3 December, 2004

British Antarctic Survey (BAS) scientist, Professor Lloyd Peck presents this years Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2004 on the subject of the most extreme place on Earth: Antarctica. In a series of three sparkling one-hour programmes – Ice People, Ice Life and Ice World – Prof. Peck reveals the biggest questions, discoveries and controversies in Antarctic science.

In Ice People, the first programme, Lloyd Peck explores how the coldest, windiest and loneliest place on Earth affects the bodies and minds of humans living there. To investigate the body’s limits, he sits in a tank of freezing water to induce hypothermia and is blasted by gusts in a wind tunnel. He travels to the BAS Rothera Research Station on the Antarctic Peninsula to find out what it’s like to live and work thousands of miles from home in a tiny, isolated community.

The extraordinary adaptations that animals, plants and other organisms have made to cope with the harsh Antarctic environment are examined in Ice Life. Prof. Peck introduces fish with antifreeze and huge sea spiders more than a foot across. He finds the fattest creature on the planet, discovers how elephant seals can dive down a mile beneath the surface and why the continent’s largest and most ferocious land predator is the size of a pin head. An eye is also cast into the future. With a warming climate in parts of Antarctica, how will these highly specialized creatures cope?

Ice World explains why it is vital that scientists try and understand this remarkable wilderness. Why is Antarctica a frozen continent? It is encrusted in moving ice up to 4km thick. Why are the millions and millions of tons of ice so important to all of us? Fossilized remains from dinosaurs and forests show that it wasn’t always this way. Where did all the ice come from? Prof. Peck gets close and personal with mighty icebergs and descends into the depths of glaciers to uncover the past, present and future of Antarctica. He’ll demonstrate how a piece of ice can reveal the climate secrets of the last half a million years, how Antarctica affects our weather systems and discuss environmental change. Is global warming a reality?

This years Christmas lectures are designed for young people aged 14-18 but will appeal to everyone. Tune into Channel 4 on 27, 28 and 29 December to get to grips with all things Antarctic.