I really love David Attenborough. He’s so interested in everything, and he communicates his interest through a television screen. Which is a writing lesson–putting yourself and your interests into what you’re saying or writing gives those words more energy.
I recently watched the documentary he did on Antarctica, Life in the Freezer. It wasn’t specifically for research; I was just interested! Also, I shocked myself by how little I really knew about Antarctica and the animals that live there. Though this series isn’t new–it’s from 1993–I totally recommend it, for the photography if nothing else. Vast sweeps of snow and ice and icy ocean, gorgeous underwater seal ballet, vast fields of penguins. One caveat: several penguins poignantly meet their deaths, so if you’re a penguin fan, be warned.
You may be wondering if this has anything to do with writing. In my case, it does. See, when I get the urge to watch things, it’s usually because I’m refilling my brain with tasty bites of
penguin information that will later, I hope, emerge in my fiction.
For one thing, a lot of what I learned about harsh environments is applicable to creating science fiction worlds; in fact the NASA Tumbleweed Rovers were tested in Antarctica.
I was also impressed by the population of Weddell seals which can survive year-round on the ice cap by keeping breathing holes open in the ice; they can submerge during blizzards with only their nostrils exposed, and when they hunt, they can remain underwater for as long as eighty minutes. The footage of a human diver in their realm was incredible–I could only imagine the vast silence, broken only by seal calls. I couldn’t help but imagine an alien species.