Chilling quest

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 March, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 19 March, 1999, 12:00am

It is not just the glare from endless ice cliffs that makes Warning From The Ice (World, 8.55pm) so dazzling.

What the programme seems to be saying is that the Earth's climate may be shifting slightly because of global warming, but those changes are nothing compared to the cataclysmic effects of natural climate changes that occur every 10,000 years or so.

The ice in the Antarctic is already moving, slipping slowly in two, and the West Antarctic Sheet is the troublesome one.

If it breaks away and melts - chunks have been cracking off for some time - sea waters may rise so high our whole civilisation will be waterlogged.

Antarctica is the last great wilderness, but there are armies of scientists crawling all over it, trying to work out just how the ice is melting, why and how quickly.

They have built themselves a camp, which looks like a huge building site, and from there they have built an enormous device for sucking ice out from many kilometres below the surface (at some points, the ice sheet is five-km deep), to work out the last time the ice melted.

This is not really a programme about human endurance, but its makers were unable to resist using archive footage of two early sets of explorers.

These episodes are irrelevant really, but they add a welcome human note to a story that is otherwise intriguing but abstract.

The first was led by Sir Ernest Shackleton. His 28-man crew became trapped in the ice, and they recorded the whole disaster on camera for posterity.

All they had left after that were three life boats. They were all lost for two years, before they found a remote seal-hunter's camp.

Captain Robert Scott was less fortunate. His cabin remains a kind of shrine, and a constant reminder of the ferocity of the Antarctic.

LA Doctors (Pearl, 8.30pm) is the opposite end of the scale. Warning From The Ice tells how the world as we know it might come to an end, LA Doctors is meaningless fluff about the imaginary lives of people who cannot possibly exist in real life.

In this evening's episode the scriptwriters make the unwise decision to explore how steady, solid, realistic characters like Roger, Evan and Tim cope when faced with ludicrous caricatures when Roger pays a fortune for a rival doctor's celebrity patient list.

Tom Arnold appears as himself, a hypochondriac who turns up to pester Roger at all hours of the day with worries about a stiff neck.

We also get to find out why Evan divorced Kelly, the ex he is clearly still in love with, but not before Roger manages to put his foot in it by swapping manly confidences with Evan about the need to be forgiving of oneself for being monogamously challenged.