National Geographic Polar Explorations

Taught By Multiple Professors
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Could have been much better This course isn’t bad but it isn’t good. It seems to be a course looking for a subject. It could have been so much more. First it is mislabeled. Most of the course isn’t about Polar exploration. A better title would have been Polar regions explored. The ecological, geographical, geological and oceanographic lectures were fine if not great. The Dr. Earle lectures were great but not extensive enough. Maybe I’m a tech geek but I would have liked far more coverage of how the deep diving equipment worked. In fact a few more lectures on Prof. Earle’s explorations and equipment would have been welcome. The astronomical lectures were interesting but a bit far afield. The photographic lectures were so far afield that they were almost on another planet, and not in a complimentary way. If I wanted a course on photography The Great Courses has several. What good are lectures on arctic photography when I don’t know what an ISO is? A better lecture on climate change could have been given by Dr. Wolfson or Dr. Hazen both in the Great Courses’ collection of excellent lecturers. Any course by either of these Professors is well worth the viewer’s time and money. I was also bothered by the lecturer’s light dismissal of the slaughter of tens of thousands of reindeer rabbits and cats ( I can live with the rat extermination) to return areas into their pre human contact condition. What makes an arctic bird worth more than a rabbit or reindeer or cat?? Likewise there is the moral conflict of condemning (implicitly) the Japanese for still whaling while approving Inuit hunting. Neither group has to eat Whale in the modern world and once upon a time all of mankind was completely dependent on slaughtering and eating our fellow creatures. I am going to listen to the good parts of this course again, selectively, but I can’t recommend the course in its present form.
Date published: 2019-07-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Great Opportunity Comes Up Short I ordered this course shortly after my wife and I had returned from an expedition cruise to the Antarctic Peninsula. The trip closed the circle on our seventh continent and was genuinely spectacular. It is for this reason that I had extremely high hopes that this series of lectures would not only be highly evocative but equally spectacular in its own way. It was an unrealistic and unfair expectation. Still, I have given it four stars for its effort at scientific authenticity and for the attempts by the course's presenters to convey their commitment to open these polar regions to us and, more importantly, to preserve them. The presenters are surely well-schooled in their crafts but, with a few exceptions, are not comfortable communicators. I choose not to specify which I found least capable, but they were so tethered to their teleprompters that, without them, they would have slipped beneath the polar ice. Production values, in particular the faux realistic "polar" sets, were simply a distraction. I found that most potentially great teaching moments went begging. If you never have the opportunity actually to visit these areas, the course will open your eyes. Once you've been there, particularly in the company of a good ship and professional botanists, ornithologists and geologists, I fear you'll find that the course cannot really deliver. I recommend it for its earnest attempt to educate.
Date published: 2019-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting and through I bought it for my husband and he loves it! He said it was very well done and informative. Much better than some of the other Great Courses we have purchased.
Date published: 2019-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Title was fine. Very interesting course. Photography was excellent. I liked the variety of speakers. The lady professor had a very good sense of humour. I would like to have seen an episode on Admiral Byrd, his flights and survival alone during the Antarctic night. Also, the comercial exploitation of krill for omega-3 pills and future towing of icebergs for freshwater.
Date published: 2019-03-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Pretty good. Not as academically-oriented as other Great Courses selections, but perhaps the intent of the National Geographic partnership is to have presentation and production values geared to a wider audience. Just something to keep in mind. Overall, I enjoyed the lectures, which were lavishly illustrated. It was a little distracting different people do the lectures, but not excessively so. The focus is wide, going from wildlife, to geology, to astronomy, to photography, to history. So that is another thing to keep in mind - this is not a focused, subject matter course. And not highly academic either. But, enjoyable for what it purports to be.
Date published: 2019-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from National Geographic poplar Exploration As a photographer I’m always looking for new locations to visit. I purchased this dvd with that in mind. After viewing this dvd I have added this area to my wish list.
Date published: 2019-01-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing I became enthralled with the Polar Regions while visiting the Arctic and Antarctica on cruises, and I hungered to learn more about them. So, I was delighted to find this course. Since it had been produced in collaboration with National Geographic, I imagined it would include stunning photography and video. And because it has five presenters, I expected topics would be covered by individuals with unique expertise. I didn’t bother to pay attention to the reviews. That was a mistake. Instead of savoring this lecture series, I forced myself to sit through it because I’d paid good money and didn’t want to accept I’d wasted it. I did needlework while watching so my time wouldn’t be wasted, too. I learned little or nothing from the majority of lectures. However, a few were excellent. I would not call this a course: it’s a set of disjointed lectures by five different people. It lacks coordination, jumping from topic to topic. There is overlap and repetition of subject matter among presenters with some content covered as many as four times. Various lectures use the same (apparently stock) photos and video clips, which occasionally don’t really illustrate what the presenter is talking about. In these cases they are more distracting than helpful. Most disappointing to me is the lack of depth in most lectures. Only two presenters are college professors. More than half of the lectures, 12 of 22, are delivered by a journalist. Mr. Montaigne’s tales of the exploits of early explorers and his own experience encountering penguins in the Antarctic are interesting. If you like a good storyteller, you’ll probably enjoy his anecdotes. However, his lectures on indigenous people of the Arctic, sea ice, marine and terrestrial animals, and seabirds are disappointingly superficial. I learned almost nothing from them beyond what I had already learned during my own brief visits to the Arctic and Antarctica. This lecture series could have been far better if the history and culture of indigenous people and the flora and fauna of the Polar Regions had been covered by people with a greater depth of knowledge and true expertise on these topics. In a “great course,” scientific topics need to be covered by scientists, not journalists. The three lectures by Dr. Michael Wysession, a professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences are excellent – substantial, interesting, well-organized, and well-presented. He discusses and explains geologic features and climates of the Polar Regions, circulation of ocean currents, the earth’s magnetic fields, and the auroras. The two lectures by Ralph Lee Hopkins, National Geographic photographer, are also excellent. While he focuses on the unique challenges of taking pictures near the poles, his tips will help you improve your photography wherever you are shooting. The three lectures by professor of Astronomy, Dr. Edwin Murphy, are a mixed bag. He is knowledgeable and presents well, but much of what he covers in “Seasons at the Poles” is so basic I learned it in elementary school. Other material, however, was new and interesting: the idiosyncratic movement of the sun through the sky and pattern of visibility and invisibility of the moon at the poles; stories the Inuit told about constellations; and specific ways the Inuit used movement of stars for timekeeping, navigation, and tracking the seasons. In his third lecture, though, it seems Dr. Murphy has run out of relevant material. He goes off on long tangents to galaxies far, far away and discussions of neutrinos – the only relation to the Polar Regions being research conducted in Antarctica. The two lectures by National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Marine Conservationist, Dr. Sylvia Earle, are a total waste. The content is boring and has little to with little to do with the Polar Regions; and the delivery is difficult – almost painful – to listen to, due to Dr. Earle’s slow, halting speech. I thought a lecture titled “Diving Under Polar Ice” would show me what it is like under the ice, what one would see and experience there. Wrong. It is all about equipment and technology needed to explore icy waters and ocean depths, and how much Dr. Earle loves being underwater. There’s only one brief glimpse of a diver actually in icy water. Her other lecture can best be described as a rambling lament about humans using marine animals as commodities, concluded with an uninspiring suggestion for conservation: humans need to think about what we are going to do before we do it and see value in creatures beyond that as commodities. One other thing to note: This series would have been remiss if it had not included discussion of climate change and its effects on the Polar Regions. However, it does not need to be in nearly every lecture. Mr. Montaigne, it seems, feels a need to mention it repeatedly throughout his lectures in case listeners have forgotten in the last five minutes that polar ice is melting and we need to be concerned. Thankfully, other presenters discuss the topic without harping. If you know little or nothing about the Polar Regions and are looking for a light, introductory overview you will probably find several of the lectures in this series to be enlightening. But if you are looking for something with more substance, up to the typical standards of Great Courses, you will likely be deeply disappointed and frustrated as I was.
Date published: 2018-05-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clarifies this complicated history of discovery. A history of Polar exploration well explained. I Visited Scott's hut near McMurdo Station in 1965 on board USS Glacier (see photo) - The Course gave me a great refresher of my two trips "to the ice" and filled in the blanks of what I did not fully appreciate or understand at the time.
Date published: 2018-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding course. Everything I'd hoped for As a retired Coast Guard icebreaker sailor who traveled several times to both the Arctic and Antarctic I was impressed and learned quite a lot more. The course is a must for anyone planning a trip north or south. I'll watch it over and over.
Date published: 2018-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great talkes Loved to hear and see again all the spots I had visited in Antartica. Also to hear again about the great saga of early polar exploration
Date published: 2018-02-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from (Mostly) Fascinating (even if mostly non-academic) I greatly enjoyed most of this course, and am very glad I took it. It provides a rapid overview of many aspects of the arctic and antarctic, including geology, history, flora and fauna, and effects of global warming. By far the most engaging aspect is the magnificent and extensive collection of photos and videos of these extraordinary environments and creatures. I do agree with some of the more negative reviews - this is a relatively non-academic course, given on a human interest level with far less science than we are used to from TGC. However, as a complete novice to this area, I did not find this a problem, and was drawn in by the fascinating descriptions, stories, and videos. I also agree that the quality of the presentations is variable, which is usually the case with multiple-professor courses. At the same time, viewers may disagree as to which profs they prefer, as this has much to do with prior interests. For example, the lessons on photography are very well done, but I have zero interest in the workings of cameras, and wish this time had been spent on other topics. My favorite prof here is Fen Montaigne, a journalist who provided vivid descriptions of many aspects of the history and animal life of the area, as well as what it is like to experience it in person. So - I have no hesitation in recommending this course. Just read the reviews first so you know what to expect.
Date published: 2018-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Photography and Story-Telling Highlights are the video and still photography in the polar regions, from the early explorers to the present National Geographic expeditions, and the masterful story-telling of the presenters. The stories of the early explorers and their hardships are gripping. The images of the ice, polar seas, and the creatures from the times of the early explorers to the present are gripping. Fen Montaigne in particular is a master at story-telling and he delivers 12 of the lectures. The other lecturers deliver in their particular specialties such as astronomy, geology, underwater exploration, and photography. Ralph Lee Hopkins, National Geographic Photographer, delivers an enthusiastic, astonishing crash course in polar photography in the last 2 lectures, so much content, yet so easy to understand, and very specific to the challenges of polar photography, but still more widely applicable. Finally, the creatures, plants and people that survive in the polar regions must be cited. The numbers of creatures above and under the seas, their variety, ability to survive, and behaviors are other-worldly, yet very real, and certainly fascinating. If you want someone else to watch Great Courses with you, but they just don't share your other interests such as philosophy or physics, this is the course to get them watching and interested. On a final note, this course should obviously be viewed in video, not just audio.
Date published: 2017-09-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from National Geographic Polar Explorations Great photography. It alone can tell many stories. But then National Geographic's reputation for good/great photography has been a trademark of theirs for a long long time.
Date published: 2017-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Breathtaking Awesome and the pictures were stunning. Makes me want to save up for this one.
Date published: 2017-03-19
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Left Me Just a Bit Cold The best things that I can say about the Polar Explorations course are: 1) that it presents a good deal of important information on a subject that I don’t think has been otherwise addressed in The Teaching Company’s catalogue of products; 2) that the multiple-presenter format at least provided variety; 3) that the lectures delivered by Dr. Michael Wysession were the best ones, in my opinion; and 4) that the course overall was at least as good as many I have attended in person at the university level. I am not sorry that I purchased this set of DVDs, and I will likely watch the course again sometime, though it does not impress me as one of the best of the several dozen Great Courses I own. With reservations, I would still recommend it to friends. Though I have acknowledged the course’s sum total of important information, I felt this was presented in a rather meandering fashion, and not all of the lecturers were as commendable as Dr. Wysession. The Average rating I reported above for Professor Presentation is, in fact, an average, as some lectures were excellent and others were poor. Some aspects of Polar Explorations made it seem more like a package of TV specials than a series of university-style lectures, and I prefer the more academic approach. A repetitive audio-visual intro for the lectures was twice as long as those used in most of the other Great Courses and had the feel of either a National Geographic advertisement or a movie trailer that I didn’t really want to sit through. The lectures were also presented on a visually too-busy “stage,” with distracting videos of penguins, polar bears, and breaching whales, as well as a clutter of oscilloscopes and other equipment, in the background behind the presenters. A small number of egregious errors should have been edited out or corrected through voice-over dubbing, too, such as when, in Lecture 17, the lecturer was speaking about hundreds of years of human habitation and culture in the Antarctic region while the on-screen pictures were clearly of Arctic scenes and peoples. Now, anybody can make a slip of the tongue but, as I have suggested, some post-filming correction would have been in order here.
Date published: 2016-09-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A broad survey of the poles - Priceless I had the extreme privilege of visiting Antarctica this year, and I cannot imagine having such a great experience without the benefit of having viewed this series first. The 22 lengthy episodes are the equivalent of multiple seasons of television, and represent a broad survey that covers history, geology, astronomy, climate, wildlife, and even photography of course the two poles are quite distinct from each other, so it's a lot to cover. Yet the experts assembled here are like an all star cast from some of the other Great Courses series, so when you learn about geology, it's from the outstanding geology professor Michael Wysession, the history of polar exploration is covered by National Geographic Explorer-in-residence Sylvia Earle, when you learn about photographing the polar regions, it's from National Geographic Fellow Ralph Lee Hopkins, etc. (in fact, the boat I was on when visiting Antarctica early this year was decorated with photos taken by Hopkins, many of which were also featured in this course!). A fabulous bonus for this series is that the producers had access to a cornucopia of video footage from Nationals Geographic's Lindblad Expeditions, so the lectures are visually rich, and feature quite a bit of footage that was not previously available to the public. With a diverse range of topics and instructors, it's likely you'll find some aspects more interesting than others; but if, for example, you're into wildlife but not astronomy, just skip the astronomy lectures. I will admit to doing as much; that didn't take away from the richness of the experience, or the extreme value this series provided for me and my family. Highly, highly recommended.
Date published: 2016-09-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from NG Polar Explorations i got this course because I have a trip planned later this year to Antarctica. I found the course real helpful in educating me about the region. i did not find the lecture on exploring under the ice that helpful or interesting because it seemed to be more focused on the equipment used versus what discoveries have been made.
Date published: 2016-08-31
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Less Than the Sum of Its Parts video download version This is a difficult review, as it consists of multiple, disparate parts, given by five different lecturers. To begin, the course has no center and lacks focus. That is, it is never clear what the course is trying to accomplish. For example the course uses the first lecture to establish that many early explorers had a deep and abiding fascination and love of the polar regions and are treated to some biographical notes on some of the notable explorers of the age of polar exploration such as Scott, Amundsen and Shackleton and a brief idea of some of their trials, tribulations and adventures. This background is given by Fen Montaugne, a National Geographic journalist and is well done. So far, so good. The next lecture presented by DR. Edward Murphy, an astronomy professor explains why the polar regions have the climate that they do and is again interesting and well delivered. It fits in with the polar theme and is good background, if a bit elementary. Now we jump to Dr. Michael Wysession, a geology professor who ties together the similarities and differences between the poles. Again, another good lecture. Although I was not aware at the time, lecture four, again by Fen Montaigne, begins the problem of disconnect throughout the course. After some background, astronomy and geology, we get a history lesson, that gives more detail (actually much of the exact, same detail) as was presented in lecture one.. and the next lecture deviates from history to a description of the changing climatic conditions at the poles. Now a jump to more geology and then astronomy and then some cultural background of the Inuit. And next a jump to more about the Arctic outlying regions and next something a bout the land mammals in the arctic, and polar seabirds and then marine mammals and now back to an historical account of the exploration of the south polar region, followed by a lecture on the geology of Antarctica. Basically the course organization lacks logic and focus. Unless one reads the table of contents, what comes next is never clear, nor is the reason for the lecture flow. It gets worse. There are two lecturers by Dr. Sylvia Earle devoted to underwater exploration. Most of the time she talks about diving equipment and various submersible options, perhaps interesting, but most of the content has nothing to do with the two poles. Further she speaks in an unenthusiastic, monotone even while discussing subjects such as how man is impacting the sea where she clearly has a clear polemic interest. And the last two lectures are on how to photograph in polar conditions. The bad is that is has little to do with the subject of the course and assumes a fair amount of knowledge of photography and the good is that I found the information presented interesting and well delivered, even though it seemed exceedingly tangential. I'll not be purchasing another course of this type, nor do I recommend that anyone else should either, unless contemplating a trip to the poles. I gave an extra star because of the often gorgeous photography and the often great individual lectures.
Date published: 2016-05-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exciting Visit to the Ends of the Earth BOTTOM LINE: We thought this wonderful course not only improved our factual understanding of polar science, but also gave a delightful (and warm!) understanding of what it's like to visit. This was a visual exploration for those who've never visited the polar regions, as well as a nice review for those who have. The photography was excellent, the lectures were generally done well (many were superb), the studio backdrops added to the effect, the topics were reasonably well-selected, and the presentation seemed so much more accurately informative than the typical travelogue. The well-credentialed instructors gave good overviews of the topic without bogging down in details or discussing much cutting-edge research which may soon become outdated or changed. We've been on "science tours" with guest lecturers, and this course seemed on a par. For a nice bonus, the course presented two lectures on regional photography, which refined the apparent experience of visiting the region (photography helps you understand the lighting, the scale, and the weather effects, for example). Of course, students can realistically expect to find some unevenness in an overview course on a large topic taught by different instructors and while no 22-lecture series can cover everything, we would have appreciated a lecture, or at least more coverage, on literature and indigenous myths (this might help appreciate how those who lived here came to understand it). We would have also enjoyed more on daily life among the researchers at scientific stations, and perhaps more hard data on how the environment is evolving. Despite these criticisms we greatly appreciated this kind of course! Sure, it's nice to visit, but as we become more concerned about the heavy environmental effects of jet travel and "industrialized tourism," as we come to know we'll never visit everywhere we want, and as we become more disenchanted with commercial air or land travel, we have come to better enjoy courses like this which are, in many ways, even nicer than visiting. Quality "virtual tours" like this let you experience an area you may never visit while leaving the jet lag, the incessantly crowded and delayed flights, the traffic jams, the expense, etc. etc. Thanks to the Teaching Company for expanding their excellence into this exciting area.
Date published: 2015-12-24
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not Up To Par This course had a lot of potential, but did not measure up in total. The lectures by Fen Montaigne were mostly informative, interesting and held my attention. The historical exploration lectures were were well done and gave a real appreciation of the harsh environment. His other lectures on the wildlife were also fascinating in many respects. The lectures by Ed Murphy were a complete waste of time in the context of this course. He should only be included in course about astronomy. Who really cares about astrological myths and so-called formations of stars? It may be interesting to some, but not in the context of polar exploration. The lectures by Sylvia Earle were no better. They seemed to be an ego trip on how much she enjoyed diving under the sea. They were not informative, and did little to expand my knowledge. The lectures by Ralph Lee Hopkins were notable primarily by the beautiful pictures he presented. The technical subject matter could only have strong interest to a very few that might actually be planning a trip to the polar regions. If it wasn't for the lectures by Fen Montaigne this would be a one star review.
Date published: 2015-10-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great mix of history and science I enjoyed the history of polar exploration from Fen Montaigne as well as the sceince from Wysession and Murphy. The graphics are exceptional. I have a better understanding of an area of earth that I know Iwould never be able to visit.
Date published: 2015-08-31
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not up to usual standards Okay, it's produced by National Geographic, so the photography is superb. But the course itself is a scattered collection of discussions of all sorts of topics at a very superficial level, loosely bound together because they have to deal with the polar regions. My friends jokingly call me "bipolar" because my interests in both polar regions have been so strong for so many years, and I have many books in the area. But each book that I own is on a particular theme or topic and doesn't just scatter your attention all over the map, as this course does from lecture to lecture. The course consists largely of reminiscences by the lecturers, with very little depth in its content. Is it going to be about the years of exploration, about the indigenous peoples, about the flora and fauna, about the geology, or about astronomy? Answer: yes, and hold your breath as we swoop you among topics from one lecture to the next. I am very disappointed, because I was hoping for a lot more.
Date published: 2015-08-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Don't Waste Your Time on This One I have listened to--and viewed--many of your courses over the past decade. I have come to expect actually learning something in a reasonable level of detail and understanding. That process has been aided by having gifted academics as presenters; that is, folks who specialize in a specific topic like geology, music, art, history, astronomy, philosophy, etc. and can teach it at an appropriate adult level. This course is a departure. It is mostly taught by National Geographic presenters who offer only anecdotal and summary observations strung together with many of the same or similar photos, lecture after lecture. I can't say I learned much of anything from them. The session on Arctic peoples is a great example of the superficiality of this course. This was a generic lecture from a National Geographic presenter about traditional ways of life in the Arctic and how those are being challenged due to climate change and technology. It was coupled with an anecdotal reference to his trip 20 years ago to meet some of these peoples in Siberia and spiced with a picture of a teepee that one of those folks had constructed. There was no serious discussion of where in the Arctic those people actually live today, how they live, how their economies work, their genetic origins, their political histories. I don't know any more about these people now than I could have guessed before the lecture. To give you another example: Lecture 1. The same National Geographic lecturer gave a blow-by-blow chronology of the now-famous Shackleton expedition, lasting for half the lecture. Why did this occupy so much of Lecture 1 in preference to providing a proper overview of the course content and its significance? Because the course's content is only a montage of different superficial topics strung together with a polar theme. I could go on and on with similar examples. The session on Arctic Islands began with a a polar-projection map with which the National Geographic lecturer successively mentioned different islands in the archipelago. He then threw in a bunch of anecdotal and largely-unrelated information about three of the islands: Iceland, Greenland and Svalbard. Some of that information: (1# The experiment of a now-defunct Icelandic corporation to map the genetic code of Icelanders, a project which is now doomed because a foreign corporation now owns the data. #2) The global seed repository on Spitzbergen which intends to keep seeds at 0 degrees Fahrenheit forever. I learned nothing from either of these unexplored and unrelated anecdotes. Ed Murphy and Michael Wysession were the only presenters of value. They should have each been allowed--especially Wysession--additional time to develop serious scientific content. As it was, they couldn't begin to cover the most interesting stuff because of the superficial content that "needed" to be covered by the National Geographic presenters. Skip the course and read a book instead.
Date published: 2015-08-03
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not up to Great Courses Standards Perhaps the fault of this course lies in the fact that it is actually produced by National Geographic; I've certainly come to expect much more from The Great Courses. If you want a long-winded overview of how humans are destroying the Artic and Antarctic, then this course fits the bill. I know we're messing it up, but I don't need almost every lecture to tell me that. I expected to be amazed by the beauty that is there with certainly a bookend mention of the problems, but it occurs the other way around. One expects a certain amount of overlap when many different lecturers present common topics, but better scripting and editing would have trimmed this course down considerably. If it was shown as individual videos on TV, okay, that might explain it, but presented as a course that one expects to watch each day from start to finish, there is considerable redundancy. Also, lecturers seemed to be selected based on celebrity status and not on content. One lecture on diving under the polar seas ended up being a twenty minute discussion on equipment and only five minutes of actual underwater footage and even some of that was obviously taken in the Caribbean since the divers were wearing bikinis and swimsuits and there was a plethora of coral. That lecturer was a very slow speaker and you wanted to poke her with a stick just to get her going again. Someone else would have been much better. Furthermore, most of the other Great Courses I've enjoyed were laced with animations and images appropriate to the topics -- that didn't happen here. One lecturer described the tectonic plates that migrated...etc. etc, but never showed an animation so we could visualize what he referenced. Another lecturer identified that researchers had found a five-foot tall fossilized penguin, but did they show a photo of it? No. These oversights occur throughout the course. The entire course is about telling you and not showing you and no one enjoys dry lectures where they talk at you -- that's the whole point of multi-media, let's use it; you'll definitely want to bring your imagination to sit through these courses because they fall short of providing you with the meat behind the concept. One exception I do want to note, the second from the last course was on photography and was excellent. The lecturer did indeed discuss equipment, but only as a side bar as he explained how to deal with the contrast/lighting issues of icy regions. He was the bright spot of the course.
Date published: 2015-07-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great spontaneous purchase I purchased this course on a whim. I was not disappointed and will watch this over and over again. It was a delightful and informative course that covered every aspect of the polar regions. Having multiple "specialist" lecturers made the course that much more interesting. The course was informative, interesting, the photography was amazing. It created a yearning to travel to the Arctic and Antarctic. If you purchase this course, you will not be disappointed. Thanks for adding a section on photography. His tips can be applied to any situation ( not just the polar regions) and will allow you to bring back memorable photos from your travels.
Date published: 2015-06-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting; a quick listen; good use of profs I really enjoyed the lectures. The use of multiple professors was valuable and improved the overall quality of the lectures. The video lecture formats have improved over time. They use excellent video, stills, and animations to make their points. I particularly enjoyed the science lectures. The lecture on diving did not offer information that was as valuable as some of the others. The photography lectures had nice photos, but I don't think I could duplicate them without a special class, so I did not find those two lectures as helpful. I was anxious to move on from them until I realized they were the last lectures. Overall the course was easy to listen to, particularly in a series without growing weary of them. Even though it's not an option in this case, I felt the video enhanced the format and the layout of lecture room was fun and thoughtful.
Date published: 2015-05-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It is a MUST addition to your courses library! Just completed all 22 lectures and I must say that I truly enjoyed the multi professor format, it was quite refreshing and a such a pleasure to watch. I have seen several DVD's and programs on both the North & Southern Poles and not one presented the full picture on how sea ice affects all arctic life from the tiniest of krill to the largest marine whale like this one did. Fen, my favorite presenter described the early explorers and modern day tales that made me feel as if I was there. At first glance, I actually believed he was at an arctic research station. Overall, I highly recommend "Polar Explorations" to anyone who loves this subject, you will not be disappointed. And if you love polar bears & penguins as much as me, they make a ton of cameos that will warm your heart.
Date published: 2015-04-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow! What a course! I stumbled across this course and thought it might be interesting, but wow, did I ever underestimate it! It's drawn me in and has me in it's clutches. I haven't even been able to do anything else today because i'm completely enamored with all the beauty and information. Fen and Ralph are amazing and have so much to offer. Sylvia Earle... what a lady! Thank you for another amazing course! Is it too early to plan for Christmas gifts? I had to stop and write a review because i'm sure everyone will enjoy it as much as I have. :)
Date published: 2015-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Greatest Great Courses Ever! This is now my favorite Great Courses course , 2nd only to Tai Chi. Whatever you guys are doing, keep it up! Polar Explorations is stunningly beautiful. From the amazing slick set and presentation to all the vivid National Geographic imagery this course truly comes together and is matched with professional knowledgeable professors and Nat Geo explorers. Sylvia Earle of all people, wow! What a recipe. So far I've jumped around between lectures to get a full taste of what's to come and I've already learned so much. The best way to describe this course, and it is very different than any other TGC product, is that it feels like I'm watching a documentary-educational hybrid with all the academia and bell's and whistles of a National Geographic special. I'm sharing with my grandson tonight and we are traveling to the Antarctic! See you all there!
Date published: 2015-03-09
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National Geographic Polar Explorations
Course Trailer
Passion for the Poles
1: Passion for the Poles

What draws people to the poles again and again? What significance do these regions hold for the planet? Begin to answer these questions with Fen Montaigne, a journalist who has traveled extensively in the polar regions, as you delve into the awe-inspiring story of Ernest Shackleton's struggles in Antarctica, as well as Montaigne's own experiences....

32 min
Seasons at the Poles
2: Seasons at the Poles

In the latitudes where most of us live, it's easy to take the sun and its relationship with the Earth for granted. For us, the sun comes up and goes down reliably every day, yet the poles experience six months each of continuous night and constant day. What causes the seemingly strange behavior of the sun at the poles? What causes seasons? Find out in this lecture presented by astronomy professor ...

29 min
Connections between the Poles
3: Connections between the Poles

The North and South Poles share a history that is unique and unlike any other place on Earth. Join Professor Michael Wysession as he lays the groundwork for understanding the polar regions with a discussion of their geology-dominated by ice, ocean, climate, and even nearby outer space-as well as their similarities and differences....

33 min
The Saga of Arctic Exploration
4: The Saga of Arctic Exploration

Over the centuries, hundreds of people have perished trying to find their way through the Northwest Passage and to the North Pole, while hundreds more have spent months or years trapped on ships in Arctic sea ice. Discover how explorers such as Henry Hudson, Sir John Franklin, and Roald Amundsen opened up this polar region to the world....

31 min
The Icy Heart of Polar Seas
5: The Icy Heart of Polar Seas

Virtually every living thing in polar waters-from single-celled phytoplankton to whales-has evolved in a world dominated by sea ice. Study how Arctic and Antarctic marine ecosystems work, and consider what happens to a sea ice-dependent marine ecosystem when the sea ice begins to disappear....

28 min
Geology of the Arctic Circle
6: Geology of the Arctic Circle

Zoom in for a closer look at the unique geologic characteristics of the North Pole and surrounding Arctic Circle. First, take a brief geologic tour of the Arctic regions, then examine how the ocean, atmosphere, and surface geology all interact, and how this region has changed geologically over time....

32 min
Science and Spirits of the Arctic Sky
7: Science and Spirits of the Arctic Sky

Constellations were vital to the early Inuits' survival, as they used the daily, monthly, and annual motions of the stars for timekeeping, navigation, and tracking the seasons. Explore this tradition and how it differs from Western astronomy, then investigate what causes the breathtaking aurora borealis....

29 min
Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic
8: Indigenous Peoples of the Arctic

Although fewer than a half-million in number, Arctic dwellers are comprised of approximately 40 different ethnic groups. Learn how the Nenets of Russia, the Inuit of North America, and other communities survive, and how industrialization and other factors are altering traditional ways of life....

31 min
Greenland and Arctic Islands
9: Greenland and Arctic Islands

Delve into the past, present, and future of three of the most notable islands in the Arctic and sub-Arctic: Iceland, one of the world's most geologically active areas; Greenland, which dwarfs all other Arctic islands in size; and the Svalbard archipelago, home to The Global Seed Vault....

31 min
Terrestrial Mammals in the Changing Arctic
10: Terrestrial Mammals in the Changing Arctic

Now that Arctic sea ice is retreating, what will become of the polar bear? Will it survive and, if so, in what numbers? Learn how changes to the ecosystem are affecting the polar bears and the other remarkable animals that call the Arctic home, from the lemming to the Arctic fox....

31 min
Seabirds of the Arctic and Antarctic
11: Seabirds of the Arctic and Antarctic

Discover the astonishing array of avian life-primarily consisting of seabirds-that live in, breed in, and migrate to the planet's polar regions, including the albatross, the skua, the giant petrel, and the extraordinary Arctic tern, which carries out the longest annual migration of any living thing....

30 min
Marine Mammals, from Whales to Walruses
12: Marine Mammals, from Whales to Walruses

The waters of the Arctic and Antarctica teem with a remarkable number of marine mammals. Get an overview of the mammalian wildlife that inhabits or migrates to polar waters, including white beluga whales, leopard seals, crabeater seals, and walruses. Examine the sophisticated social structure of orcas, also known as killer whales, and why it makes them such effective predators....

29 min
The Race for the South Pole
13: The Race for the South Pole

Meet some of the towering figures of Antarctica's "heroic era," explorers and scientists in the early 20th century who vastly expanded our knowledge of the southernmost continent. Learn what drove these adventurers despite extreme hardship, and witness the treacherous race to the South Pole between Norwegian Roald Amundsen and Brit Robert Falcon Scott....

31 min
Geological Features of Antarctica
14: Geological Features of Antarctica

The ice in Antarctica may be more than a mile thick and millions of years old, but at times in its history the continent has been covered with jungles. Investigate the unusual geologic processes occurring in Antarctica and discover what features may be buried under all that ice....

28 min
Antarctica's Window on the Universe
15: Antarctica's Window on the Universe

Above Antarctica is a cap of stars and constellations hidden from view in the Northern Hemisphere and containing some of the most beautiful sights in the night sky. Survey the region's astronomical highlights and learn why, at the South Pole itself, astronomers and other scientists enjoy research conditions unrivaled anywhere else on Earth....

31 min
Diving under Polar Ice
16: Diving under Polar Ice

How do humans get beneath the surface of Arctic ice or the Antarctic Ocean? Join marine conservationist Sylvia Earle, a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, as she explains the technologies scientists use to dive safely beneath the sea ice in an effort to expand our knowledge of marine ecosystems at both poles. ...

26 min
Resource Development in Polar Seas
17: Resource Development in Polar Seas

Humans are extracting krill and other marine life at unprecedented levels. Burning fossil fuels is causing ocean acidification. What will happen if we change the temperature or chemistry of the ocean? Consider such questions in this lecture on the delicate ecosystems of Earth's oceans and the consequences of treating oceanic wildlife as commodities....

25 min
South Georgia and Macquarie
18: South Georgia and Macquarie

Among the least inhabited places on Earth, the sub-Antarctic islands feature a spectacular array of wildlife despite a history of wanton exploitation beginning in the 18th century. Learn how seal, whale, and penguin populations were devastated on and around two of the sub-Antarctic's most significant islands-South Georgia and Macquarie-and how each population has largely recovered....

29 min
Living among the Penguins
19: Living among the Penguins

Legendary Antarctic adventurer Apsley Cherry-Garrard said "all the world loves a penguin" and in this lecture, you'll understand why. Get acquainted with Adelie, emperor, and chinstrap penguins by exploring how each evolved into the fat, flightless swimmer it is today. Explore the history of their interaction with humans and their remarkable cycles of reproduction and survival....

29 min
Antarctica-A Continent for Science
20: Antarctica-A Continent for Science

Survey the discoveries made and hardships suffered during centuries of scientific exploration in Antarctica, including a research expedition that sought viable emperor penguin eggs in an attempt to unlock an evolutionary mystery. See how Antarctic research helped create the modern sciences of oceanography, climatology, and glaciology, and is still driving scientific progress....

34 min
Basics of Polar Photography
21: Basics of Polar Photography

Picture being in the Arctic when a polar bear approaches your ship. What kind of camera should you use to capture the moment? What settings should you choose? Here, National Geographic photographer Ralph Lee Hopkins explains how to navigate the unique challenges of polar photography, from dealing with a "white world" to shooting atop a moving platform....

31 min
Photographing Polar Landscapes
22: Photographing Polar Landscapes

Photography is a blend of the creative and the technical and, in this lecture, you'll focus on the creative side of the equation. Learn how to use lighting, composition, and moment to your advantage in the Arctic and Antarctica through techniques such as changing perspective, incorporating people into your shots, and using negative space....

39 min
Michael E. Wysession

The more you know and understand the natural world, the greater will be your love and appreciation for it.


Northwestern University


Washington University in St. Louis

About Michael E. Wysession

Dr. Michael E. Wysession is the Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. Professor Wysession earned his Sc.B. in Geophysics from Brown University and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University. An established leader in seismology and geophysical education, Professor Wysession is noted for his development of a new way to create three-dimensional images of Earth's interior from seismic waves. These images have provided scientists with insights into the makeup of Earth and its evolution throughout history. Professor Wysession is the coauthor of An Introduction to Seismology, Earthquakes, and Earth Structure; the lead author of Physical Science: Concepts in Action; and the primary writer for the texts Earth Science, Earth's Interior, Earth's Changing Surface, and Earth's Waters. Professor Wysession received a Science and Engineering Fellowship from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, a National Science Foundation Presidential Faculty Fellowship, and fellowships from the Kemper and Lily Foundations. He has received the Innovation Award of the St. Louis Science Academy and the Distinguished Faculty Award of Washington University. In 2005, Professor Wysession had a Distinguished Lectureship with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology and the Seismological Society of America. In 2014, Wysession received the inaugural Ambassador Award of the American Geophysical Union.

Also By This Professor

Edward M. Murphy

My goal is to introduce you to the beauty and the wonder of the night sky, and to give you a basic knowledge needed to feel more comfortable navigating the sky.


University of Virginia


University of Virginia

About Edward M. Murphy

Dr. Edward M. Murphy is Associate Professor, General Faculty at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He earned his bachelor's degree in Astronomy from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Virginia in 1996. Professor Murphy was a postdoctoral fellow and an associate research scientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, where he worked on NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE). In 2000 he joined the faculty at the University of Virginia, where he continues to use FUSE, along with radio telescopes, in his research on the interstellar medium. Professor Murphy teaches courses on introductory astronomy and intelligent life in the universe to undergraduates, as well as seminars on how to teach astronomy to graduate students. He also offers evening classes for the local community at the historical Leander McCormick Observatory. He was named a Teaching and Technology Fellow in 2002-2003 and an Ernest Boots Mead Honored Faculty Fellow in 2003-2004. Dr. Murphy gives astronomy talks, appears regularly on local radio, and leads professional development workshops for teachers. He has also worked with the Science Museum of Virginia to develop planetarium shows and exhibits.

Also By This Professor

Sylvia A. Earle

As Explorer-in-Residence, I feel the joy of being able to go to both ends of the Earth aboard the National Geographic Explorer, the vessel that takes passengers, take scientists, takes me to places that have been off limits to people for most of our history.


Duke University


National Geographic

About Sylvia A. Earle

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and Marine Conservationist National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Sylvia A. Earle is an oceanographer, explorer, author, and lecturer. She earned her bachelor's from Florida State University and holds an M.S. and a Ph.D. from Duke University, as well as 26 honorary degrees. Formerly chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Dr. Earle is the founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, founder of Mission Blue and SEAlliance, and chair of the advisory councils of the Harte Research Institute and Ocean in Google Earth. She has authored more than 210 scientific, technical, and popular publications; lectured in more than 90 countries; and appeared in hundreds of radio and television productions. Dr. Earle has also led more than 100 expeditions and logged more than 7,000 hours under water, including leading the first team of women aquanauts during the Tektite project in 1970, participating in 10 saturation dives, and setting a record for solo diving in 1,000-meter depth. Her research concerns marine ecosystems, with special reference to exploration, conservation, and the development and use of new technologies for access and effective operations in the deep sea and other remote environments. Dr. Earle's focus is on developing a global network of areas on the land and in the ocean to safeguard the living systems that provide the underpinnings of global processes.

Also By This Professor

Ralph Lee Hopkins

As a photographer, I'm looking through a viewfinder, yes, but I'm more in the moment than I would be if I didn’t have my camera, and that’s the way I see the world.


National Geographic


National Geographic

About Ralph Lee Hopkins

Photographer Ralph Lee Hopkins is the founder and director of the onboard photography program for the National Geographic-Lindblad Expeditions fleet. For more than 20 years, he has photographed expeditions from the Arctic to the Antarctic and points in between.Mr. Hopkins completed his master's degree in Geology at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where he studied rocks along the rim of the Grand Canyon. He was a photographer on the 1990 Colorado River Expedition with the U.S. Geological Survey, and he continues to lead photo expeditions down the Colorado River.Mr. Hopkins's photography appears regularly in National Geographic publications. A member of the International League of Conservation Photographers, his current work focuses on documenting conservation and environmental issues in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, Baja California, and the Sea of Cortes in Mexico.Mr. Hopkins is author and photographer of the popular guidebooks Hiking Colorado's Geology and Hiking the Southwest's Geology. His most recent book is Nature Photography: Documenting the Wild World.

Also By This Professor

Fen Montaigne

We are moving into an era in which the melting of ice, on both land and at sea, will become one of the defining characteristics of a new geological age.


National Geographic


National Geographic

About Fen Montaigne

A veteran journalist, author, and editor, Fen Montaigne worked as a Moscow correspondent during the collapse of the Soviet Union, reported for National Geographic magazine from six continents, earned a Guggenheim Fellowship, and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. Mr. Montaigne has authored or coauthored five books and helped launch and edit the award-winning online magazine Yale Environment 360. Mr. Montaigne graduated from the University of Virginia with a degree in International Relations. He wrote for The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1982 to 1996. Becoming a freelance journalist in 1996, he published articles in National Geographic magazine, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Outside, Smithsonian, Forbes, and Audubon. In 2005 and 2006, Mr. Montaigne spent five months in the Antarctic Peninsula on the field team of ecologist Bill Fraser, who studies the impact of rapid warming on Adelie penguins and other seabirds. That story is told in Fraser's Penguins: A Journey to the Future in Antarctica. Mr. Montaigne now works as senior editor of Yale Environment 360 and as a lecturer for National Geographic Expeditions and Lindblad Expeditions.

Also By This Professor