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Life in the Freezer
BBC Nature Series

Life in the Freezer is a BBC nature documentary series that was first released in 1993. Each 30-minute episode studies a different aspect of the seasonal cycle of Antarctica, as follows:

  • The Bountiful Sea - Late winter through early spring.
  • The Ice Retreats - Spring
  • The Race to Breed - Summer.
  • The Door Closes - Autumn.
  • The Big Freeze - Winter.

Although Antarctica is the coldest and most desolate continent on the planet, life still penetrates even its deepest reaches. Through this series, students will gain a great appreciation for the geography across the different regions of Antarctica, the adaptations evolved by its living inhabitants, and how seasonal changes persist even this far away from the equator.


Life in the Freezer - The Bountiful Sea

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Episode Summary: The life in Antarctica is almost completely supported by the sea. This is the main source of food for each of the large animals that inhabit the continent, including seals, whales, and sea birds. This episode of Life in the Freezer examines the characteristics of the Antarctic water, sea ice, and icebergs, and how the animal life navigates through this ecosystem in search of food.

Key Concepts: Sea ice, icebergs, glaciers, Antarctic tundra, keystone species, symbiosis, commensalism, scavengers, niche, mating rituals, adaptations.


Life in the Freezer - The Ice Retreats

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Episode Summary: As Antarctica enters its spring season, the thick layer of sea ice that completely encircles the continent gradually begins to melt and retreat.  This affords an opportunity for the animals to find bare land upon which to mate and breed.  This episode examines multiple examples of breeding and migratory strategies based completely on this need for bare land.

Key Concepts: Antarctic tundra, seasonal changes, Intraspecific competition, mating rituals, limiting factor, geographic isolation, adaptations.


Life in the Freezer - The Race to Breed

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Episode Summary: The spring and summer seasons of Antarctica are very short, running from October through February.  This leaves only a few short months of exposed rock, fresh water from melting ice, and relatively calm weather.  Each of the organisms that occupy Antarctica, including animals, plants, and protozoa, must complete their breeding cycle during this season to have any chance of passing their traits onto the next generation.

Key Concepts: Antarctic tundra, territoriality, abiotic factors, critical factor, seasonal changes, substrate, niche, opportunists, scavengers.


Life in the Freezer - The Door Closes

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Episode Summary: As the summer season comes to a close, the amount of exposed land on Antarctica and its surrounding islands rapidly shrinks.  Animals must move quickly to raise their offspring to the point where they can leave the land and overwinter in the ocean – where the temperatures are warmer and the food is more plentiful.

Key Concepts: Antarctic tundra, scavengers, brash ice, adaptations, molting, ice formations, seasonal changes, migration.


Life in the Freezer - The Big Freeze

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Episode Summary: As winter arrives in Antarctica, the sun sets and will not return for several weeks.  The interior of the continent is nearly totally devoid of life, as the cold air, fierce winds, and lack of food make this environment inhospitable.  However, there are a few species that are able to survive even these conditions.

Key Concepts: Antarctic tundra, seasonal changes, survival rate, adaptations, niche.


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