Elizabeth White, one of the directors behind the new Discovery Channel
series documenting life at Earth's polar regions, shares her 'holy
grail' moments caught while the cameras were rolling
1. First complete filming of a killer whale "wave wash," in which hunting orcas create giant waves to wash seals off ice floes
"We had tantalizing reports of this behavior from observers on cruise ships, the diaries of the early explorers and also a shaky tourist video," says White, whose crew went to the Antarctic to capture its own footage of this phenomenon, said to be the most complex team hunt in the whole of the animal kingdom. "Among large ice floes peppered with sunbathing seals, the crew saw some tall dorsal fins and killer whales coming vertically out of the water to have a look around. Remarkably, right in front their eyes, a pod of killer whales prospected an ice floe, turned and generated a wave which washed over a nearby floe. What they revealed to the scientists was a number of things -- that killer whales have a real preference for Weddell seals, not crabeaters (as had previously been proposed), that they use different techniques to break up floes of different sizes and that different pods behave differently -- some are bold and fearless and others more cautious."
2. Footage of the brinicle, an underwater ice stalactite that plunges toward the seabed and kills everything it touches
"This was an unexpected discovery for the 'Frozen Planet' team," admits White. "Relatively few people have dived in Antarctica, and there is still much to learn about the marine life there. [The crew was] aware of these bizarre ice chandeliers -- brine icicles -- hanging from the sea ice above, but it was only when filming something else that they accidently witnessed one forming. This was an amazing opportunity to use time-lapse techniques to really show what happens when these bizarre formations grow. This phenomenon had never been filmed before."
3. Aerial footage of Antarctica -- including the first aerials of the South Pole base -- retracing the steps of early explorers Robert F. Scott and Roald Amundsen
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"We were aware that 'Frozen Planet' would be airing exactly 100 years after the tragic story of Scott and his team, as they battled to be the first men to stand at the geographical South Pole. Retracing their epic journey -- across the trans-Antarctic mountains, mighty Beardmore Glacier and up onto the vast polar plateau -- felt a very symbolic journey to make, even if done using helicopters and planes, rather than by foot."