In October 2013, wildlife cameraman and director Andrew Graham-Brown and assistant producer Ruth Peacey set sail for Antarctica to film the lives of a colony of gentoo penguins for a BBC Natural World film. Every year gentoo penguins return to Port Lockroy on the tiny Antarctic island of Goudier to find a mate and raise their young in the shadow of the world’s most southerly public Post Office. This is what the team hoped to film, but it proves to be one of the most challenging filming trips they have ever undertaken.
On the journey south, their yacht has to endure gale force winds and brutal seas as they travel through the notorious Drake Passage and south into Antarctic waters. Here they encounter fields of ice and become trapped just a few hundred metres from their final destination. An attempt to walk across the ice to reach land proves to be a terrifying ordeal. And once on the island, they face new challenges; there’s no running water, no electricity and of course they have to work in very cold conditions. Filming is anything but easy; a constant struggle against time and the elements. Living for five months in such an isolated place proves to be both a physical and mental challenge for everyone. Meanwhile, in the shadow of the Post Office, the gentoo penguins find their partners, lay their eggs and raise their young. But their lives are also far from easy; they have to protect their nests of stones from thieving neighbours, protect their eggs and young from predators like the sooty Sheathbills and powerful aggressive Skuas, and avoid leopard seals which patrol the shoreline, looking for a tasty meal.
Wildlife cameraman Doug Allan, who has spent many years filming in Antarctica, joins the team to film the underwater sequences. Now in this BBC Radio 4 series, which was recorded on location by the team themselves, you can hear just what happens when Doug comes face to face with a leopard seal, as well as the adventures of the film crew, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust Post Office team and the gentoo penguins.
BBC Radio 4 - Penguin Post Office
5 x 15mins
Transmission date TBC
Presenter : wildlife cameraman Doug Allan
Producer : Sarah Blunt, BBC Natural History Radio Unit