Dynasties (2018) s01e02 Episode Script

Emperor

Autumn in Atka Bay, Antarctica.
Just a few weeks ago, this was open sea.
Now a new, frozen landscape is forming.
This new world appears devoid of live.
Well, almost.
An emperor penguin.
And he is not alone.
Thousands of emperors are coming to this frozen bay.
They are here because the new ice provides the safest place for them to breed.
The ice will last nine months before melting away next summer.
And they will need every day of those nine months to raise the next generation for this great emperor dynasty.
But to do so, they will have to survive the coming winter, the coldest and the cruellest on earth.
Emperors pair up anew every year and although winter is fast approaching the process of finding the perfect partner cannot be hurried.
New couples perform a graceful ritual that will cement their commitment to each other.
Moving together in synchrony is the key to creating a powerful bond.
And this bond needs to be one of the strongest in nature.
Because the survival of every family here and, therefore, the survival of this dynasty depends upon it.
A penguin is beautifully designed for many things but mating is not one of them.
Unfortunately, not all the penguins have been able to find a perfect partner.
And with time fast running out, this female foregoes the formalities.
But this couple has already bonded too tightly to be split apart by an interloper.
Penguins unlucky in love head back to spend the winter feeding at sea, because there's no food out here on the ice.
The couples now face weeks of waiting while their eggs develop.
But one pair appears to have got ahead of schedule.
A bulge on a penguin's belly is normally the sign of a parent keeping an egg warm on its feet.
But she seems to be trying to keep a snow ball warm.
They appear to be getting some practice for the real thing.
The days are becoming shorter and colder.
Until finally the sun sets for the last time for two months.
It won't rise again until the spring.
Now they live in a twilight world, under the bright Antarctic moon.
For this couple the long wait for their egg is almost over.
The female senses it.
Her contractions have begun.
The next generation of emperors is on its way.
Producing an egg takes a huge amount of energy such, that the females lose a quarter of their body weight.
She hasn't eaten for over a month and needs to return to the ocean to feed.
She can't take her precious egg with her so she must pass it to her partner to care for.
He has a special brood pouch to keep it warm close to his skin.
If he doesn't get the egg off the ice quickly, it will freeze.
Now she is free to go.
But she does seem rather reluctant to leave.
He will now have sole responsibility for the egg all through the long, harsh winter.
He won't see his partner again until the egg has hatched.
Over the next few days every female in the colony hurries away on the same 50-mile march to the sea (20 km).
A freezing wind blowing in from the heart of the continent drives the temperature down.
To keep their eggs and themselves warm, the males now perform one of the most spectacular demonstrations of cooperation in nature.
One by one, they lock themselves into a huddle, creating a giant incubator made up of over four thousand male penguins.
Each individual constantly tries to push into the best possible position to keep himself and his egg warm.
As a result, the entire huddle is forever on the move.
Storm-force winds now drive the temperature down to minus 60 Celsius.
For the emperors on the outside facing the wind, the conditions become unbearable.
They have no choice but to break off and try to get round to the sheltered side.
He must get back on his feet, but without letting go of his egg.
If he fails, the embryo inside will rapidly freeze and die.
Once they arrive on the sheltered side of the huddle, they get some relief from the wind.
When the blizzard sets in here, it rages for days on end.
Now the casualties are revealed.
Battered, starving and exhausted, there is still no relief for the survivors.
The storm has driven them nearly a mile (1.
6 km) from the safest part of the ice.
It's a weary march back to where they started from.
Now they re-form their huddle, to be ready for the next storm.
Which will come inevitably.
Only after two months of brutal weather Does the polar night finally come to an end.
And with it comes a hint of warmth.
The return of the sun coincides with the appearance of the newest members of the colony.
I a matter of days there are thousands of hungry mouths all demanding food.
Their fathers haven't eaten anything for nearly four months.
Yet they have kept back a vital reserve penguin milk just for this moment.
But it's only enough to keep the chick alive for a few days.
The females must return soon with food.
For some, it's already too late.
The first of the females are returning.
Fat and well-fed, more arrive all with food for the chicks.
And not a moment too soon for the waiting fathers.
A mother's first sight of their young chick.
With their bond reaffirmed, the whole family celebrates.
Now, at last, he can hand over his precious chick to its mother.
But there are less fortunate females here, whose chicks have died.
Yet their parenting instinct is still strong.
The sight of a youngster being handed over is irresistible.
More chickless females join in the melee.
The chick appears to be safe.
But it is no longer with its true parents.
The prospects for a kidnapped chick are never good.
Despite their immense efforts over the last three months, this couple have nothing to show for it.
For those couples that have been successful, it's the father's turn to head back to sea to get a much needed meal for himself and to take his turn collecting food for the chick.
The mother is now able to bond with her new baby.
And urgently to feed it.
Its first taste of seafood.
But the times of hardship are not over.
Another storm and another white-out.
For some, this is a catastrophe.
They have tumbled into a ravine in the ice, with steep, slippery walls.
Chicks are now a deadly burden, mothers carrying young cannot grip the ice.
If she doesn't get out, they will both die.
This mother has had to make a terrible choice, to save herself, she has abandoned her chick.
One mother, at least, is not prepared to give up on her chick.
Mother and chick are safe.
There is, occasionally, a respite from the brutality of Antarctica.
Clear skies, gentle winds and a particularly spectacular display of the southern lights, the aurora australis.
As the sun climbs higher every day, it warms the ice.
Soon the emperors' frozen world will start to melt away.
For the last few weeks, the mother and father have taken it in turn to feed their offspring, but its growing appetite will soon force both parents to go away fishing at the same time.
Now it's time to encourage the month-old chicks to stand on their own two feet.
Sometimes it takes a well-timed kick.
Now both parents can head off to sea to go fishing.
For the first time the chicks will have to face the elements without a parent to protect them.
Other adults certainly won't look after them.
So lone chicks gather together for comfort.
As the temperature drops to minus 25, the chicks instinctively create their own mini huddle, just as their fathers do.
This is no time for a youngster to be alone.
if they're lucky, some chicks may still have the protection of a parent taking a break from fishing.
But for the majority, the huddle is their only shelter.
Even in this weather, adults must still head back to the sea to bring back food.
The instinct to follow adults is still strong.
but in a blizzard that is a bad idea.
The adults' disappearance leaves the chicks in confusion.
Lost and alone, his only hope is that this adult is heading back to the colony and not away from it across the frozen wastes.
With the last of the big storms over, summer has arrived.
The ice that has been the penguins' home is melting.
These chicks are almost fully grown and approaching independence.
Before they leave for the sea, all emperors adults and their chicks must moult.
For the youngsters, this marks the arrival of adulthood.
Against all the odds two thirds have survived.
But the annual disappearance of their ice world is a reminder that they face an uncertain future.
Ocean temperatures are expected to rise year on year.
This Antarctic sea ice, on which all emperor penguins rely, may not freeze for long enough each year for them to complete their extraordinary life cycle.
But as the whole colony prepares to leave Atka Bay, these parents have successfully raised the next generation in this emperors' dynasty.
To capture the extraordinary story of emperor penguins, the Dynasties team had to travel to the end of the earth.
Neumayer research station will be home to the film crew for nearly a year.
About 70 tons worth of food.
Got about 15 boxes of white cabbage.
Neumayer has everything they need.
But it's a different world outside.
It's really easy to feel quite comfortable inside and this place is wild, really wild.
It's worth reminding every now and again.
Inside! The crew need five layers of clothing before they can even think of leaving the base.
As the final plane departs they know that it will be the last till winter is over in eight months' time.
The plane just left and that's us on our own now.
Nobody will be coming in case something happened.
We're now all by ourselves.
When the team head out to explore they discover just how careful they have to be working in this hostile world.
We've got across an enormous crack so we're probably on an unsafe piece of ice at the moment.
Oh my God! Did you just hear that? A deep crack at the edge of the ice shelf like this can be extremely dangerous.
Oh my word, it just goes straight down.
This area is definitely not safe.
Incredible reminder of how unpredictable this place is.
It's just mind-blowing.
Six miles from the station (9.
6 km), permanent ice meets the ocean.
This is where the penguins will soon be heading.
Once the sea is frozen, the team will have to cross the treacherous, newly-formed ice to reach them.
Found a decent spot for the big guys to lower me down onto the sea ice for the first time.
Will can act as a bit of a safety man for me in case something goes wrong.
These are our first three steps onto the sea ice.
Definitely it is a bit nerve-wrecking knowing that there's a couple of hundred metres of water underneath us.
To find a safe route the crew must check the depth of the ice all the way.
Ice around 30 cm and above is stable.
This is a great moment for us.
We've finally made it to the colony.
Yes, very special.
When it's this still, and there's this many birds in front of you, and makes the place look absolutely beautiful.
A few weeks later the sun sets for the last time, and Antarctica reveals its harsher side.
We think it's probably minus 50.
The sun is somewhere below the horizon.
So won't be visible for another six weeks, probably.
So this is something we're gonna have to get used to.
It's easier said than done.
Oh, God! Then the storms come.
A proper, proper weather now and really, really strong winds.
The colony is just in front of us.
Sometimes it disappears behind the snow.
It's been hovering around 100 km/h, and since has picked up.
What these penguins are having to put up with out there is just mind-blowing.
Finally we're coming to the end of this storm.
There's all sorts of weird rattling sounds and God honest, I don't know how this station manages to stay standing.
Finally, the sun returns, but the storms continue.
A break in the weather reveals something the team had not expected.
I can hear a heck of a lot of noise coming from just over the brow.
Oh man! Oh, my word! There are birds down there with chicks.
Film crews have to capture events as they unfold whatever their feelings.
I know it's natural, but it's bloody hard to watch.
We're just gonna have to observe them for a bit and see exactly what's happening.
We've climbed back onto the top because the weather is coming in again and we're just gonna have to pack up and an adult with a chick on its feet managed to make its way up.
Amazing, he's using its beak, and when he got to this last little leg its wings! Oh, man, if only the other 50 in there could do the same.
Hopefully the weather will clear again tomorrow, we can get back down here and fingers crossed, there will be a few less birds in this hole.
Two days later the weather allows the team to return to the colony.
Already the gully has claimed more casualties.
The team decide to act.
We've given it a lot of thought.
We've decided that we're definitely gonna dig a shallow ramp that they will hopefully use.
It's very rare for a film crew to intervene.
But they realise that they may be able to save at least some of these birds simply by digging a few steps in the ice.
Oh, man! Will, look! Oh, my goodness.
We were literally just about to leave, but the first birds are definitely making their way up, which is brilliant.
So hopefully they'll just make their way back to the colony and them and their chicks'll have a much better chance of survival because there is no chance that they were gonna survive down there at all.
The crew follow the chicks as they grow up and after months with the emperors their time in Antarctica is finally coming to a close.
We're coming to the end of the trip now.
Yeah, we've had a had an amazing year, and I'm obviously desperate to get home.
But this there's an odd part of me that doesn't wanna leave.
What a privilege, eh? Next time A lioness battles against the odds to protect her family.
Can she lead them back from the brink of disaster?