are pure predators, so they kill other animals to eat.
'That's how they survive.
'Knowing that, you have to give them a little more respect
'because you could also be a potential meal for them.'
(OVER RADIO) This is one nine zero.
Just to let everybody know that there's a bear coming towards town.
VEHICLE HORN BLARES
As a first line of defence,
Bob tries to frighten the bear back into the wilderness.
But this skirmish isn't necessarily over.
Desperate for something to eat, bears often return in the darkness...
...which is bad news for Bob,
because tonight, more than any other night, fills him with dread.
'Halloween is probably the busiest night of the year that we work,
'just by the sheer number of people out and about that evening.'
So, the potential for something bad to happen is definitely there.
At the same time as the trick-or-treaters hit the streets,
people at the Royal Legion gather for their weekly meat raffle.
The prize for winning is prime Canadian beef.
This may seem cavalier,
but the residents of Churchill refuse to live in fear.
And the protection of the polar bear patrol makes them feel safe.
However, in the past,
bears have mauled and killed people right here on Main Street,
and Bob is all too aware of the risks.
You always hope and pray that nothing bad is gonna happen.
Keep your eyes open, be aware of your surroundings
and always be thinking that there could be a bear nearby.
They'll move around. You won't hear them.
Hi! Trick or treat!
We kind of refer to them sometimes as ghosts,
cos they'll just disappear on you.
They'll be there, then, "Where did it go?" A little spooky that way.
They're amazingly fast, amazingly agile, and amazingly stealthful.
-Trick or treat!
-Hi, guys! How you doin'?
-Trick or treat.
Trick or treat?
-Have you seen any bears?
-No, it's been good tonight.
There was a bear in town earlier today.
-But there's been nothing tonight at all.
-Did you hear that? We're safe.
You have a good night tonight, OK?
Keep your eyes open for polar bears too, OK?
-Thank you, guys.
-See you, little bear!
Tonight, the residents of Churchill are safe,
but it was a closer call than many of them realised.
Inside this bear trap is proof
trick-or-treaters weren't the only ones on the streets last night.
Lured into the cage by seal meat, this male weighs over half a ton.
This bear is sedated and will be flown
at least 60 kilometres outside of town.
In the past,
an average of 75 bears per year have been transported out of Churchill.
But in recent years, the number of invading bears has halved
because in this part of the Arctic, polar bears are in decline.
They have timed the sedative so that it wears off soon after they land
so that bears can protect themselves from other bears in the area.
For Officer Windsor,
it means working fast before this bear fully wakes up.
A single swipe from a male this size could be fatal.
It's a great feeling cos here it is, you're letting them go.
You can't help but wonder where's it going to be going,
how is it going to make out.
Very satisfying to see a bear actually get up and go on its way.
HELICOPTER ROTORS WHIRR
Wish 'em well, hope for the best, and to never seem 'em again in town.
With the sea ice forming fast,
it won't be long before this polar bear
can roam far and wide in search of food.
But for people, moving around the Arctic
is about to get a lot more treacherous,
because the sun is deserting them.
It's November in Ilulissat, Greenland,
and the sun no longer rises above the horizon.
The residents won't see daylight for another 54 days.
They try to live their lives as normal. They still hunt and fish.
Adults go to work.
Children go to school.
But it's all under the cover of darkness.
As the dark days drag on, everybody yearns for the sun to come back.
Finally, on January 13th, they get their wish.
The entire community comes out to celebrate
the first sunrise of the new year.
With every new sunrise, the Arctic is warming up.
And the seasonal opportunities that have made life possible
may not be here in years to come.
However, the people of the Arctic are born survivors.
If there's anyone who can adapt
to the changes on the horizon, surely it's them.
For the Arctic team, the narwhal hunt was always going to be a challenge.
The hunt happens in the spring,
when the sea ice is at its most fragile and dangerous.
Even knowing the risks, no-one could have foreseen
quite how much drama they would face in this treacherous place.
Day one on the ice,
and the experienced crew, including polar cameraman Doug Allan,
are busy loading the sleds.
This is what you need to take six people onto the ice for a fortnight.
It's a hell of a lot of stuff, isn't it?
We've probably got about 400 kilos between six people.
So, to say we're travelling light is possibly a little understatement!
With the kit and a person on board,
each dogsled is having to carry about 100 kilos of freight,
which is quite a lot, really, between 12 dogs.
But this is what these dogs are bred for, and they're in their element.
They set off across 27 kilometres of sea ice to open water.
Three brothers, Mamarut, Gedion and Mikele,
lead the crew on their quest for narwhal.
After only a couple of hours,
the expedition encounters their first sign of danger.
You can quite distinctly see the movement here.
The swell's coming in from the open ocean and it's breaking it up.
And this little crack here, which you can put your finger down,
maybe 15 minutes from now, it's going to be this wide.
Half an hour, it will be too wide to cross.
You have to be careful. This ice is on the move all the time.
The Inuit hunters decide the ice is too unstable
and the expedition is forced back to the safety of land.
After five and a half hours of travelling,
we've come all the way across the...the inlet.
The ice edge is still unstable so I think we'll wait the night out here
and then maybe have a look-see tomorrow.
The next morning,
they pick their way across broken tidal ice to the sleds,
to check out the situation.
I'm pleased the hunters made the decision they did, as overnight,
we've lost three or four kilometres of the ice shelf,
which is now disappearing rapidly in that direction.
As we were coming into the fjord, we actually crossed our tracks,
and they disappeared into the water, which was quite a sobering thought.
When they do reach the edge, they can't believe their luck,
as Mamarut quickly spots some narwhal.
We've just seen some narwhal further along the ice edge,
so the guys are getting the kayaks ready
because if the narwhals come close, they might try to hunt them.
Doug's ready to capture the action.
But just when Gedion is in position to harpoon, the narwhal dives.
They wait and hope for the whales to resurface.
It's now one o'clock in the morning. We've been here for about 12 hours.
The narwhal have gone
but the hunters are still sure that they're going to come back,
and we're still waiting, and we're all getting very tired.
24-hour daylight melts the ice from above,
and ocean swells stress the ice from beneath.
It's not the safest place to camp,
but they must wait at the edge for the narwhals' return.
The days start to run into weeks
and the crew have to extend their shoot.
It's almost three weeks now that we've been on location
and this...this is the problem - ice.
And somewhere under here are the narwhals.
It's really frustrating.
Next, it's the weather that turns against them.
It's just one thing after another, isn't it?
I'll tell you how bored I am.
-How bored are you?
-I moved my tent this morning.
That was the most exciting thing I've done in three days.
And I moved it six feet.
It gave me a sense of satisfaction, cos I'd done something!
As the days pass, the temperature rises
and the ice thins, increasing the chance of something going wrong.
Did you hear it? Did you hear it? Oh, listen, listen!
It's cracking... It's cracking right underneath us right now.
You can't see it cos there's snow on top of it. There was like, "Crunch!"
It's perfect narwhal conditions, perfect light, perfect everything,
and what's happening, we've got swell.
The swell can fracture the sea ice literally anywhere.
That's not good news.
So, it's time to leave here and head to safer ground.
The normally laid-back Inuit up their pace,
and the crew realise the situation is serious.
They are all now cast adrift on an ice floe.
I don't know how the hell we're going to get off this now!
They're facing an emergency and everyone's focus turns to survival.
Stop this, please.
The whole expedition is now floating away at an alarming rate.
There are 13 people, 54 dogs and six sleds of kit to get to safety.
Gedion has got into his canoe
and is paddling furiously across the lead with a very fine trace wire,
onto which, by the looks of it, they will put a much thicker rope,
to physically haul from the other side the sleds across,
which is very clever, cos they float - amazing.
Speed is of the essence,
as the wind blows the team further and further from land.
The sea temperature here can kill in minutes.
It pays not to rock the boat.
Get the important stuff on!
Well, the guys have done great.
Very impressed. No flap. They knew what to do.
After four hours ferrying,
the kit and crew reach the other side safely.
But that still leaves 54 water-shy dogs.
On the other side, they're still far from home
and on ice that's breaking up around them.
It's a race against time,
as over 10km before they reach the safety of the village.
Within sight of home,
an inexperienced dog team makes a serious error.
An unseen crack has opened up just metres from the village.
Any wider and the fully laden sledge would sink to the bottom,
dragging the dogs under.
There's a dog trapped under the sledge
but, miraculously, even this one emerges unharmed.
Doug and the crew spot the problem and find a better route home.
It was another week before the ice was safe enough
for the crew to film the full narwhal hunt sequence.
This shoot, more than any other,
highlights the importance of the complete trust
between the Human Planet crew and the local Inuit,
in a place where knowing your environment is the key to survival.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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