Life through a lens

Doug Allan on location in Canadian Arctic
Doug Allan on location in Canadian Arctic

A CAREER which involves spending months at a time in our planet’s extreme north or south is not necessarily most people’s cup of tea, but for one Fife man it’s been his life for the last 30-something years.

Doug Allan graduated from Stirling University with a degree in marine biology before he began working as a research diver on the British Antarctic Survey station in 1976.

Since then he’s always had an affinity with the ice and has gone on to develop an extremely successful career as a wildlife cameraman.

His films have featured in BBC series ‘The Blue Planet’, ‘Planet Earth, ‘Life’, ‘Ocean Giants’ and ‘Frozen Planet’.

Doug told the Press: “At the end of my second contract in Antarctica in January or February 1981 we had a film crew come on to the base, among which was David Attenborough. I gave them a hand for four days and had been talking to them and thought ‘boy this is a job to indulge in’.

“That’s where it came from.

“It was no problem at all for me to make the Antarctic a specialised niche.

“At that time it was much harder to go to the Antarctic, it was much less filmed and it was challenging and tough and not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s somewhere I feel very comfortable.”

Over the years, Doug has witnessed and caught on film a vast array of wild animals displaying their natural behaviour, including polar bears trying to capture belugas in a frozen hole in Arctic Canada and killer whales washing seals off ice floes in Antarctica.

But his time spent in these remote parts of the world in the presence of wild animals has not been without its more dangerous moments, like when he was dragged under water by a walrus, only escaping after hitting it on the head.

When it comes to the animals though, Doug admits the mammals are his favourite.

“I’ve always been a big mammal person,” he says.

“We’re mammals and like us they have personalities.

“If faced with a bay of whales, among them will be friendly ones, aggressive ones, protective maternalistic ones.

“There’s the very same characteristics among the mammals as there are among humans.”

Doug returns to Fife next week as part of a tour where he will be sharing his personal recollections from his travels around the world.

He will be entertaining an audience at Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline on Wednesday, October 31 with his exciting stories, mesmerising footage and incredible photographs.

He said: “I’m looking forward to it, people respond to it.

“Even when everyone knows a story, they want to hear it again.

“I enjoy it, I could be talking to people and out there could be everything from five to 85 year olds listening to me.

“I like to leave people feeling they know something more about the Arctic or Antarctic than they did before they came.”