A SCOT IN THE ANTARCTIC; Surviving the Perils of the Polar Regions Is All in a Day's Work for Doug

Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland), August 18, 2001 | Go to article overview

A SCOT IN THE ANTARCTIC; Surviving the Perils of the Polar Regions Is All in a Day's Work for Doug


Byline: GARY RALSTON

EVEN with temperatures plunging to minus 30 degrees, Doug Allan could still feel the chill creeping down his spine.

Less than 50 metres away, a polar bear stood poised, breathing heavily through a powerful mouth of razor-sharp teeth.

Almost two decades of experience told the Scots wildlife photographer the beast was ready to pounce - and they can reach speeds over 100 metres which Maurice Greene can only dream of.

Doug and his camera assistant Jason sized up their options - and decided to turn on their heels and make a bolt for the sanctuary of their cabin shelter 20 metres away.

They made it with seconds to spare, only to find the door refusing to close on a carpet of freshly driven snow.

Doug recalled: "It was jammed solid and suddenly the gap in the door was filled with white bear fluff.

"We carry rifles for extreme emergencies only and thought for a second we would have to use it, but flare guns are much more effective.

"Jason stuck the flare gun out the gap next to the bear's ear and fired it off with a loud bang. Thankfully, the bear decided to turn and flee. There can be a lot of danger in this job if you don't keep a cool head."

The incident took place four years ago as Doug filmed for the BBC series Life In The Freezer in Spitzbergen, off the Norway coast.

And it highlights the danger he faces bringing one of the most barren landscapes on earth alive in our living rooms.

Some of his most remarkable footage yet will be seen next month in the new 10-part BBC series Blue Planet, which cost a record pounds 7million to make and seven years to produce.

He's happy to have had the chance to film in the polar regions again after his previous brush with death.

He added: "We awoke to the sound of the male polar bear scratching outside. We decided to go for have a closer look, only for it to turn on us. It was moving at a serious speed.

"Mostly, we film them at 50 metres, so you have to look for tell-tale signs of their unhappiness, such as heavy snorting or how they hold their ears.

"Thankfully, incidents like this don't happen too often."

Doug, 50, from Dunfermline, specialises in filming the polar regions of the Arctic and Antarctic for the likes of the BBC, National Geographic and Discovery Channel.

The marine biologist, a graduate of Stirling University, has worked on programmes such as Survival, Steve Leonard's Ultimate Killers and productions including Life In The Freezer and Trials Of Life for the renowned Natural History Unit of the BBC in Bristol, where he now lives.

He even took Scots star Ewan McGregor to film polar bears in the wastes of Canada for a BBC special In The Wild.

Doug said: "Ewan was sensible and knew when to take and ask for advice. He was interested in the creatures and the work and wasn't at all high and mighty. He was happy to muck in."

At the moment Doug and his wife, producer Sue Flood, are filming a documentary on killer whales.

They have visited Alaska and Scandinavia for preliminary shoots, and will soon go to South America. It is an 18-month project and will not be ready for broadcast until next Christmas.

Before then, he is looking forward to Blue Planet. Narrated by David Attenborough, it will be broadcast every week from September 12 and looks at life in the world's oceans, with Doug providing footage of the polar seas. …

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