Passport Martha Holmes: 'Adrift on an ice floe for 20 hours with storms raging and whiteness everywhere'

"We were camping on the edge of the Lancaster Sound, which is a part of northern Canada, when the ice floe just broke off," remembers Martha Holmes.

While filming the episode called Polar Bears for the BBC's Wildlife Special series, her passport clocked up many stamps for that icy part of the world, as well as a few adventures along the way.

On one rather memorable June day last year, she was out filming with cameraman, Doug, when she heard their Innuit guide, Shooyook, shouting that the ice was cracking.

"He just managed to jump over the widening crack on to his skidoo [motorised sledge] to join us," Martha recalls, "but that left us adrift on a floe floating out into the middle of the ocean. It was absolutely terrifying."

They managed to radio for help, but freezing rain had grounded all the local rescue planes. "All we could see was this flat white sheet of ice we were standing on - about two to three square kilometres in size - drifting away from the mountains of the mainland. There were raging storms and everything was white except for the inky-black of the sea around us."

"I thought about death," Martha admits. "I realised that I didn't mind if I died, and after that, I was quite calm. Doug was feeling pretty shook up about it though."

As they waited, a whole network of local Innuits - used to keeping in touch with each other during long hunting expeditions out on the ice - radioed regular messages of assurance to the three of them.

It was 20 hours before they were airlifted to safety by a light aircraft. But more drama wasn't far away. Just one month later, Martha's passport shows another trip to North Hudson Bay in order to film more scenes for Polar Bears. "I was woken up in my tent by a strange growling sound, crunching on the gravel, and then a huffing noise. I lay deathly still. Whatever it was out there, it was probably dangerous. Then I dared to look out and I saw a tiny baby polar bear cub." Knowing the mother wouldn't be far away, Martha kept still and alerted her companions.

"The guys in the other tent started yelling to frighten them off." It did, but an hour later, Martha heard a tremendous roaring noise, a ripping of canvas, then gunshot fire. The mother bear had returned, got caught in the guy ropes and lunged at the canvas, tearing it. Someone had fired a shot in order to scare her off. And what does Martha Holmes do in her holiday leisure time? A spot of sunbathing, or a gentle stroll on the Riviera? "Oh no, I sometimesgoon safari in Africa, or I love to go skiing. I like a spot of mountain climbing, too." Phew!

Wildlife Specials: 'Polar Bears' is showing on BBC1 on 27 November at 7.55pm.

Your papers, please

Date of Birth: 22 January 1961

Place of Birth: Libya

Occupation: TV producer/presenter

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Guru Careers: Dining Room Head Chef

    £32K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Dining Room Head Chef to work for one of ...

    Guru Careers: Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Chef

    £27K: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Pastry Sous Chef / Experienced Pastry Che...

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power