Alaska: Earth’s Frozen Kingdom – how to see nature in an untouched wilderness

The BBC's new three-part series charts a year in Alaska, and studies how bears, birds, moose and humpback whales survive. Producer Alex Lanchester reveals how we can see these creatures up close...

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Covered in mosquito bites, watching out for bears and working through 24-hours of sunlight were some of the challenges the Alaska: Earth’s Frozen Kingdom team had to contend with while capturing their incredible footage.

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Starting on Wednesday 4th February (8pm on BBC2), we’ll get to marvel at the breathtaking panoramas and cute creatures – from white owls and arctic ground squirrels to baby sea otters – captured on film. If you’re feeling inspired to travel to this untamed wilderness, follow producer Alex Lanchester’s guide animal spotting in America’s last frontier…


“In southeast Alaska, you get humpback whales feeding on the herring run, which comes around April or May. These humpback whales swim all the way from Hawaii to feed. They swim beneath the fish, as a pod of whales and they swim in a circle, blowing bubbles out of their blow hole. The fish don’t like the bubbles, so the whales create a huge net of bubbles, then they gather at the bottom of the sea and swim straight up with their mouths open. It’s an amazing spectacle. It’s one of the top 10 things to see in my life. There are wildlife tours that will take you out on a boat; you have to keep your distance from the whales, but you can go on whale watching trips here.”


Katmai National Park
“There are great bear viewing places here, there’s one at a place called Brooks Falls, a very famous waterfall, where you get big congregations of bears catching salmon. There are viewing platforms and often guides with guns on patrol (guns are used as a last resort, as guides know what to do to avoid confrontations with bears). The bears in Alaska are the biggest bears in the world. You’ll find the biggest brown bears in the world at Kodiak Island, they can weigh as much as a small car.”


“It’s a small village but it’s the capital of the state. We filmed hummingbirds here in the summer, which migrate all the way from Mexico. It’s quite a surreal place to go and see hummingbirds, as you’ve got glaciers in the background. We were standing on the beach filming them, with killer whales out in the water behind. Juneau has a really accessible glacier called Mendenhall Glacier. In the series, we film in a famous blue cave that you can walk to, it’s absolutely stunning and very accessible.”


Fairbanks
“Sandhill cranes feature in the winter programme. There’s a nature reserve with old crop fields, and it’s exactly what the cranes love. They were doing this huge migration into the arctic where they’re going to breed.”


“Located above the Arctic Circle, Barrow has a ridiculously long day that lasts the whole of summer. You can see snowy owls up there and they’re pretty impressive. They go up there to breed, and feature in our summer show. They’re brilliant white, and are the biggest owls in America. These owls live out in the open tundra, there’s not a single tree. They have to nest on the ground, and there’s no night for them to hide in, they are white for camouflage. But there’s lots of food up there, it’s one giant, boggy, grass plain. Lots of grass to eat, means lots of caribou, but you also get lemmings, millions and millions of them.”


Denali
“I’d highly recommend going to this national park, it’s got Mount Denali (also known as Mount McKinley), the highest mountain in the whole of America. Inside the park you’ll find bears, caribou, moose, wolves and every big amazing Alaskan animal you can imagine.”


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Watch Alaska: Earth’s Frozen Kingdom at 
8pm on BBC2


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