Extreme Beauty

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Byline: Jeff Pfeiffer Zap2it By Jeff Pfeiffer Zap2it

Discovery Channel's captivating new seven-part series "Frozen Planet" -- narrated by Alec Baldwin and airing Sundays beginning March 18 -- is another coproduction with the BBC, from the same filmmakers who brought us the astounding "Planet Earth" a few years back.

This time, they focus their lenses on Earth's polar regions, perhaps the most extreme environments in the world. And again, those lenses have been incredibly patient -- producers and filmmakers spent 2,356 days in the field, 1 1/2 years at sea, more than six months on the sea ice and 134 hours beneath that ice during the four years it took to put this project together. Working at both poles, they experienced winds up to 148 miles per hour and more than 400 days of temperatures below zero, with the lowest they recorded being minus 58. That's a lot of exposure for even the hardiest nature photographer.

"I'm an Australian," jokes "Frozen Planet" director and cinematographer Chadden Hunter at a recent press conference, "so the personal challenge of going to film and living these conditions is really extreme. I mean ... there's a bit of adrenaline there. It is the best job in the world, making something like (this). But you know, I tell you what -- to come back and get a decent cappuccino and a hot shower is something that never loses its attraction."

"But after a few weeks," adds producer Vanessa Berlowitz, "you do start finding yourself thinking, 'I want to get back and see these incredible wildernesses.' And we're very, very lucky, because we get to go to places that most people can only dream of."

Many of the places and events Hunter, Berlowitz and their team have captured on film do indeed seem like something out of a dream: massive icebergs larger than the island of Manhattan; hauntingly colorful sunsets and auroras sweeping over frozen desert landscapes; terrain filled with beautiful ice formations sculpted by brutal winds; unique undersea worlds beneath the Antarctic ice -- the last place one might expect anything to live, but where fragile-looking creatures thrive. …