Frozen Planet

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Frozen Planet
Frozen Planet.png
GenreNature documentary
Created byBBC Natural History Unit
Directed byRay Dal
Narrated by
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes7
Executive producerAlastair Fothergill
  • Vanessa Berlowitz (Episode 1 & Special)
  • Mark Linfield (Episode 2)
  • Miles Barton (Episode 3 & 4)
  • Kathryn Jeffs (Episode 5)
  • Dan Rees (Episode 6 & 7)
CinematographyJohn Aitchison, Doug Allen, Doug Anderson, David Baillie, James Balog, Barrie Britton, John Brown, Richard Burton, Jo Charlesworth, Rod Clarke, Martyn Colbeck, Stephen de Vere, Justine Evans, Wade Fairley, Tom Fitz, Ted Giffords, Oliver Goetzl, Joel Heath, Max Hug Williams, Michael Kelem, Ian McCarthy, Alastair MacEwen, David McKay, Jamie McPherson, Justin Maguire, Hugh Miller, Peter Nearhos, Didier Noirot, Ivo Nörenberg, Petter Nyquist, Mark Payne-Gill, Anthony Powell, Rachit Dalal, Adam Ravetch, Tim Shepherd, Warwick Sloss, Mark Smith, Gavin Thurston, Jeff Turner, Mateo Willis, David Wright, Mike Wright, Daniel Zatz
Running time60 minutes
Production companies
Original networkBBC One
Picture format
Audio formatDolby Digital
Original release26 October (2011-10-26) –
28 December 2011 (2011-12-28)
Related shows
External links

Frozen Planet is a 2011 British nature documentary series, co-produced by the BBC and The Open University.[2] It was filmed by the BBC Natural History Unit. The production team, which includes executive producer Alastair Fothergill and series producer Vanessa Berlowitz, were previously responsible for the award-winning series The Blue Planet (2001) and Planet Earth (2006), and Frozen Planet is billed as a sequel of sorts.[citation needed] David Attenborough returns as narrator.[3] It is distributed under licence by the BBC in other countries, Discovery Channel for North America, ZDF for Germany, Antena 3 for Spain and Skai TV for Greece.[4]

The seven-part series focuses on life and the environment in both the Arctic and Antarctic. The production team were keen to film a comprehensive record of the natural history of the polar regions because climate change is affecting landforms such as glaciers, ice shelves, and the extent of sea ice. The film was met with critical acclaim and holds a Metacritic score of 90/100.[5]

Whilst the series was broadcast in full in the UK, the BBC chose to make the series' seventh episode, which focuses on climate change, optional for syndication in order to aid sales of the show in countries where the issue is politically sensitive. The US Discovery Channel originally announced that they would air only the first six episodes of the show, but they later added the seventh episode to their schedule.[6][7]

In 2012, the US broadcast won four Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Nonfiction Series.[8] A sequel titled Frozen Planet II is currently announced and planned to air in 2021.


Frozen Planet finished filming in 2010 and focused on the challenges facing polar bears and Arctic wolves in the north and Adelie penguins and wandering albatrosses in the south, although many other storylines are developed. After an introductory episode, the subsequent four episodes depict the changing seasons at the poles, before an episode focusing on mankind's activities there.[9] The final episode, "On Thin Ice", examines how global warming is affecting the polar regions.[10] Filmmakers worked in new locations, including Antarctica's active volcanoes and the Russian Arctic. Sequences captured include migrating eider ducks, footage of a fur seal colony from the air, and pack hunting of seals by killer whales. The aerial photography used the Cineflex and Gyron cameras pioneered on Planet Earth, which enable steady footage to be captured from long range without disturbing the animals.

From late April to early May 2009, BBC crews were in Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada[11] filming the annual breakup of the river of the same name, which flows into Great Slave Lake.

Zoo-filmed material[edit]

The BBC was accused of staging after it was reported that one scene of a polar bear giving birth was filmed in a Dutch (initially reported as German) animal park.[12][13] The BBC defended its faking of the shots,[14] explaining that it would have been impossible to film the event in the wild without endangering the cubs, that the commentary was careful not to mislead the audience,[15] and that the Frozen Planet website had already explained how the scene was captured before the story appeared in the media.[16]


Frozen Planet was broadcast on BBC One starting 26 October 2011. Each of the first six episodes comprises the main programme followed by a 10-minute featurette called Freeze Frame, which shows how some of the sequences were filmed. David Attenborough's principal role is to narrate the programmes, but he appears briefly on camera to give an introduction and a closing statement. For the seventh programme, "On Thin Ice", he serves as writer and presenter for what was billed by the BBC as a personal statement on the effects of climate change at the poles. A special programme called "Frozen Planet: The Epic Journey" featuring re-edited highlights from the series was broadcast on BBC One on 28 December 2011.

In the United States, Frozen Planet premiered on the Discovery Channel on 18 March 2012 with Alec Baldwin replacing David Attenborough as narrator of the first six episodes.[17][18] The "Autumn" episode from the BBC series was replaced by "The Making of Frozen Planet", a compilation of the Freeze Frame featurettes, and the title of the sixth episode was changed from "The Last Frontier" to "Life in the Freezer". The network originally decided not to broadcast Attenborough's "On Thin Ice" episode, citing "scheduling conflicts", but later reversed their decision,[19][20] and "On Thin Ice" was broadcast on Earth Day, 22 April 2012.

In Australia, the series was broadcast on the Nine Network beginning on 27 October 2011. In France, the series has been acquired by France Television, and aired in March–April 2013 under the name "Terres de Glace".[21]


All episode names from BBC website.[22] Ratings include overnight audience shares, with consolidated viewers supplied by BARB.[23]
No.TitleOriginal air dateUK viewers
1"To the Ends of the Earth"26 October 2011 (2011-10-26)8.81 million viewers[23] (27.4% audience share)[24]
The opening travels from the North Pole to the South Pole encountering different climates and landscapes on the way. Animals highlighted in this episode include the polar bear (Ursus maritimus), the short-tailed shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris), the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae), the caribou (Rangifer tarandus), the gray wolf (Canis lupus) hunting for American bison (Bison bison), the great grey owl (Strix nebulosa), the gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua), the South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens), the killer whale (Orcinus orca) hunting for crabeater seal (Lobodon carcinophagus) and Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddellii), a species of icefish (suborder Notothenioidei), and a species of sea spider (order Pantopoda).
2"Spring"2 November 2011 (2011-11-02)9.72 million viewers[23] (31.4% audience share)[25]
The subject of the second programme is to follow the polar spring: the ice melts and migratory animals move to the polar regions. Most animals give birth to their offspring. Animals highlighted in this episode include the Adélie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae), the polar bear (Ursus maritimus) hunting for ringed seal (Pusa hispida), the narwhal (Monodon monoceros), a species of sea gooseberry (phylum Ctenophora), a species of sea slug, a species of sea snail, the Arctic cod (could be Arctogadus glacialis or Boreogadus saida), the Arctic woolly bear moth (Gynaephora groenlandica), the Arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos), the king penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicus), the macaroni penguin (Eudyptes chrysolophus), the wandering albatross (Diomedea exulans), the southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina), and the killer whale (O. orca).
3"Summer"9 November 2011 (2011-11-09)8.84 million viewers[23] (29.0% audience share)[26]
This episode follows the short polar summer: the sun does not set for months and the ice is largely gone. Animals highlighted in this episode include the polar bear (Ursus maritimus), the red phalarope (Phalaropus fulicarius), the Arctic tern (Sterna paradisaea), the common eider (Somateria mollissima), the snowy owl (Bubo scandiacus), the Lapland bunting (Calcarius lapponicus), the Arctic wolf (Canis lupus arctos) hunting for muskoxen (Ovibos moschatus), the king penguin (A. patagonicus), the Antarctic fur seal (Arctocephalus gazella), the crabeater seal (Lobodon carcinophagus), the Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), the humpback whale (M. novaeangliae), the Antarctic minke whale (Balaenoptera bonaerensis) being hunted by killer whales, and the Adélie penguin being hunted by south polar skua (Stercorarius maccormicki).
4"Autumn"16 November 2011 (2011-11-16)7.29 million viewers[23] (22.3% audience share)[27]
This episode follows the polar autumn: temperatures are dropping, seas are freezing, and arctic animals migrate south away from the expanding ice. Animals highlighted in this episode include the polar bear, the beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas), Brünnich's guillemot (Uria lomvia) being hunted by Arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus), the muskox (Ovibos moschatus), the caribou, the southern giant petrel (Macronectes giganteus), the South Georgia pintail (Anas georgica georgica), the Adélie penguin being hunted by leopard seal (Hydrurga leptonyx), and the emperor penguin (Aptenodytes forsteri).
5"Winter"23 November 2011 (2011-11-23)8.29 million viewers[23] (27.2% audience share)[28]
The fifth instalment is set in the polar winter: the polar regions are scourged by extreme cold and strong winds. The snow spreads into the subarctic regions such as the taiga forests of the Northern Hemisphere. Animals highlighted in this episode include the polar bear, the spectacled eider (Somateria fischeri), the common eider, the gray wolf hunting for American bison, the wolverine (Gulo gulo), the common raven (Corvus corax), an unspecified vole (subfamily Arvicolinae) hunted by both the great grey owl and the least weasel (Mustela nivalis), the emperor penguin, the Weddell seal, the bald notothen (Pagothenia borchgrevinki, called "Borchgrevinki fish" by David Attenborough), and the Adélie penguin.
6"The Last Frontier"30 November 2011 (2011-11-30)6.64 million viewers[23] (19.2% audience share)[29]

This episode explores human activity in the polar regions. In the north, Longyearbyen and Norilsk are among the coldest permanent settlements in the world. The Dolgan tribe of northern Russia is dependent on reindeer while the Inuit of Chukotka risk their lives hunting for walruses and collecting guillemot eggs. Also, Special Forces defend the Danish claim to Greenland, and in Alaska, rockets are used to study the spectacular aurora borealis.

Antarctica has no permanent human residents, but people visit the continent for various reasons. Tourists visit to see king penguins, biologists use robot submarines to discover new life forms, geologists study the active volcano Mount Erebus and its unique caves, and astronomers use balloons to study cosmic rays. Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station is located exactly at the South Pole; it is named after the leaders of the first two expeditions to reach the Pole, Roald Amundsen (in 1911) and Robert Falcon Scott (in 1912).
7"On Thin Ice"7 December 2011 (2011-12-07)8.07 million viewers[23] (27.4% audience share)[30]
The episode follows about the climate change, global warming, the melting of the ice caps and their consequences. Polar bears and Adélie penguins lose their habitat and the Inuit people must adapt, as well.
Specials"The Epic Journey"28 December 2011 (2011-12-28)5.66 million viewers[23]
This 1-hour special brings together highlights of the series.


"On Thin Ice" in the United States[edit]

Uncertainty surrounded whether the series' seventh episode, which focuses on climate change, would air in the United States, where it is a politically sensitive issue.

In an interview with Radio Times, Attenborough explains that "data from satellites collected over the last 40 years show a drop of 30% in the area of the Arctic sea ice at the end of each summer."[31] Former UK Conservative politician Lord Lawson dismissed the idea as "alarmism", provoking a polar oceanographer working with the show to describe his criticism as "patronising", wrong and the "usual tired obfuscation and generalisation".[32] Attenborough subsequently rebutted Lawson's allegations.[33]

This episode was initially not expected to be shown in the United States. Ten networks that would have run the episode opted out, citing fear of controversy.[34]

On 6 December 2011, the Discovery Channel announced it would air the seventh and final episode of Frozen Planet.[7] "On Thin Ice" includes on-camera shots of Attenborough, who narrates the British version, discussing what shrinking glaciers and rising temperatures mean for people and wildlife that live in the region, as well as the rest of the planet. The music for this episode was composed by Barnaby Taylor.


The series quickly became a ratings success in the UK, with the second episode broadcast on 2 November 2011 becoming the highest-rated natural history programme there since 2001.[35] The series drew an average audience of 8.67 million viewers.[36]


In May 2012, Frozen Planet won in three categories at the British Academy Television Craft Awards, collecting prizes for best sound, best editing, and best photography.[37] At the BAFTA Television Awards, Frozen Planet was nominated for Best Specialist Factual and the YouTube Audience Award, but lost in both categories.[38] It was also nominated for a Royal Television Society award.[39]

The US broadcast won four prizes at the Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards in September 2012, including outstanding nonfiction series, cinematography, sound editing, and picture editing.[40] The following month, it won in three categories at the Wildscreen Festival in Bristol, UK, taking the Panda Awards for best sound, best cinematography, and best series, the latter shared with Human Planet.[41] In January 2013, the series won the public vote for Best Documentary Series at the UK's National Television Awards, beating out Big Fat Gypsy Weddings, One Born Every Minute and Planet Earth Live.[42]

Year Award Category Nominee Result Ref.
2012 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Nonfiction Series Alastair Fothergill, Susan Winslow, Vanessa Berlowitz Won [40]
Outstanding Cinematography for a Nonfiction Program Cinematography Team (for "To the Ends of the Earth") Won
Outstanding Picture Editing for a Nonfiction Program Andy Netley, Sharon Gillooly (for "To the Ends of the Earth") Won
Outstanding Sound Editing for a Nonfiction or Reality Program (Single or Multi-Camera) Kate Hopkins, Tim Owens, Paul Fisher (for "To the Ends of the Earth") Won
Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Nonfiction or Reality Program (Single or Multi-Camera) Graham Wild, Archie Moore (for "To the Ends of the Earth") Nominated
British Academy Television Awards Best Specialist Factual David Attenborough, Vanessa Berlowitz, Alastair Fothergill, Mark Linfield Nominated [43]
Youtube Audience Award Frozen Planet Nominated
British Academy Television Craft Awards Best Director: Factual Vanessa Berlowitz, Chadden Hunter, Kathryn Jeffs (for "To the Ends of the Earth") Nominated
Best Editing: Factual Nigel Buck, Andy Netley, Dave Pearce (for "To the Ends of the Earth") Won
Best Original Music George Fenton Nominated
British Academy Television Craft Award for Best Photography: Factual Camera Team (for "To the Ends of the Earth") Won
Best Sound: Factual Kate Hopkins, Tim Owens, Graham Wild (for "To the Ends of the Earth") Won


DVD and Blu-ray[edit]

Three disc region-free Blu-ray and Region 2+4 DVD box sets were released on 8 December 2011, and include the complete series as broadcast in the UK.[44][45] In North America, the Blu-ray and Region 1 DVD box sets were released on 17 April 2012, and unlike the Discovery broadcast version, retained David Attenborough's original narration. They also include extra features not present on the UK discs: Frozen Planet: The Epic Journey, an hour-long edited highlights, and Production Video Diaries, a series of 47 video shorts made by the crew as they filmed the series.[46]


Frozen Planet: A World Beyond Imagination accompanies the TV series and was released in hardcover format on 13 October 2011. It is written by the series producers Alastair Fothergill and Vanessa Berlowitz, with a foreword by David Attenborough. The UK version was published by BBC Books (ISBN 9781846079627)[47] and the North American version was published by Firefly Books (ISBN 9781554079919).

Open University poster[edit]

A Frozen Planet poster was produced in collaboration with and distributed for free by The Open University.[2] Both the Arctic Circle and Antarctica are mapped. In addition, detailed profiles of the respective flora and fauna, geology and ice formations are provided as well as timelines of human exploration.


Frozen Planet wall calendars were published in the UK for 2012 (ISBN 9781847708564),[48] 2013 (ISBN 9781780540818)[49] and 2014 (ISBN 9781780543093).


Frozen Planet
Soundtrack album by
Released18 March 2013
GenreSoundtrack, Classical music
LabelSilva Screen Records
ProducerBBC Worldwide
BBC Earth

The musical score and songs featured in the series were all composed and conducted by George Fenton, performed by the BBC Concert Orchestra. The soundtrack was released on 18 March 2013.[50][51]

Holland America Line, in partnership with BBC Earth and Lincoln Center Stage, produced a series of concerts based on the BBC Earth "Frozen Planet" television series. "Frozen Planet in Concert" was performed featuring live musicians directed by Italian music director Sergio Prezioso, playing a specially orchestrated musical score by composer George Fenton as the images unfolded on screen.[52][53]


  1. ^ "Discovery Channel Announces March 18 P… : Discovery Communications". 6 December 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  2. ^ a b "Delve deeper into the Frozen Planet with The Open University". Press Release. The Open University. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  3. ^ Holmwood, Leigh (21 September 2007). "Attenborough is back – again". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  4. ^ "Discovery, BBC Team Again for 'Frozen Planet' TV Event for 2012". Multichannel News. 9 April 2008.
  5. ^ "Frozen Planet".
  6. ^ Bloxham, Alex (15 November 2011). "BBC drops Frozen Planet's climate change episode". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on 15 November 2011. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  7. ^ a b "Discovery Channel Announces March 18 Premiere Date for Frozen Planet : Discovery Channel". 6 December 2011. Archived from the original on 7 January 2012. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  8. ^ "'Games of Thrones' top creative arts Emmy winner". The Denver Post. Associated Press. 15 September 2012. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
  9. ^ "Expression of Interest: BBC Frozen Planet". International Polar Year website. Retrieved 25 April 2008.
  10. ^ "Episode guide". BBC Website. BBC. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  11. ^ "Hay River remains on flood watch". CBC website. 5 May 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2009.
  12. ^ Singh, Anita (12 December 2011). "Frozen Planet: BBC 'faked' polar bear birth". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  13. ^ Pearson, Allison (14 December 2011). "Fake? Sir David Attenborough is a wonder of the world". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 15 December 2011.
  14. ^ "Netflix series Our Planet accused of fake climate change claims". The Australian. 9 April 2019. Retrieved 19 April 2019. In 2011 the makers of the BBC’s Frozen Planet admitting faking the birth of a polar bear in the wild after filming it in a German zoo
  15. ^ "BBC News - Frozen Planet: BBC denies misleading fans". BBC. 12 December 2011. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  16. ^ "BBC One - Frozen Planet, Winter, The newest polar bear in the world". BBC. Retrieved 13 December 2011.
  17. ^ Levin, Gary (8 April 2008). "Another sweeping nature special when 'Planet' freezes over". USA Today. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
  18. ^ "". Archived from the original on 23 November 2012. Retrieved 14 April 2012.
  19. ^ Madrak, Susie (17 November 2011). "La La La, We Can't Hear You! Discovery Channel Won't Show Last Episode of Climate Change Series". Crooks and Liars. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  20. ^ "Frozen Planet's climate change episode to air in United States". Radio Times. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  21. ^[permanent dead link]
  22. ^ "BBC One – Frozen Planet – Episode guide". 26 October 2011. Retrieved 2 November 2011.
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Weekly Top 30 Programmes". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board. Retrieved 26 October 2011.
  24. ^ Published Thursday, 27 October 2011, 14:46 BST (27 October 2011). "'Frozen Planet' premiere delights 6.8m – TV News". Digital Spy. Retrieved 25 November 2011.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  25. ^ Published Thursday, 3 November 2011, 10:40 UTC (3 November 2011). "David Attenborough's 'Frozen Planet' soars to 8.5 million – TV News". Digital Spy. Retrieved 25 November 2011.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  26. ^ Published Thursday, 10 November 2011, 10:45 UTC (10 November 2011). "'The Only Way Is Essex' series finale dazzles almost 1.4m – The Only Way Is Essex News – TV". Digital Spy. Retrieved 25 November 2011.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  27. ^ Published Thursday, 17 November 2011, 10:59 UTC (17 November 2011). "'Pan Am' takes flight with 1.8m on BBC Two – TV News". Digital Spy. Retrieved 25 November 2011.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  28. ^ Published Thursday, 24 November 2011, 10:52 UTC. "'Frozen Planet' rises to 6.6m on BBC One – TV News". Digital Spy. Retrieved 25 November 2011.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  29. ^ Published Thursday, 1 December 2011, 12:38 UTC. "Crissy Rock's 'I'm a Celebrity' exit nabs more than 8m - TV News". Digital Spy. Retrieved 4 December 2011.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  30. ^ Published Thursday, 8 December 2011, 10:40 UTC. "Champions League football draws 5.4m on ITV1 - TV News". Digital Spy. Retrieved 9 December 2011.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  31. ^
  32. ^ 'Patronising and wrong': Frozen Planet scientist refutes Nigel Lawson criticism. The Guardian, 8 December 2011. Page found 2011-12-08.
  33. ^ David Attenborough: Frozen Planet was not alarmist about climate change, Environment, The Guardian, 3 January 2012. Page found 2012-01-03.
  34. ^ "David Attenborough weighs in on the consequences of climate change -- but you won't hear him in the U.S". io9. 5 December 2011. Retrieved 5 December 2011.
  35. ^ Mark Sweney (23 August 2010). "David Attenborough's Frozen Planet tops TV ratings | Media |". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 November 2011.
  36. ^ Hickman, Leo (8 December 2011). "'Patronising and wrong': Frozen Planet scientist refutes Nigel Lawson criticism". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  37. ^ "'Frozen Planet' Collects Three BAFTA Craft Awards, 'Sherlock', Brian Eno Also Winners". HuffPost. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  38. ^ "Bafta TV Awards 2012: The winners". BBC News. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  39. ^ "Royal Television Society awards: the nominations". The Guardian. 28 February 2012. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  40. ^ a b "OU/BBC co-production Frozen Planet scoops four Emmy awards". Open University. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  41. ^ "Three more awards for Open University co-production Frozen Planet at Wildscreen Panda Awards". Open University. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  42. ^ "National Television Awards 2013: Frozen Planet wins Best Documentary Series". Radio Times. Retrieved 4 February 2013.
  43. ^ "Television Awards Winners in 2012". Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  44. ^ Fothergill, Alastair. "Frozen Planet – The Complete Series [Blu-ray]: David Attenborough, Alastair Fothergill: Film & TV". Retrieved 10 November 2011.
  45. ^ Fothergill, Alastair. "Frozen Planet – The Complete Series [DVD]: David Attenborough, Alastair Fothergill: Film & TV". Retrieved 2 November 2011.
  46. ^ "Frozen Planet (David Attenborough narrated version)". Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  47. ^ David, Sir. Frozen Planet: Alastair Fothergill, Vanessa Berlowitz: Books. ASIN 1846079624.
  48. ^ Fothergill, Alastair (9 September 2009). Official BBC Earth Frozen Planet Calendar 2012: Books. ASIN 1847708560.
  49. ^ Frozen Planet - BBC Earth Official Calendar 2013. ASIN 1780540817.
  50. ^ "Frozen Planet (Soundtrack)". Silva Screen Records.
  51. ^ "Frozen Planet (Soundtrack)".
  52. ^ "Exclusive 'BBC Earth Experiences' Rolling Out Across the Holland America Line Fleet". Holland America Blog. 2 December 2016. Retrieved 4 November 2021.
  53. ^ "Holland America Line Premieres 'Planet Earth II in Concert' in Partnership with BBC Earth". Holland America Blog. 14 March 2018. Retrieved 4 November 2021.

External links[edit]