Doug Allan - A Legend in the World of Wildlife and Documentary Filmmaking
In contributing to "The Blue Planet" and "Planet Earth", he made over 30 filming trips, including orcas attacking gray whales off California and polar bears trying to capture belugas in a frozen hole in Arctic Canada, all on screen firsts.
His most recent work can be seen in the BBC's latest documentary series "Life" (Episode 8 - Creature of the Deep).
Born in 1951 in Scotland, he graduated with an honours degree in marine biology from Stirling University in 1973. On completion of his degree, he decided that science at the sharp end wasn't quite where he sought to be. Underwater anywhere became the drive, and for the next three years he worked on a wide range of diving jobs. He searched for (and found) freshwater pearls in the rivers of Scotland. Commercial diving in Germany involved underwater video work and rebuilding canals. Twice he assisted with research on marine biological expeditions with Cambridge University in the Red Sea. And in the summer 1975 he ran the Bouley Bay Underwater Centre in Jersey in the Channel Islands.
British Antarctic Survey
But the big break was in 1976 when he first went to the Antarctic to work as a research diver on the British Antarctic Survey station at Signy Island in the South Orkneys. The job entailed helping the scientists to carry out their underwater studies, from boats in the summer, beneath the ice in the winter. It was the start of an affair with ice that lasts to this day.
Over the next ten years until 1985, Doug and B.A.S. had a great relationship - he spent four winters and nine summers "down south" in that time, and was awarded the Fuchs Medal, then the Polar Medal, for his work. He did three winters at Signy as diver, and one at Halley Station at 75Á S as Base Commander. Halley was no place for a biologist - but it offered a chance to winter with Emperor Penguins, and a first opportunity for Doug to turn over with cine film rather than Kodachrome. His prize winning still photographs and stock footage are featured in the catalogues of leading agencies worldwide.
The BBC took first option on buying that Emperor footage for their forthcoming series "Birds for All Seasons", and Doug's career took a new direction. Using his experience of ice diving, and intimate knowledge of Signy through its winters, he proposed two films to Survival Anglia then in 1987 spent ten months in the Antarctic making them.
"The Blue Planet" and "Planet Earth"
Since then, he has returned frequently to both the Antarctic and the Arctic, with a string of high profile award winning films and series for the major TV networks around the world. In contributing to "The Blue Planet" and "Planet Earth", he made over 30 filming trips, including orcas attacking gray whales off California, polar bears trying to capture belugas in a frozen hole in Arctic Canada, and eider ducks feeding on mussels beneath the sea ice of Hudson Bay - all on screen firsts.
But he likes the challange of filming people as well as animals, and has done documentary sound synch shooting for many programmes, including assignments with Discovery along the length of the Andes, to the deserts of Africa and to the upper reaches of Mount Everest.
Radio and Writing
Doug has also contributed to numerous radio shows. His audio diary recordings while he made his "Wildlife Special - Polar Bear" became an acclaimed radio programme in their own right. ("And Here's the Tape to Prove It", Radio 4, 1997). Over the years, he's also written numerous articles about wildlife and his experiences, and two children's books.
He lives in Bristol with his wife Sue, herself a wildlife documentary producer who used to work in the BBC NHU (Natural History Unit). He has one son by a previous marriage, Liam, who's fourteen.
Doug and Sue set up Tartan Dragon Ltd in 2003, their company through which they now both make their own films, shoot stock footage and continue to work with the BBC and others.
Photos of Doug Allan courtesy of Sue Flood (Fourth Element Dive Team member).
Afelandra´s professional life started as a model, however science was her calling.