From the team at BBC Wildlife Magazine

How to watch Frozen Planet II

Bundle up warm to discover the landscapes and wildlife of Earth’s coldest regions in Frozen Planet II, narrated by Sir David Attenborough.

Published: September 7, 2022 at 7:00 am
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After more than a decade since Frozen Planet first aired, the BBC and Sir David Attenborough are returning with a new six-part series to explore and celebrate the coldest regions on our planet.

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Whilst the first series focused on the polar regions, Attenborough explains that in Frozen Planet II “we will explore all of Earth’s frozen habitats, from its highest peaks to its snow-bound deserts, to deep beneath the ice.”

Following years of hard work by researchers, camera operators, editors and directors, get ready to settle in for yet another masterpiece from the BBC Natural History Unit.

Read our interview with Mark Brownlow, executive producer of Frozen Planet II, where he shares the star species, the unmissable sequences, the never-before-filmed behaviour and his own behind-the scenes-adventures.

When is Frozen Planet II on TV?

The first episode of Frozen Planet II will air on Sunday 11th September 2022 on BBC One at 8pm. Afterwards, it will be available to watch via BBC iPlayer.

Read through our episode guide.

Watch the trailer for Frozen Planet II:

The first look trailer for the new series was released on 26th August.

Who is narrating Frozen Planet II?

Sir David Attenborough sat in a wooden chair with a dark background, looking into the camera.
Sir David Attenborough filming for Frozen Planet II © Alex Board/BBC Studios

Broadcasting legend and national treasure Sir David Attenborough returns to narrate Frozen Planet II. In this series, he doesn’t travel to location to present, but instead his appearances show him standing or sitting in front of a very large television screen.

Attenborough first joined the BBC in 1952 as a trainee producer, before going on to present his first series Zoo Quest between 1954-63. After presenting more programmes, he was appointed Controller of the new BBC Two channel in 1965 and then promoted to BBC Director of Programmes in 1969.

In 1973, he resigned and returns to film-making. Since then, he has presented and narrated numerous programmes for broadcasters and streaming services including the BBC, Netflix, and Apple TV.

He celebrated his 90th birthday on 8th May 2016.

Who has done the music for Frozen Planet II?

The music for the first-look trailer of Frozen Planet II features a song called “Take Me Back Home” by singer-songwriter Camila Cabello and the world-renowned composer Hans Zimmer, alongside Zimmer’s long-term collaborators – arranger Anže Rozman and producer Russell Emanuel for Bleeding Fingers Music.

“To be able to combine my passion for the planet we live on and my music is a dream come true – never mind also getting to work with the legend that is Hans Zimmer,” says Cabello. “Frozen Planet II is stunning and Sir David’s narration is deeply powerful as we try to protect these incredible ecosystems from global warming. I’m grateful to be able to lend my voice to such an inspiring series.”

“It was hugely exciting composing and recording ‘Take Me Back Home’ with Camila and discovering that her musical talents are as powerful as her voice,” says Zimmer. “The Bleeding Fingers team and I feel incredibly privileged to be given the opportunity to score such a pioneering and important natural history landmark as Frozen Planet II.”

Attendees at the Earth Prom at the Royal Albert Hall were treated to a five-minute preview of Frozen Planet II, accompanied by live music from Zimmer and the Norwegian singer-songwriter AURORA, who features on the soundtrack for the series.

"Our world and our environment has always been a heart matter for me. I’ve believed that communicating her beauty, and her importance through art, music, and film is what touches us the most,” says AURORA. It shows us what it is that is worth saving, it stirs our natural instinct. Being a part of this incredible project, working with such wonderful people - has been an absolute honour. I can’t wait for the world to see the world through the eyes of herself. Captured with patience and respect, and made with love."

When was the first Frozen Planet series?

The first Frozen Planet series aired in 2011, and focused on the natural history of the polar regions and the effects of climate change on these locations.

Frozen Planet II episode guide

Episode One: Frozen Worlds

The opening episode of Frozen Planet II, Frozen Worlds offers a whirlwind tour of the Earth’s cold habitats. While the original Frozen Planet focused on just the two poles, this new series takes viewers around the globe, from the boreal forests that encircle the continents of North America, Europe and Asia, to the frozen habitats created by altitude, mountain peaks like the Himalaya, known as ‘third pole’.

The programme explores why these places are cold and the extraordinary ways in which animals have adapted to the challenges of these environments: emperor penguin chicks finding their own way across sea ice in Antarctica; the Pallas’s cat – known as the grumpiest cat in the world – catching enough gerbils to survive the frozen Mongolian winter; musk ox trying to evade grizzly bears on the Arctic tundra.

Along the way we witness strange and comical behaviours such as male hooded seals ostentatiously inflating a single nostril into a large red balloon in the hope of securing a mate.

The threat of climate change is ever present in all these environments, of course, but its impact are more obvious in some places than others. Using a fast response drone fleet, the team record glaciers calving in Greenland, a consequence of its ice cap melting at faster rates than ever before.

Episode Two: Frozen Ocean

This programme plunges the viewer under the ice of the Arctic to meet the animals that make their lives there.

Two polar bears on ice.
Usually solitary, polar bears explore the great expanse of Svalbard's sea ice fjords together. © BBC Studios

The story begins in the winter, where polar bears – usually solitary animals – are seen to play together on the ice. Beluga whales, meanwhile, risk starvation as they wait for the sea ice to melt and release them from the ice hole where they’ve been confined for five months.

Spring sees the floating pack ice off the east coast of Greenland become a nursery for harp seal pups, while summer brings a plankton bloom that feeds tiny skeleton shrimp – a species filmed for television for the first time here – and bowhead whales. It’s also a time of arrivals, with seabirds coming to the Arctic in their millions, including crested auklets, with their unusual scrum-like mating rituals.

A group of walruses, one with its flipper on its nose.
Walrus relaxing on a beach in Svalbard, Arctic Norway. They huddle together in close, noisy quarters. © Barrie Britton

There’s humour here, in the form of walruses rolling their way into the water to cool down, but a serious message about rising summer temperatures too – the loss of summer sea ice due to climate change puts pressure on polar bears squeezed into ever smaller hunting grounds.

Episode Three: Frozen Peaks

Icy ‘islands in the sky’ are found at high altitude on every continent, with mountains creating extreme environments for the creatures who live there. Just as with islands at sea level, these places are home to an amazingly diverse range of species, from chameleons and giant pandas to golden eagles to flamingos.

Frozen Planet II crews visit Patagonia, Chile’s Atacama desert, the foothills of the Himalayas, and the Italian and Japanese Alps, plus high altitude environments in China, New Zealand and Kenya, witnessing never before seen animal births, kills and more.

They capture the movement of the landscapes too, with cutting-edge technology used to record both the very fast and the very slow. In a first for television, the team use racer camera drones to fly down a mountainside alongside an avalanche, capturing this devastating force of nature in an extraordinarily immersive way. While long-term time-lapse cameras were installed on the Quelccaya glacier in the Peruvian Andes, taking a picture every hour of every day over three years to show the melting of the ice.

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Episode Four: Frozen South

Antarctica, the most hostile environment on Earth, and one undergoing profound changes due to the climate crisis, is the focus of this episode. Crews spent up to three months on location in this remote place to capture the activities of familiar species like king penguins and orcas alongside more rarely filmed animals such as snow petrels and Antarctic blue whales.

The pressures of climate change are affecting life in this region in myriad ways, with male Antipodean wandering albatrosses forming same-sex partnerships because female birds are being killed by industrial fishing fleets, and chinstrap penguin chicks at risk of hypothermia on increasingly waterlogged ground.

Technology was key to working in the region. The team used a remote-controlled all-terrain buggy to get cinematic tracking shots of king penguins on the beaches of South Georgia, for example.

Stromatolites in freshwater lakes beneath the ice.
Giant stromatolites, formed from mats of cyanobacteria, can be found within freshwater lakes hidden benath Antarctica's ice. Standing up to half a metre tall, may have been built over thousands of years by the very first living things to produce oxygen. Lake Untersee, Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. © BBC Studios

While to film stromatolites, microbial reefs created by multiple species of primitive cyanobacteria, divers ventured below the ice covering Lake Untersee, a vast freshwater lake in Antarctica’s bleak interior, using cutting-edge rebreather dive equipment.

Rebreather technology also made possible footage of the amorous underwater advances of a male Weddell seal, behaviour never before filmed for television. The bubbles of standard scuba equipment would have made such a story impossible to capture.

Episode Five: Frozen Lands

To explore the great Boreal forests and barren tundra in the far north of our planet, the largest land habitat on Earth, the Frozen Planet II team head to Canada, Norway, Sweden Alaska and far eastern Russia.

The episode moves between landscape-scale action with filming at marco level. On the one hand there are super packs (25 animals plus) of wolves tackling American bison, while on the other there’s the Lapland bumblebee, whose ‘snow queen’ defrosts after nine months in suspended animation in order to rebuild her colony come springtime. Other creatures who ‘come back to life’ after winter include baby painted turtles, hatched during autumn yet tucked away, frozen solid, in nesting chambers until the spring.

The felines that roam these forests – Siberian tigers and Amur leopards, the rarest big cat in nature, with just 120 individuals in the wild – also appear in this episode, having been filmed with high-definition remote camera traps positioned with the help of local rangers and wildlife photographers. Remote technology was used to capture the changing landscapes in this region, including the thawing of the permafrost, in the form of GPS-programmed drones that flew specific routes.

Episode Six: Our Frozen Planet

In the final episode of this epic series, we zoom out to consider the impact of the climate crisis on frozen environments around the world, including footage of glacier retreat and sea ice melt filmed by NASA from the International Space Station.

Ice breaking away from a glacier.
Each calving event from a glacier in Greenland contributes freshwater to the ocean. Greenland is currently responsible for 1/4 of all global sea level rise. © BBC Studios

We meet the scientists and other people dedicating their lives to documenting the changes taking place in cold regions due to rising global temperature, from those studying moulins – vertical ice caves – in Greenland, to those surveying glaciers in Nepal.

Two of the ice world species feeling these impacts most acutely are polar bears, who are being forced to come onto land to find food as ice-free summers do away with their hunting grounds; and harp seals, whose pups are tipped into the sea when storms cause sea ice to break up sooner in spring.

A polar bear sniffs the air
A polar bear sniffs the air on the shores of Wrangel Island, Russia. This remote outpost attracts hundreds of bears each summer as they struggle to find food. © BBC Studios

Humanity, of course, is also impacted by these changing worlds; this series will leave viewers in no doubt of that, just as it amazes us with the wonder and beauty of life in these frozen places. But the series ends on an optimistic note – the message from the scientists is that there’s still time to change our ways to protect these frozen places and their wildlife; we just need to get started right away.


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Main image: An Amur tiger walking through a snow-covered forest in Siberia. © Sergey Gorshkov

Authors

Megan ShersbyEditorial and digital co-ordinator, BBC Wildlife

Naturalist and writer

Jo Caird is a freelance journalist who lives in East London and writes for newspapers, magazines and the web. She specialises in citizen science and conservation with a strong community focus. Read more about her work at jocaird.com

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