Life in the Freezer
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Emperor Penguins are superb - when all other creatures are leaving the Antarctic landmass for a warmer winter further north, the Emperors haul out onto it and start incubating their chicks. For two months the father birds stand on the snow-swept terraces like a frozen football crowd until the hatching happens, whereupon the mothers come home from the sea with bellies full of fish for the chicks. It must be a good life - there are millions of Emperors. And this is the main message of the book - that for animals adapted to the ghastly conditions, life in the freezer is good, food and space are abundant and they'd be silly to live anywhere else.
You probably remember the TV series - almost as spectacular for the polychromatic wardrobe of the breathless and visibly ageing Attenborough as for its remarkable close-up look at Antarctic wildlife. It spawned a forbiddingly dense and glossy Big Book at the time, but now the BBC have distilled out an excellent 'specially written text for young people'. This provides an agreeable word/picture balance with the probable result that all of us will read more of this version than the original.
For once 'stunning' is the word for Osborne's photography as we examine first the land, then the sea and its islands, then the seasons. Images of albatross, seals, penguins and whales are familiar enough, but all combine here to present the picture of successful survival which distinguishes Antarctic fauna. And we are left in no doubt that here is an environment well worth conserving.