Polar Extremes

Natural History1 x 120'

Can the stories of the past reveal what will happen to the poles – and the rest of our planet?

Stark, cold, and seemingly frozen in time, our Earth’s poles feel other-worldly, unchanging, and completely removed from our everyday existence. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.  

In this two-hour NOVA special, paleontologist and Sant Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Kirk Johnson takes viewers on a high-energy adventure to the Arctic, Antarctic, and around the globe to uncover the dramatic history of the Earth’s poles and their changing climates. Hidden in the rock record, buried under the oceans, and trapped in the ice are clues revealing vastly different worlds, from warm polar forests teeming with subtropical life, to enormous ice sheets that once cloaked a Snowball Earth.

What drives the poles to such extremes? How quickly can they change? And can the stories of the past reveal what will happen to the poles – and the rest of our planet – in the future?

From the deserts of Death Valley, to the icebergs of Greenland… From a Patagonian dinosaur dig, to a gold mine full of mammoth bones… And a couple of frigid polar expeditions to some of the most remote places on Earth… Kirk joins scientists, paleontologists and glaciologists on a quest to understand the power, drama and majesty of the Polar Extremes. 

Producer David Dugan
Director Lucy Haken
Editor Sabrina Burnard
Additional Editing Ian Strang
Director of Photography Piers Leigh
Additional Photography Jon Sayers
Assistant Producer Sacha Thorpe
Producer & Director Joby Lubman
Sound Recordist and Drone Operator Josh Forwood
Line Producer Farne Sinclair
Production Managers Olivia Badnell , Alexia Cheinoporou
Graphics Producer Henry Hocking
Series Researcher Rosemary Cafferkey

Winner of a Silver Award at the New York Festivals TV & Film Awards 2021