by Nicolas Brown, Producer/Director, Arctic and Mountains
“Is one of you Mr. Brown?”
Shock, blood rushes to my face. “Who knows me here? This is the most remote airport I have ever been to. (Have I done something wrong…?)”
We are in Ummannaq, which is nearly 600 km North of the Polar Circle, halfway up the West Coast of Greenland. The town sits on a tiny island (12 sq km) dominated by a towering rock called “Hjertefjeldet”, or Heart–shaped Mountain. It is easily the most picturesque fishing village I have ever seen – and the most far flung.
The woman in front of me laughs at my bewildered look. “My husband is Ole Jørgen Hammeken. He is friends with your father.”
Soon I am seated across from Ole Jørgen — the man my father calls “The Eskimo Errol Flynn”. The comparison is apt. Ole Jørgen has a stage presence that fills a room. A decade ago, he led my father on an expedition to the northernmost mountain in Greenland, now dubbed Hammeken Point. Ole is the first native Greenlander to be honoured as one the world’s elite explorers.
We laugh at the coincidence — Ole has been to my home thousands of miles away in Gypsum, Colorado, in the heart of the American Rockies. There he ate venison that we harvested from the forest behind our house. Now, totally unplanned, I am seated at his table, eating halibut harvested that morning from beneath the Ummannaq sea ice.
Weeks later, Human Planet takes us to Nepal. It is another place I have never been. Once again, I am greeted with a shock.
“You look like your brother…” muses a Nepali man standing before me. “But he is a strong climber—strong as a Sherpa. Are you?”
I stare into the beaming, mischievous smile so characteristic of Nepali Sherpas. A flash of recognition hits me. Put goggles on his eyes, an oxygen mask on his face—yes, it is Pemma Sherpa, who led my brother to the top of Mt. Everest last year. I’ve seen the pictures (it was my brother, Michael Brown’s, fourth successful summit).
I can tell that Pemma is going to push me. I’m not the mountaineer my brother is. I curse myself for not training harder for the expedition ahead…
When I started work on Human Planet I knew we would be exploring places I’ve never been before. But I never expected to keep bumping into people I know! In the famous words of my fellow countryman Walt Disney, “It’s a small, small world!”
Dale Templar, Series Producer – Icebreakers
Last week we had unfermented mud in Mali stopping a shoot, this week we’ve had sea ice breaking up far too fast in Greenland. Pushing complex filming trips back at the last minute is not ideal but bringing them forward can be a total nightmare and that’s exactly what it has been. Whether or not you believe the global warming theories, things ain’t what they used to be in the Arctic. One morning last week our “Queen of the Ice”, Bethan Evans got the call she never wanted from North-East Greenland. Overnight a big storm had come across the region and many kilometres of sea ice had been literally blown away – the team had to come and film “now!”, not in four weeks time as planned. With director Nick Brown away in Nepal (see above), the camera crew and safety co-ordinator booked to work elsewhere and flights every two weeks at best, we were starting from scratch. Willow Murton, our assistant producer had to drop the other story she was working on in Siberia and it was Arctic action stations. Somehow, I do not know how , we have an amazing team on location with one of the world’s top Arctic cameramen, Doug Allan. He had another shoot pencilled in for the series Frozen Planet that got cancelled due to weather! How lucky was that?