For nearly 4 billion years, the continents of Earth were a lifeless wasteland. But beneath the sea, our planet was teeming with life. Many strange creatures evolved, from eel-like conodonts to voracious cephalopods, until nearly all life was wiped out in our planet’s first mass extinction.
From crowned lemurs to Bornean orangutans, the higher we move up the primate family tree, the closer their behavior mimics our own-especially when it comes to family and raising young. Peer into the astonishing adaptations that highlight the lengths primates will go to preserve and build family bonds.
The documentary series reveals the extraordinary riches and wonders of the Polar Regions that have kept people visiting them for thousands of years. Today, their survival relies on a combination of ancient wisdom and cutting-edge science. Most Arctic people live in Siberia, either in cities like Norilsk - the coldest city on earth - or out on the tundra, where tribes like the Dogan survive by herding reindeer, using them to drag their homes behind them. On the coast, traditional people still hunt walrus from open boats - it is dangerous work, but one big walrus will feed a family for weeks. Settlers are drawn to the Arctic by its abundant minerals; the Danish Armed Forces maintain their claim to Greenland's mineral wealth with an epic dog sled patrol, covering 2,000 miles through the winter. Above, the spectacular northern lights can disrupt power supplies so scientists monitor it constantly, firing rockets into it to release a cloud of glowing smoke 100 kilometres high. In contrast, Antarctica is so remote and cold that it was only a century ago that the first people explored the continent. Captain Scott's hut still stands as a memorial to these men. Science is now the only significant human activity allowed; robot submarines are sent deep beneath the ice in search of new life-forms, which may also be found in a labyrinth of ice caves high up on an active volcano. Above, colossal balloons are launched into the purest air on earth to detect cosmic rays. At the South Pole there is a research base designed to withstand the world's most extreme winters. Cut off from the outside world for six months, the base is totally self-sufficient, even boasting a greenhouse.
Located on the Malilangwe Game Reserve in southern Zimbabwe, this 800-year-old baobab is a remarkable tree containing its own ecosystem. Capable of withstanding extreme drought by storing water in its hollow trunk, it draws a multitude of wildlife, from elephants who strip its bark in search of food, to vultures that nest on its branches. Remarkably, it also has another gift: a velvety fruit packed with an astonishing cocktail of nutrients. To witness the baobab is to be awed by the natural forces that produced it.