Top PBS HD Documentaries of 2008
I have recently been matching many PBS documentaries on Nature and
Nova, which are now all broadcast in high definition (HD). (I've been
watching these via my personal media
network, incidentally.) What follows is a list of the best such
documentaries for 2008, and a brief synopsis. Also see my
recommendations for the top
PBS documentaries of 2006-7.
- Nature: White Falcon, White Wolf. The compressed 3-month breeding
season of two different species on Ellesmere Island is captured
in remarkable close-up footage. The Gyrfalcon parents catch and
carry hares back to a stunning cliffside nest to feed their
growing young. The arctic wolves explore the countryside during
the brief burst of wildlife growth and color before winter
enshrouds the land for another 9 months. The footage is
beautiful and the animals are fascinating. The animals make the
most of their brief spring, summer, and fall. You'll
find you appreciate your 3-month seasons even more.
- Nova: Cracking the Maya Code. The Mayans created an elaborate,
ornate written language carved in stone and recorded in books.
The invading Europeans destroyed huge numbers of books and forbid
use of the language. Within a few hundred years the writing
became unreadable, seemingly lost to humankind forever. In the
twentieth century, in fits and starts, researchers rediscovered
the meaning of the Mayan hieroglyphs. The personalities and
genius involved are fascinating and amazing. The Mayan writing
is beautiful and artistic. Most of all, the realization that
written human knowledge could become inscrutable and lost to
mankind within a few hundred years is a scary and humbling
prospect. The trappings of civilization may be far more
fleeting and ephemeral than it seems.
- Nova: Secrets of the Parthenon. The massive Parthenon in
Athens, Greece was assembled in 8 short years without the aid of
modern heavy machinery. Even so, the parts fit together
precisely, to tolerances of less than a millimeter. And
fastidious attention to design detail makes it look even more
impressive, while guaranteeing that no two stones are alike.
This episode describes how the team repairing the Parthenon
discovered that the task was even more challenging than
imagined. You will gain even more respect for the
accomplishments of the ancient Greeks when you learn the extent
of their design and construction wizardry.
- Nature: Christmas in Yellowstone. A windy, snow-covered
landscape makes a beautiful backdrop for numerous hardy animal
species and a few hardy humans as well. This episode shows
highlights of foxes, wolves, elk, caribou, bison, and more. The
fauna are intermingled with the natural beauty of the park, from
waterfalls to hot springs to geysers to frozen lakes and
rivers. With so much to cover the time for any one species or
location is limited, but as a close-up, scenic look at numerous
aspects of the park this episode is spectacular. Great for
watching with the whole family.
- Nature: Drakensberg: Barrier of Spears. The nomadic trek of
the eland from the lowest valleys to the highest peaks of the
treacherous volcanic mountains of southern Africa is
documented. The demanding terrain and fickle weather leave
numerous victims for the scavengers. A variety of other
wildlife are shown, from chipmunk-like ice rats to crab-eating
frogs. The stunning terrain and hardiness of the diverse
wildlife make this a fascinating episode, but the squeamish may
want to pass due to the high mortality rate.
- Nature: Arctic Bears. Grizzly Bears and Polar Bears shared
ancestors but have been geographically separated until
recently. With the arctic ice receding and the tundra warming,
the two species are now meeting and sometimes interbreeding.
This episode focuses on how the specially evolved polar bears
are having difficulty in their changed environment while
grizzlies are adapting fairly well. Lots of beautiful arctic
scenery is intermixed with amazing footage of polar bears
swimming and hunting on the receding arctic ice.
- Nova: Incredible Journey of the Butterflies. Monarch
Butterflies are shown making their astounding multi-generational
migration from Canada to Mexico and back. These tiny animals
must feed themselves, evade predators, and endure the elements
while traveling a huge distance. Even more impressive, they mus
follow a path they have never before traveled. In Mexico, they
cluster in a small forested mountain area and cover the trees
during the winter. Impressive, mystifying, and beautiful.
Last modified on 16 May 2009 by AO
Copyright © 2016 Andrew Oliver