It used to be that I watched nature documentaries to relax. No matter what was going on in my life, an hour on the plains of the Serengeti or following migrating humpbacks to Ningaloo Reef was a salve. In recent years, though, such films have come freighted with their own anxieties, largely centred around the effects of climate change on the natural world, and our general failure to responsibly steward the planet Earth.
The high (or low, depending on your point of view) mark surely came with David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet, when the great naturalist mapped out how the world had been decimated only in his lifetime. The documentary series Arctic Secrets occupies similar territory, by turns awing us with scenes of astonishing beauty and abundant, exotic life, and then making us aware of the peril facing all this wonder.
As the title suggests, the series takes as its purview everything north of the 60th parallel, a huge area encompassing the territory of eight nations: Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States. It’s a visually stunning, awe-inspiring land: sweeping tundra, looming glaciers, calving icebergs, icy waters. But although greenery is scarce, it’s far from barren; the Arctic teems with life, especially in the summer months when migratory species head north: polar bears, musk oxen, seals, caribou, orcas, wolves and more roam this vast expanse, locked in a delicate web of predator/prey relationships.