Night on Earth (2020) s01e02 Episode Script

Frozen Nights

[wind gusting.]
[female narrator.]
The start of winter.
Vast expanses of the planet begin to freeze.
[ice crackling.]
Every night grows longer.
[wind whistling.]
But now, with new technology, we can see into this darkness [snarling.]
and reveal secret lives within as animals battle to survive the coldest and longest nights on Earth.
At the equator, day and night are equal.
But head north or south, and the balance shifts with the seasons.
In the High Arctic, around the islands of Svalbard [wind gusting.]
it's early winter.
Nights are lengthening fast.
Soon, the sun won't rise for months.
A low-light camera reveals a mother polar bear and her two cubs venturing into the polar night.
[throaty grumble.]
The two-year-old cubs are almost fully grown.
If they make it to spring, they will be ready to head out alone.
Until then, they are dependent on their mother.
With three large appetites to satisfy, she will struggle to provide for the family.
The long darkness ahead will be a test of her endurance and skill.
[wind gusting.]
For a new family, night poses a different challenge.
[wind gusting.]
Winter has reached the mountains of Patagonia, southern Chile.
[high-pitched whimpering.]
A mother puma and her four young cubs make the most of the warmth before nightfall.
[whimpering continues.]
To see puma cubs this young is rare.
As they grow, they make increasing demands on their mother.
And soon they will start eating meat.
[high-pitched whimpering.]
[distant animals chattering.]
A herd of guanacos.
Her best chance to make a kill.
But it's hard to hunt in such an open landscape.
[guanaco bleats.]
She must wait for the cover of darkness.
On a moonless night, a thermal-imaging camera can see into the darkness.
[guanaco bleating.]
The female puma now has the advantage.
[suspenseful music playing.]
She can see where the guanaco is near blind.
Mirror-like cells in her eyes amplify what little light there is.
But the herd catch the scent of danger.
[bleating continues.]
A male puma, also on the hunt.
[bleating continues.]
- If he finds her cubs - [puma snarling.]
he could kill them.
With danger roaming in the darkness, she cannot risk leaving them alone.
[high-pitched whimpering.]
[high-pitched whimpering.]
[wind gusting.]
She must go hungry tonight.
Across the northern hemisphere, the deepening winter forces many animals to either migrate or hibernate in order to escape the deadly chill.
Some, like the wood frog, can do neither.
It's trapped in this Alaskan forest.
Decomposing autumn leaves provide a little humidity and warmth during the day.
Still, it is only just above freezing.
[ominous music playing.]
And with nightfall, temperatures plummet to -16 Celsius.
Cold seeps in through the frog's thin, moist skin.
[crackling continues.]
Its small body generates almost no heat.
[heavy breathing.]
As the night grows colder, many of its bodily functions grind to a halt.
Its heart stops beating.
To all appearances, it has frozen to death.
[wind gusting.]
But when morning breaks, the first rays of sunlight spark a miniature miracle.
As temperatures creep above freezing, the frog's heart begins to beat again.
- Its cells contain high concentrations - [heart beating.]
of urea and glucose, which prevent harmful ice forming in its tiny body.
By midwinter, it can survive for weeks in this deathlike state.
[heavy breathing.]
Thanks to this extraordinary adaptation, this is the most northerly frog in the world.
[distant animals chattering.]
[wind whistling.]
As winter deepens, nights grow even longer.
In Japan, another species is at the limit of its survival.
Macaques spend hours in this thermal pool.
The water is 50 degrees warmer than the surrounding air.
It's the perfect place to relax before they head off to sleep in the forest.
This young male is in need of friends.
Without them, he faces a dangerously cold night alone.
[water splashing.]
[birds squawking in the distance.]
In macaque society, friendships are formed through grooming.
But all he gets is the cold shoulder.
[rain pattering.]
[wind gusting.]
At dusk, the troop move up into the trees to avoid predators below.
[high-pitched squealing.]
[wind whistling.]
[branches rustling.]
Infrared light, invisible to the monkeys, reveals their high perches.
There is warmth in numbers.
Huddling together preserves just enough heat to survive the freezing temperatures.
But the young male isn't allowed to share the narrow branch.
He is dangerously exposed.
It's now -10 Celsius.
His only hope is to squeeze in with the other males.
But they show no sign of accepting him.
By midnight, everyone is feeling the cold.
[wind whistling.]
[branches rustling.]
It's time to make his move.
[high-pitched squeal.]
Now, any extra body warmth is welcome.
Simple contact is enough to save his life.
And theirs too.
The only way to survive these harsh winter nights is by sticking together.
In the mountains of Patagonia, the mother puma has capitalized on the darkness.
Thermal imaging reveals a fresh kill.
A still-warm guanaco.
She hasn't taken her fill, but she can't stay.
Her cubs are three kilometers away and the large male is still in the area.
[high-pitched squealing.]
[high-pitched squealing.]
She must bring her cubs to the kill, and soon.
By day, they will be visible to all predators.
[cub whimpering.]
This will be the first time the litter has left the den.
[wind gusting.]
[cubs squealing.]
Not all welcome the move.
[wind gusting.]
[cub squeals.]
The wind is increasing to gale strength.
[wind gusting, whistling.]
It makes it harder to follow their mother's calls.
Especially in the long grass.
[cub squeals.]
Halfway there.
[cubs squealing.]
But something is wrong.
One cub has become separated.
[ominous music playing.]
She must return to find it alone.
[cubs squealing.]
Now all her cubs are exposed.
[ominous music playing.]
The male is back.
Submission is not enough.
Her only option is attack.
Bravery has bought her time.
Unable to hear over the wind, she must rely on her exceptional night vision.
[cub squeals.]
The missing cub.
[cub squealing.]
All back together again.
[cubs squealing.]
[playful squeals.]
Finally, a chance to feed.
This is the first time these cubs have tasted meat.
[cub growls.]
With each night, they grow closer to independence.
[playful squeals.]
[wind gusting.]
By mid-winter, food is so scarce that animals must find ways to survive months of near starvation.
Some hibernate, their bodies burning minimal energy.
But wood mice don't have that option.
And this one is pregnant.
The food stores she laid down in the fall are now exhausted.
She must search for food in the cold night.
[mouse squeaking.]
Darkness is her only protection from predators.
Snow makes it harder to find food on the forest floor.
She must search elsewhere.
A tree hollow is worth investigating.
And it's warmer here too.
Others have already claimed this refuge.
A colony of honey bees.
Like her, they don't hibernate.
[soft buzzing.]
They can feed through the winter on stored honey.
Despite the cold, their food supplies haven't frozen.
Thousands of bees vibrate their wing muscles, generating enough heat to keep the hive warm.
But it's a huge drain on their energy.
Individual sacrifice ensures the colony's survival.
This opportunity is too good to pass.
A sting could kill her, but, luckily, the bees are too cold to attack.
Everything she needs is here.
Warmth, food, and safety.
The perfect place to start a new family during the long winter night.
[distant squawking.]
[ominous music playing.]
Late winter in Svalbard.
The sun has not risen since October.
Temperatures regularly drop below -40 degrees Celsius.
A low-light camera reveals this frozen world.
[soft growl.]
The mother polar bear can cover up to 80 kilometers in 24 hours in her search for food.
[playful growl.]
Not easy with cubs in tow.
The young male seems more interested in play fighting.
But they haven't eaten in days.
The mother must hunt.
[wind gusting.]
She needs stealth [water splashing.]
not two noisy cubs.
[snow crunching beneath paws.]
The darkness gives cover.
But footsteps resonate across the sea ice.
Enough to alert a wary seal.
[water splashes.]
But there are others hiding within the ice.
With her incredible sense of smell, she seeks them out.
Polar bears use their immense strength to break through the surface.
[muffled thud.]
But at least two-thirds of hunts will end in failure.
The young cubs have found trouble.
An adolescent bear on a kill.
[both growling.]
The lone bear will not give up his meal without a fight.
- He's larger - [grunts.]
and faster.
[growling continues.]
These battles can be lethal.
Mother comes to the rescue.
Scraps will not satisfy their hunger for long.
The cubs may be close to full grown, but they still lack the skill or strength to survive without their mother.
The polar night is not an all-consuming darkness.
In the heavens there is magic.
Electrons cast from the sun bombard the Earth.
As they hit the atmosphere, their energy turns into light.
They illuminate the magnetic lines that arc around the poles.
The auroras.
[wind gusting.]
But this faint glow is little help for animals looking for food on the ground.
They must rely on other senses.
In the pine forests of Scandinavia, there's a creature with almost supernatural powers.
Her nose is twice as keen as a bloodhound's, sensitive enough to sniff out a carcass two meters under the snow.
A wolverine is a rare sight.
There may be just ten within 1,000 square kilometers.
[suspenseful music playing.]
Broad, hairy feet glide over the deepest snow.
She travels up to 40 kilometers a night, searching for food.
[wind gusting.]
She can take down prey ten times her size.
But her incredible senses are all focused on one task.
Winter has taken care of the hard work.
Her jaws are so strong they can crunch through bone.
Wolverines thrive in the frozen lands encircling the top of the world, from Russia to Canada.
Turning the challenges of winter to their advantage, they have become true masters of these long northern nights.
[wind whistling.]
Even at extreme latitudes, winter doesn't last forever.
[wind gusting.]
As the sun passes further into the northern hemisphere, day length increases and darkness gives way to light.
[high-pitched squeaking.]
With the strengthening sun, new life begins and hardships are slowly forgotten.
[water splashing.]
Further north still, and the darkness hangs on a little longer.
Then at last day finally breaks over the mountains of Svalbard.
For the first time in three months, the bears feel the warmth of the sun.
[grunting, groaning.]
For all animals that have endured the frozen night, it's a welcome change.
Ringed seals haul out to rest in the morning glow.
In the light of day, the mother bear will have to use all of her skill.
[ominous music playing.]
[seal groans.]
A meal like this will sustain the family for days.
[bird chirping.]
Now, finally, they can afford to relax.
[uplifting music playing.]
[water splashing.]
This will be one of their last swims together.
Within a week, these cubs will have separated from their mother.
Left to fend for themselves.
It won't be easy.
As weather conditions across the world become increasingly erratic, it is impossible to predict what their future holds.
But for now, this family have survived the longest night on Earth.
[bird squawking.]
All around the planet, night presents animals with extraordinary challenges [squeaks.]
and opportunities.
Our understanding of some of the most iconic creatures on Earth is already being redefined.
Who knows what other secrets there are to uncover during a night on Earth? [instrumental music playing.]
[music fades out.]

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