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An 18-hour examination of the beauty of two continents.

DVD Review: BBC Atlas of the Natural World – Western Hemisphere and Antarctica

I have always been a fan of the BBC, and here is another reason why: BBC Atlas of the Natural World: Western Hemisphere and Antarctica, a six-disc set that relates the stories of the continents, how they formed, who were the first inhabitants, and how the evolution of creatures and peoples adapted and lived within their environment.

Under the banner are four series, which were created in the previous decade: Land of the Eagle (1990), Spirits of the Jaguar (1996), Wild South America (2000), and Life in the Freezer (1993). The first three series are comprised of four one-hour episodes while the last one is made up of six. With all the history and information contained in this package, trying to view it all at once might make your head explode.

The topic of Land of the Eagle is North America. The episode "Great Encounter" gives a brief history of the native peoples of North America and what it was like before the Europeans landed. It goes on to explain what the new settlers from across the great lake had to face in this new world, such as the weather, the land around them, and all the beasts of the forests that now surrounded them. It goes into the history of the land, how the mountains were formed, and what flora and fauna had evolved.

The series heads south to Central America for Spirits of the Jaguar, which brings the viewer into the realm of the Mayans while Wild South America, whose title needs no explanation, moves on down to the land of the mighty Amazon and the towering Andes. It was the last series to be shot and, thankfully, did so in 1.78 wide screen. Life in the Freezer explores the frozen tundra Antarctica with its penguins, whales, and David Attenborough, the series only host.

If you view the series in Enhanced Content Mode, pop-up windows will periodically appear during the program with added factual content. I know this, not because I know how to view the series in Enhanced Content Mode, but because it says this on the inside cover of the cool box that the set comes in.

With awe-inspiring pictures of the landscape and the animals, bugs, and birds that inhabit these great continents, BBC Video has really out done itself here, almost packing in too much beauty. I think it's their ploy to get us to watch it twice, because that's what I plan on doing tonight. I wonder if a series on Africa and the Eastern Hemisphere will soon end up on DVD. I hope so because this is a fantastic look at our world and its natural beauty.

If I were a seventh- or eighth-grade science teacher, this would be in the lesson plan. The content goes deep enough to give the viewer the facts without getting too technical to cloud the mind. All the images are magnificent, and it is real piece of work from start to finish. For those of us who love natural history, this is one that should be picked up; it is well worth because it is not only interesting and true, but also entertaining and beautiful.

Audio tracks are available in English and Spanish.

Written by Fumo Verde

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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