This documentary is about a team of men trying to "awaken a sleeping giant and raise it from its tomb" -- that is, exhume a near-perfect specimen of extinct woolly mammoth from its final resting place in northern Siberia. The expedition is led by Frenchman Bernard Buigues, who needs to first figure out where an entire mammoth carcass may be buried. Buigues enlists the help of Dolgans, Siberian nomadic reindeer herders. Next, the program gives a history of the evolution of the mammoth. Buigues focuses his search in the Taimyr Peninsula, meeting other nomads that own intact mammoth tusks as he gets closer to his goal. Dropped off by helicopter, Buigues and his team set up camp in the Arctic for a month's stay. Using ground-penetrating radar, the men begin searching the permafrost for possible carcasses. After days of excavation, the first sight of a mammoth appears -- the molar of a 47-year-old creature -- leading them to believe that a full body may be deeper in the ground. The group's resident meteorologist learns that a tempest is soon to arrive, forcing the men to pick up the pace in their digging. Eventually, using a slightly unorthodox technique, Buigues is able to melt enough snow and ice so that he can actually touch the hairy coat of the deceased creature, now known as the Jarkov mammoth (named after the Dolgan native who had previously found the animal's tusks.) However, the powerful storm forces Buigues and his men to not only pack it up for the night, but for the year. Before leaving, Buigues collects some of the mammoth's tissue samples, which scientists will use to try and clone the creature. Unable to return to the tundra until autumn, Buigues goes to St. Petersburg to visit the world's "oldest living mammoth hunter," N.K. Vereshchagin, who shares some basic techniques with him. Professor Vereshchagin also discusses why he believes the mammoth went extinct. Another mammoth expert, geologist Larry Agenbroad, shows off a mammoths' graveyard in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Then, the program details how primitive hunters may have killed mammoths. Next, Buigues's science adviser, Dick Mol, continues searching for clues to mammoths' past, exploring the North Sea which is rich in Ice Age fossils. Buigues, Vereshchagin, and the rest of the team return for a summer expedition to Taimyr. There, Buigues's group gets invited to look at something "extraordinary." Next, as the snowy autumn finally arrives, Buigues and his buffed up crew (now including Agenbroad and Mol) begin a second expedition -- having only four weeks until major storm season arrives. Eventually, the men excavate a large ice block surrounding the mammoth. Now, Buigues faces the issue of how to move the exceedingly heavy block. Then, the program examines what various scientists will potentially want to study if the mammoth is successfully exhumed. At just the perfect time, the Dolgans arrive back at the campsite to help in the final removal of the mammoth block. Then, the men try to figure out if a helicopter -- the largest civilian helicopter in the world -- will be able to lift the block and remove it. With winter fast approaching, the nearest airport all but shut down, and a shortage of kerosene, Buigues anxiously waits to see if he will get to claim the Jarkov mammoth -- or whether all the laborious work will go for naught. Commercials deleted.

This selection from the Alan Gerry Cable Collection has been made available by the Gerry Foundation, Inc.


  • NETWORK: Discovery Channel
  • DATE: March 12, 2000 Sunday 8:00 PM
  • RUNNING TIME: 1:32:00
  • COLOR/B&W: Color
  • CATALOG ID: T:89480
  • GENRE: Public affairs/Documentaries
  • SUBJECT HEADING: She Made It Collection (Judith McHale)
  • SERIES RUN: Discovery Channel - TV, 2000


  • Maurice Paleau … Executive Producer
  • Adrienne Ciuffo … Producer, Writer
  • Dirk Hoogstra … Associate Producer
  • Jean-Charles Deniau … Director
  • Charlie Barnett … Music by
  • Chris Murphy … Music by
  • Rick Winquest … Music by
  • Jeff Bridges … Narrator
  • Larry Agenbroad
  • Bernard Buigues
  • Dick Mol
  • N.K. Vereshchagin