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The Unsung Heroes of the Arctic – Ep. 3 | Wildlife: The Big Freeze

The Unsung Heroes of the Arctic – Ep. 3 | Wildlife: The Big Freeze

– [Bertie] Polar bears are
such icons of the Arctic. It’s hard for anything else
to escape their shadow. But what if I told you only
a few inches from the ground, there’s a host of less
celebrated little creatures who’ve made a playground
of these brutal conditions and defied all our expectations? I’m not cute. I’m a killing machine. Not useless. Pillar of the ecosystem. Not adorable. Master of camouflage. Exactly. Hang on tight, because these unsung heroes of the Arctic are going to blow your mind. Big time. At first glance, the Arctic
feels brutally devoid of life. Though a select group of animals have figured out a way to thrive. But the real force here
works quietly underfoot. Every winter, sea ice
starts small and delicate. Then, it grows over
millions of square miles. How is it possible that this freezer holds the key to our entire planet? Like a lung, sea ice breathes life into the Arctic every year in a cycle that impacts the climate across the globe. This is the story from the
edge of the Canadian Arctic where it all starts. My name’s Bertie Gregory and I’m a National Geographic
wildlife filmmaker. Everything is at stake. We’re all waiting for the big freeze. It’s the height of winter
on the edge of the Arctic. The landscape is now dominated by ice. For the next few months,
only the hardiest survive. Oh, my eyelids keep freezing shut. You’d think that the
animals that were hardest to film would be the polar bears. You know, the great wanderers. But really, it’s these small animals that prove me the most difficult. Come on. Where are you little guys? You got to be so careful
not to breathe out on your binoculars like I’ve just done, because now they’re frozen and I can’t see anything through them. Oh, wow! Though basically the
size of a domestic cat, don’t let appearances fool you. You know, you see this
arctic fox bouncing about. Little bundles of fluff with
their little smiley faces. It’s so easy to forget that they are in fact little killing machines. Right now, they’re looking for lemmings. A small little brown
rodent which are hidden in their underground lairs under the snow. And the fox is using its
incredible sense of hearing to basically listen for
the little footsteps of the lemming as it moves
about under the snow. And when they’ve found a
lemming under the snow, well they then have a pretty
extraordinary hunting strategy. I’ve totally found an arctic fox highway. You see in front us there’s practically more tracks
than there is snow. And that’s because as long
as the weather’s good, it’ll just keep on hunting
and then place the leftovers in little underground meat lockers. These foxes don’t mess around. Some of them have been recorded making as many as 90
kills in a single day. (snow crunching) Ah, here we go. Right. We know that somewhere on
this frozen little pond is an arctic hare, and the reason that I know that is because these are so fresh you can see how crispy the edges are. With this wind, it would’ve blown out and be all rough by now. So, that’s really cool.
We just got to find it. They’re the kings of camouflage. I have walked past the spot
four times? Five times? And I can’t believe I didn’t notice it. See right at the base of that big rock? These arctic hares are not stupid. Satten behind this rock
right out of the wind and it’s about minus 30 degrees Celsius. So, I don’t have full control of my nose, lips, or eyebrows. And you’ll also see that
every time it lifts its head to check for predators,
it’s not turning its head. It’s not looking around. And that’s because its
eyes can see together 360 degrees in all directions. So, it doesn’t need to look around. It can just head up, okay coast is clear, and carry on eating. Man, they’re quick! They’re one of the fastest
animals in the Arctic. They can clock 37 miles
an hour at top speed. With so little to hide behind, who wouldn’t want to
be fast in the Arctic? Well, this guy. The snowy owl gave up speed in favor of a mightier secret weapon: Silence. The velvety texture of its feathers and their comb-like edges absorb all the sound they produce. Go ahead. Run. You won’t even know what got you. No way! Oh, it’s eating it. Oh, no time for chewing.
Just swallowing it whole. Definitely not a good
day for this lemming. Yet, many predators rely
on so heavily on them that a bad year in the lemming population turns into a devastating ripple
effect across the Arctic. (wind whistling) Well, this blizzard’s just picked up. And up ahead, there’s this
group of little brown birds and I want to know why anything
is flying around in this. The Arctic’s brutal weather wards off almost every bird on the planet, except for a few determined
little characters. Snow buntings are an Ice Age bird known for singing their little hearts out whenever the temperatures
start to fall well below zero. And then there’s what
seems to be a snow chicken, but these willow
ptarmigan are no amateurs. In the autumn, they grow a solid clump of rigid feathers over their toes creating their very own little snow shoes. You see these little ptarmigan just scuttling back and forth. I think I can see little berries kind of buried under the snow? – Over there! Red fox! Red fox! – What? – See that? Grass mound.
It’s behind the grass. – Where? You sure it’s a red? – Yeah. Behind the grass,
the left-hand side. – Got it. Got it. Got it. In recent years, the red fox has started invading the Arctic. – Man, they’re so much bigger. – [Bertie] They don’t just want to claim their new territory… – Arctic fox! Arctic fox! – They want to hunt
down their competition. That arctic fox is not
hanging around. It is gone. I mean, that presence of a red fox is, wow, big problem for those arctics. The red’s much bigger and it just totally out
competes the arctics, and that’s really a symbol
of the warming climate here. It’s allowing the range of the red fox to push further north into the Arctics. Winter is tough as it
is. Food get scarcer. Days get shorter and further north, the sun disappears for months. But our unsung heroes are undaunted. They will dig, peck, fly, or
scavenge through the night. And for the sun, it’s solar winds magically find their way through as millions of charges particles strike the Earth’s atmosphere. This place is out of this world. Woo-Hoo! (gentle piano music)

100 thoughts on “The Unsung Heroes of the Arctic – Ep. 3 | Wildlife: The Big Freeze”

  1. Though polar bears and seals are the most iconic mascots of the Arctic, there are many animals in this brutal environment worthy of attention. Which Arctic animal is your favorite?

  2. Thanks for this wonderful video. Informative and mind-blowing scenes. Keep it up guys. You are doing a huge service to humanity to document these difficult to reach parts of the world.

  3. Thank you for the videos from these places ❤️. Such a pity no one will be able to thank me cause I'm never going there. Thank you so much ❤️

  4. I know we can’t interfere with the wildlife but I find myself wanting to bring little huts out so they can have somewhere to keep warm.


  6. 6:15
    Gregory: "The snowy owl gave up speed in favor of a mightier secret weapon…"
    Me: okay, yea?
    Gregory: "..Silence."
    Me: NANI?!?

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