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The Hunt (2015): Season 1, Episode 2 - In the Grip of the Seasons (Arctic) - full transcript


The High Arctic in winter.
One of the toughest places on Earth in which to live.
Only three top predators are able to survive here.
The wolf, searching for its prey over the frozen lands.
The Arctic fox, scraping a living on the empty coasts.
And out on the sea ice, the polar bear.
To live here, year round,
these hunters must exploit the good times
so that they can endure the bad.
All life in the Arctic must face one fundamental problem.
Not the cold,
but the endless cycle of change.
When the sun returns to the Arctic in spring,
it launches the greatest event of seasonal change on Earth.
A change that rules the life of the world's only sea ice hunter.
The polar bear is totally dependent upon the sea ice in order to hunt.
It must eat two thirds of the food it needs for the whole year
in the next three months,
before the sun melts the ice from beneath its feet.
Seals are the bear's most important prey.
At the start of spring,
they come out onto the ice to give birth to their pups.
Beneath it, they can't stray far from their breathing holes.
That makes it easy for the bears.
But that window of opportunity is brief.
Soon, the sea ice is riddled with melt holes.
The seal pups have grown large enough to swim
and disappear into the water.
It's increasingly hard-going for the polar bear.
Now, resting seals are surrounded by holes in the ice,
so they have their pick of escape routes.
And, once in the water, they can easily out-swim a bear.
Each seal is very sensitive to every movement on the surrounding ice.
A bear can only hope to get close enough to pounce
by taking advantage of the melt holes.
Ah... Not as straightforward as it looks.
The trick is to find the hole nearest to the seal...
..without popping up in view...
..and ruining the surprise.
Almost there.
But once under the ice,
it's easy to lose your bearings.
Blast!
Gently does it.
ICE CRACKS
Oops.
Only one in five stalks is successful on this thin ice
at the end of spring.
The bear's best season is ending.
An expanse of sea-ice the size of Australia will soon break up.
The Arctic's best hunting is no longer out on the frozen ocean,
but on the land that surrounds it.
And that is the territory of a different kind of hunter.
After a lean winter and spring,
the good times have finally arrived for the Arctic wolf.
On the land, the snow is melting away as summer approaches...
..and that makes the job of finding prey...
..considerably easier.
Arctic hares.
Like the wolves, they stay white throughout the short summer.
While they can run, they can't hide.
And to make matters worse, now is the time they have their young.
A mother hare risks feeding her leverets
for only a few minutes each day.
Her white colour makes her only too conspicuous.
When wolves are spotted, Mum runs for it.
That makes sense. Her leverets have a better chance without her.
Unlike their mother, the leverets are camouflaged.
They're nearly impossible to spot, even when right upon them.
What they must do...
..is keep their nerve.
When forced to break,
they can still give the wolves a run for their money.
The leveret hunt may appear an unfair contest.
But for every one caught, hundreds more remain hidden.
Food is so hard to find this far north
that a wolf pack must search hundreds of square miles
if it's to be successful...
..and success means raising the next generation.
WOLF PUPS WHINE
To do that here, the wolves must work together.
So, the young are raised not only by their parents,
but by their aunts and uncles as well.
Together, they try to ensure that each pup reaches near-adult size
before the snow returns.
A growing pup needs more than just a few leverets.
The wolves need bigger prey
and, to catch that...
WOLF PUP HOWLS
..they must hunt as a pack.
WOLF HOWLS
WOLVES TAKE UP HOWL
Adult hares may be easy to spot,
but they are far from easy to catch.
They run at 40mph.
To catch one, the wolves work as a team.
One of them gets close enough to bite the hare's tail...
..but a hare can change direction in an instant.
If it can continue to sidestep and jink,
it may ultimately outlast them.
Finally, it gets away.
For the next hare, the whole pack gives chase.
Now, numbers count.
The lead wolves keep up the pace.
Others run on either side, so the hare can't change direction.
A tiny meal for the whole pack...
..but the only one there is.
By July, time is running out for the polar bear.
Three million square miles of ice are fractured and adrift.
The seals are now much harder to find.
Scattered within an ever-shifting maze...
..the advantage has swung away from the bear.
With the ice now broken up, the bear can't even get close.
She's too visible and noisy in her approach.
She has no choice but to change her tactics.
She swims amongst the drift ice...
..and keeps a low profile.
Once the seal is in the water, it's as good as lost.
She has to grab it before it hits the water.
The margin for error is tiny...
..and the cost can be great.
Each failed attempt brings her closer to starvation.
At this time of year, polar bears, on average,
succeed only once in 20 hunts.
If the hunter is skinny, like this one, that may not be often enough.
All she can do is keep trying.
To prevent her scent betraying her,
she makes a wide sweep to get downwind of the seal.
Getting close.
She's now right behind the seal.
Incredibly, she caught the seal underwater.
It's only small, but even so,
its blubber alone will contain 100,000 calories -
enough to sustain this bear for a week.
And, in that time, she might even catch another.
But this can't go on forever.
As summer continues, temperatures are rising.
Each hunt requires more energy,
draining the bears of their reserves.
When the melt is finally complete,
it reveals some of the ocean's richest waters.
There is an explosion of life.
Millions of birds arrive from the south.
In the 24-hour daylight, they can feed around the clock.
The Arctic coasts are suddenly thronged by breeding birds.
CHICKS CHIRP
The window of opportunity has now opened for a third hunter -
the Arctic fox.
After a winter spent scavenging, the foxes can now finally hunt.
It's the best time to have pups.
PUPS GROWL AND YIP
Up to 20 of them will be raised to independence in just 90 days.
But none of them will survive their first year,
unless their parents make the most of the short summer.
With the snow gone, the foxes shed their white fur
and become a camouflaging brown.
It makes hunting easier.
But some birds have a dramatic answer to the fox problem.
There are no trees, so they make their nests high on sea cliffs,
well out of the reach of a fox.
The vast majority, however, are forced to nest on the ground.
Many of them rely on camouflage.
Eider ducks slow their heart beats, which helps them avoid detection.
Others have no need to stay out of sight.
The powerful Arctic skuas defend their eggs with aggression...
..and dirty tricks!
BIRDS CAW
There are other options for the fox.
Each year, upwards of 30 million little auks come to the Arctic.
They nest in the scree slopes at the base of the cliffs.
Their answer to the fox problem is to hide deep among the boulders.
And it seems to work.
A hungry fox can get very frustrated.
Running at the auks is not the answer.
He needs to be more patient.
It's time to use that famous foxy cunning.
If the boulders can hide the auks, they can also hide a fox.
A tiny head, in among the boulders.
The auks are just too quick off the mark.
What is needed is a distraction of some kind.
A glaucous gull, also hunting auks.
Little auks may cope with one threat, but what about two?
The auks are out-foxed...
..and the pups will get their supper.
It's now the final weeks of summer.
The sea ice has completely gone.
The bears that wandered freely over the frozen ocean all winter
are now marooned on beaches.
The seals are fishing out at sea.
Only walrus join the bears on the shore.
But adult walrus are gigantic.
They weigh two tonnes and, armed with long tusks,
they're too dangerous for bears to take on.
During these ice-free months, the bears' bodies almost shut down.
They are zombie bears...
..overheated, hungry...
..pining for the ice to return.
But some bears refuse to take the summer lying down.
This bear is doing something really extraordinary.
It's hard to imagine a place less suited to a polar bear
than 300 metres up on a crumbling sea cliff.
Guillemots nest here in their thousands,
precisely because it's so dangerous for land-living predators.
But the sounds and scents of a bird cliff can be irresistible
to a starving bear at the end of summer.
Desperation has led him to risk his life.
The only prize to be had - a few eggs and chicks.
It is an extreme gamble.
He works methodically,
scooping up the contents of every nest he can reach.
The bear moves slowly and carefully.
He lives and sleeps amongst his prey.
The guillemots can't prevent the carnage.
Nonetheless, some bravely try to do so.
The polar bear will remain on the cliff until the end of summer,
when the guillemots will leave.
And, at that moment,
a fox will take his chance.
Far inland, the wolves have a problem.
The adult hares have dispersed...
..and the leverets have got organised.
Their adult coat of fur has turned white for the winter,
so they can no longer hide.
Instead, they gather together.
The wolves' hunting technique, it seems,
can't deal with groups like this.
They now leave the hares
and instead go in search of a much more dangerous prey.
The largest animal in their territory.
Musk oxen.
WOLF HOWLS
A single bull weighs more than the entire wolf pack put together.
It has a reinforced skull, armed with horns.
There are also calves in the herd,
but they are well-protected.
The alpha female leads the hunt.
First, they run directly at the herd.
The aim is to panic them.
A stampeding herd might leave a calf behind.
The tactic begins to work.
But then, the herd regains control.
They stand defiantly in a protective ring around the calves.
There is no way in.
The alpha female calls off the hunt.
But the search for food must go on.
To stand a chance of surviving the winter,
the pack needs to feed well now, even if it puts their lives at risk.
A lone bull - the most dangerous prey of all.
One blow from his horns could kill a wolf.
But the wolves are now ready to risk everything for a meal.
The bull is easily their match, physically...
..but the wolves take it in turns to wear him down,
risking their lives to do so.
Trapped in the gully, the bull has nowhere to go.
Despite the danger, the wolves keep up their attack.
The bull may take hours to defeat...
..but this kill will feed the whole wolf pack for a week.
With the good times soon to end,
the lives of their pups may depend on it.
Summer on the coast comes to an end with one last spectacle.
Hundreds of thousands of guillemot chicks
are in the final stages of their preparations.
Ahead is the biggest day of their lives.
The day they will leave their nest by jumping from the cliffs...
..and try out their wings for the very first time.
It's quite a test flight.
Half a mile to the safety of the sea.
When the time comes, encouraged by their fathers,
the first take the leap.
The chicks have tiny, stiff wings,
so they can do little more than glide.
Their fathers try to nudge them, to keep them on a good flight path...
..one that will take them all the way to water.
With the first few safely away, the sky begins to fill with jumpers.
Wave after wave of chicks and their parents career down towards the sea.
No chick takes this first flight alone.
In just a few days,
an entire generation - thousands of chicks - will take this leap.
With luck and a fair wind, the majority make it to the water.
But nonetheless, many fall short.
Glaucous gulls are quick to grab a meal.
A guillemot chick has no defence against gulls...
..unless father can get back in time.
The chicks continue to rain down.
Those that get separated from their parents stand little chance.
And even a father's protection may not be enough.
This is the fox's moment...
..the easiest hunt of the year...
..but it's also the briefest.
The chicks all come at once.
The synchronisation of the jump overwhelms the fox.
The bad luck of some allows the escape of others.
The last chance to fill his family's bellies is gone,
almost before it started.
The chicks that have made it to the water have no time to rest.
Unable to take to the air, they must swim 100 miles south
before the ocean surface turns to ice.
Winter is approaching fast.
The sea ice is starting to form.
A floating continent is about to materialise.
The land becomes white once more...
..as does the fox.
For it, months of scavenging lie ahead.
But for the bears, the good times have finally returned.
Their window of opportunity is back.
Every summer, polar bears must adapt to the changing Arctic
by switching their hunt from the ice to the sea.
In order to film this behaviour for the first time,
the crew of The Hunt must be prepared to do the same.
While the bears remain on the ice, the crew will rely on
the traditional approach of long lens and tripod.
I prefer to be as close to the animal as possible with the tripod,
that's my style.
But when the ice starts to break up,
they plan to take to the water alongside the bears.
Why do you need so much kit?
It's not so much kit, it's just kit that allows us
to film a completely stabilised image from a moving boat,
so that's the best way of doing it.
Two different approaches...
So, Rolf, do you think Jamie has a better chance of getting
polar bear behaviour with all this technology?
No!
..two different cameramen,
one inevitable competition.
With time against them,
the crew seek out the final patches of sea ice,
locked in sheltered bays.
Jamie has no chance to go into that ice with the boat,
so it's my turn to move with the snow scooters
towards the polar bears and try to film them, the first time.
As it turned out, Rolf didn't have to move far.
Polar bears are one of the few animals on Earth
that will come and find you.
Crazy!
It's coming straight at us.
This one was ready for his close up.
I just grabbed some shots of him walking towards us,
but he didn't stop, and came closer and closer.
At the last second, we escaped, and he was even running behind us,
so it was pretty intense.
Even a crazy bear is better than no bear,
so Rolf continues to film him through the Arctic night.
They get used to us quite fast.
They realise we are not a danger
and, as long as we stay a certain distance, we can observe them
and, hopefully, get all the behaviour that we are looking for.
Suddenly, we recognised he was heading towards a bearded seal.
He approaches the seal
and does that meltwater stalk that has never been filmed before.
He seemed to have some problems to find the right way,
by diving through these pools.
We all got really excited. We thought, "This is going to happen."
And, finally, the seal just jumped in the water.
And we got a little bit nervous because we saw the bear
coming up again at some point, looking at us,
and it was not that far any more, perhaps 50 metres,
and then he disappeared again.
I look up at Rolf and I look back down at the melt ponds around us
and realise that, in any of those ponds,
the bear could explode out and take us.
To be stalked by a bear is...quite dangerous.
You think I should do it that way?
I mean, if I'm honest, I think it's just exciting!
ROLF LAUGHS
A brand-new bear behaviour in the can,
the crew pack up the camera and head back to the ship...
..a little too late.
Within minutes, a fog descends
and they find themselves travelling blind through bad ice.
As I do the swing to try to head back to the better sea ice,
I realise that I'm missing Oskar.
At the end of the sled, I banged into the ice.
I was thrown over the scooter,
and the scooter just slowly started to sink,
pulling the sled with all the gear into the water.
Oskar had to cut loose the snowmobile to save Rolf's kit
and walk all the way back to the ship.
We either had a chance of losing the snowmobile or a Swede.
Unfortunately, we lost the snowmobile.
LAUGHTER The Swede's fine!
This is the way we go swimming in the Arctic, you know?
But while everyone is safely back on board,
Rolf's kit is still out there, somewhere on the ice.
Without his kit, Rolf's shoot is over.
See? I'm nice.
Finally, at three in the morning, relief.
The thing about a meltwater hunt is
that you can only observe them in meltwater, which means in thin ice.
And, I mean, there's a reason that nobody filmed it before.
It paid off, to take the risk.
When the sea ice breaks up, it creates drift ice -
a constantly shifting, floating maze.
The place for Jamie to try his luck.
Now we're in the drift ice,
I can actually get this boat in the water and do some work.
There's no drama, there's no falling through the ice,
nobody's running around screaming, getting chased by bears.
We're just following bears around calmly
and, hopefully, we'll film them hunting.
BLEEPING
We're a little bit stuck in the ice.
BLEEPING
There's no drama,
there's only a couple of kilometres of ice to get through.
Plenty of time before lunch(!)
Trying to navigate through a shifting maze
takes a bit of practice...
..but it's full of rewards.
It's absolutely amazing. So beautiful.
So many different shapes. It's just...
Everywhere you look, there's just amazing sculptures of ice.
Being more mobile means the crew start to find more and more bears...
..each one, a character.
With such access to the Arctic's top predator,
the crew eventually find their star.
The elusive summer stalk of the polar bear
is finally captured on film.
It came up right behind the seal, the seal dived in the water,
but the bear jumped off the ice into the water
and then came up a few seconds later with the seal in its teeth.
Everything came together, really.
It was incredibly lucky that we were in the right position.
We could so easily have missed everything that happened.
Yeah, I'm chuffed to bits that we actually got a successful hunt.
It played out in front of us and we were able to catch it.
The only way to succeed in the Arctic,
whether you're a polar bear or a film crew,
is to have more than one trick up your sleeve.
Next time, The Hunt is on in the forest...
A tangled world
that hosts the ultimate game of hide and seek.
To succeed here, a predator must perfect the art of the ambush.
For a free interactive Open University poster, call...
..or go to...
..and follow the links to the Open University.