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. "Earth: Nature's Most Amazing Events"

First there was "Planet Earth," shot in glorious High Def by teams of nature cameramen and narrated by Sigourney Weaver. Then, there was the followup narrated by James Earl Jones. Now, not to be confused by the former splendid and spectacular work, comes the BBC's Natural History Unit's Earth segment: "Nature's Most Amazing Events." The narrator is David Attenborough.

Under that self-promotional rubric, you might think you've seen it all before and that the well-intentioned ecologists behind it were stretching a point. Right or wrong, the viewer is the judge of whether the footage lives up to the hyped up title. But, as this takes its own unique approach to dramatic and inspiring wildlife spectacles on the planet, I doubt anyone will go away disappointed in what they've seen. This is exceptional material and storytelling, and all the more so for parents with young kids.

"Nature's Most Amazing Events"
are these:

While the term "global warming" isn't mentioned in the first episode, called "The Great Melt," the consequences of it to the wildlife in the Arctic are clearly illustrated, to the point of suggesting the approach of tragedy. While weather concerns in the lower 48 states consists mostly of average temperature and comfort trends, in the Arctic it's about the thickness of the ice and the greater and greater effect of the winter sun on how much of it diminishes the habitat that's existed for centuries.

Seals are a main meal for Polar Bears, and the great white fluffy beasts have no trouble, in the early winter, keeping well fed. With temps down to minus forty degrees fahrenheit, and the ability to sniff out a seal half a mile away, bears have the upper hand on their hunts. But when the sun rises to a 24-hour presence, and the melts goes farther each year, the tide shifts in the commonly known food chain. Now, ice in the bears' usual haunts becoming too thin to support his weight, the chances to surprise an unsuspecting seal are near nil, and the result can be seen in the bodily thinness of the failing hunter. Polar bears aren't kings of the ice any longer, having lost the certainty of lasting through summer and fall.

As an adjunct to this story, BBC teams deliver a "scoop" by being the first to record the narwhal, the white whale with the single, sharp tusk extending from below their massive foreheads. As the floes of ice become divided by long channels in spring, schools of these creatures head up toward their summer grounds, pausing when the channels end until the melt allows them to proceed.

By July, when the constant sun delivers real warmth, a herd of Beluga whales arrive, the ice has retreated to disclose heretofore unseen pastures, and the Arctic has been transformed into a grand, summer feast with colonies of seabirds, Arctic foxes, and untold species partaking. A truly amazing spectacle of abundance! At least for now. The lesson of where all this is going is as clear as Arctic water.

A story we know well and have heard much about is covered in the second episode, "The Great Salmon Run." This fabulous fish which provides so many fine seafood meals around the planet, has been threatened for years by all the hydro-electric plants and dams along the fresh water rivers where they spawn. But as they fulfill their programmed destinies of returning to the exact upriver place where they were hatched in order to leave the next generation of eggs, they must use the remainder of their strength to navigate a gauntlet of starving grizzly bears. This yearly effort in British Columbia is presented in great detail, another must-see.

"The Great Migration" records how the most numerous concentration of large animals are drawn together by the annual rains of the Serengeti, calling upon their skills of competitive survival.

"The Great Tide" is that of the billions of sardines that flood South Africa's east coast, creating a fin-packed feeding frenzy.

In "The Great Flood" we see thousands of animals making a long trek toward the life-saving annual flood in Botswana's Okavango Delta.

"The Great Feast" gets humpback whales and sea lions into the annual plankton boom of Alaska's coastal waters while avoiding predatory killer whales.

Special Features offer behind-the-scenes looks at each episode, called "Nature's Most Amazing Events Diaries.

If this sounds like many fascinating evenings at home reveling in what these world-class cinematographers have recorded and which the BBC has made available, your copy is waiting here!

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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Narwhals -- those strange, little-seen critters on their summer migration.

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