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The Alps - The Realm of the Golden Eagle
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1.200 kilometres of massive chains of rock form the most famous mountain range in the world. Rising from the sea at Nice, reaching tens of thousands of peaks, the Alps fade away again to the south of Vienna. In between, stretching out in a wide curve, is a fascinating world - familiar with it’s legendary summits, surprising in it’s natural diversity. Following more than 5 years of production and with opulent use of time lapse cameras, aerials and specialised film equipment, a completely new view of the Alps has emerged with peaks reaching for the Heavens but yet with still secrets.

Director: Michael Schlamberger
Writers: Michael Schlamberger, Norbert Winding, Klaus Feichtenberger
Camera: Michael Schlamberger, Rolando Menardi
Edit: Andrew Naylor
Sound: Rita Schlamberger, Jörg Goldbrunner
Sound Edit: Paul Clark
Dubbing Mixer: Richard Crosby, Andrew Wilson, Werner Mühlbauer
Music: Kurt Adametz

Soloist: Christina Zurbrügg
A ScienceVision production for ORF in association with Docstar, ZDF, Discovery Channel, Canal+ and RTV Slovenija

High fliers

In the peak regions of the Alps the most extreme of conditions are to be found, allowing for the survival of only few specifically adapted specialists in the animal and plant world. Biting cold, icy winds, UV-rays hostile to life and a minimal air oxygen content confront all living organisms with limitations. Thick layers of insulation, thick coats of fur and feathers, higher concentrations of pigmentation for better assimilation of energy and UV protection and the increased number of red blood cells are physiological adaptations to the highest heights in Europe. The seasonally short summer period of growth and reproduction is compensated for by the high fliers with longer life spans and energy saving behaviour.

Winter allies

Winter in the Alps is beautiful but difficult to bear. Those who want to survive here need a special cold protection programme and a special appetite for frosty a milieu. Some animal alpinists not only accept the bitter cold but actually seem to get some advantage out of it. Snow hares and ptarmigans are easy to identify as winter winners because of the changes in their coats. The snow white winter coat and feathers not only melt into the surroundings but are also particularly thick and therefore retain warmth. The snow vole lives in a system of tunnels under a thick cover of snow and is thus able to survive in heights of over 4000 meters. Another strategy is to sleep throughout the un-hospitable winter and to live off the acquired layers of fat like the marmot.

During the age of the Roman Empire the Alps were known of as the 'montes horribilis', where rough barbarians and predatory creatures roamed about. Instead of hunting the cave bears and collecting roots like the Neandertaler, the people inhabiting the Alp regions after the ice-age bred cattle and cultivated the ground. This revolution brought man into severe conflict with the wolves, bears, lynx, fish otters, griffon- and bearded vulture. The vast destruction of their territory and the relentless hunting down of the ' beasts ' forced these species into some few areas of refuge or led to their complete extinction. Only slowly have the once bedevilled wolf, fish otter and golden eagle won the Alps back, man is helping them with reintroduction projects for the bear, lynx and bearded vulture.

Making of

By the time shooting on the ' Realm of The Golden Eagle ' was finished, five years of production time lay behind us. We completed 650 days of shooting, 48 km of film were used and 350.000 meters of altitude in the mountains were climbed. On altogether 57 peaks we experienced 25 sunsets and waited innumerable hours for a storm. We were caught under an avalanche, fell through the ice of a river at minus 26° and had to wait out storms of up 160 km/h for days. But the hardest test of all was 20 endless weeks of waiting in camouflage tentes, earth bunkers and snowy hideouts. A painful struggle against boredom and often with no success, for just a few magical moments: the first filmed birth of a wolf, the awaking of a marmot family after 8 months of winter hibernation or the secret life of the snow voles at 4000 m above sea level.

Fotos: Copyright by ScienceVision