December 10, 2011


A World Beyond Imagination
by Alastair Fothergill and Vanessa Berlowitz
320 pages, BBC Books

Review by Pat Black

It’s hard to review this one – well-written as it is, the great beauty is in the prints.

Frozen Planet is a companion piece to the BBC series of the same name currently wowing British TV viewers. It looks at the life and landscape of the Arctic and Antarctic regions of the Earth and the climactic changes that affect them all. Sadly, there’s no David Attenborough narration on these pages, beyond a foreword, but the photographs of these icy kingdoms more than make up for it.

So we are treated to the best of the images which have staggered us on the television over the past few weeks; polar bears snarling at the camera, Arctic foxes tearing across the snow, columns of musk oxen pursued by wolves, narwhals slaloming through channels in the ice, emperor penguins framed by twinkling stars, the great grey owl swooping over the snows, baby seals staring up from frigid waters, their bigger cousins bludgeoning each other during mating rites and crafty killer whales eyeing up their prey through holes in the ice.

Say “killer whales” in the style of David Attenborough, go on. Killer whales!

But more staggering still are the shots of the environment; the skies, the snow and the ice. There are shifting glaciers and icebergs, cool blue and pure white, sometimes backlit by the aurora borealis or australis, even snowflakes in extreme close-up. These shots almost don’t seem real, like a prog rock album cover. You would quite happily have most of these images hanging on your wall. 

Part of the thrust of the book is that our frozen zones are under threat; that the ice is, unquestionably, starting to retreat with each passing year. Whether we believe that’s a natural phenomenon or a result of human activity, we must learn to protect what we have on this planet now, or lament it for all time.

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