BBC DYNASTIES CAMERAMAN'S ENTHRALLING STORY OF EMPEROR PENGUIN LIFE
Chris Packham says:
'A dramatic saga forged by passion, honesty and a rare skill as a naturalist and film-maker.
Twelve men have walked on the moon. But how many have spent an entire season with the Emperors in Antarctica? Maybe more, likely less. Lindsay McCrae has - and this is his wonderful and frank story. There are lines of penguins and blizzards, but there's also the emotional turmoil of being separated from his home, his new wife and his unborn child. All his musings and observations combine to produce a compelling tale of the man, those extraordinary birds and that lonely place at the end of the earth.
So turn off the heating, put on your gloves and head deep south into a frozen land of dreams and nightmares, all played out in the world of beautiful Emperors'
'[This] remarkable memoir is rich in the technological and logistical challenges of filming in extreme conditions. But most gripping are his fine-tuned observations of these beautiful metre-high birds, which must survive and raise their young in temperatures as low as -60?°C' - Nature
When the BBC asked BAFTA-winning cameraman Lindsay McCrae to go to Antarctica to film emperor penguins he was thrilled. After discussing it with his wife Becky they agreed that, although it would mean him being away for 11 months, he should do it. But then she became pregnant and it seemed like the worst idea in the world - not just to miss the birth of his first child, but the first 7 months of his life. Weeks of anguished discussions followed before they decided he should go because it was his dream project and the chance might never come again.
My Penguin Year recounts Lindsay's adventure to the end of the Earth, filming the most resilient creatures in nature, while coping with being over 15,000km away from Becky and all the comforts of home - something which almost proved too much. Out of that experience he has written an unprecedented portrait of Antarctica's most extraordinary residents, the emperor penguins. They march up to 100 miles over solid ice to reach their breeding grounds. They choose to breed in the depths of the worst winter on the planet; and in an unusual role reversal, the males incubate the eggs, fasting for over 100 days to ensure they introduce their chicks safely into their new frozen world. And they are uniquely vulnerable to the unprecedented melting of the polar ice cap.
In weaving their story with his epic journey, Lindsay has created a masterpiece of natural observation - and a deeply moving tale of human endeavour in the harshest environment on the planet.
Filmmaker McCrae energetically relates the 11 months he spent living in Antarctica filming a colony of emperor penguins for the BBC in this swift, but surface-level, debut. McCrae's choice to travel to Antarctica while his wife was expecting their first child allows him to contrast his own experience with that of the birds he's filming, as the females leave their unhatched eggs in the care of their mates as they depart to feed in advance of the birth of the next generation of penguins. However, the comparison falls flat and does not achieve the hoped-for feeling of kinship among species. McCrae is at his best when simply relating his experience of natural wonders, such as when the penguins all huddle together in the face of a threatening storm, a collective action which presents him with a "seemingly motionless mosaic of row upon row of emperors." Despite brief expressions of concern for the future of the Arctic world, most references to the changing climate are surprisingly oblique for such an existential crisis. Beautifully captured individual moments won't be enough to allow the reader to entirely warm up to this uneven Antarctic tale.