Along with millions of other people, last night I watched the first long awaited Frozen Planet episode. It had an extra significance as I've visited many of the same places in the arctic, particularly Greenland (that the programme highlighted) and have five images published in the accompanying book. Watching a vast blue melt lake swallow the screen, my daughter said, "that looks like one of yours".
I'd been lucky enough to go on a Greenpeace expedition in 2005 that studied some of these amazing lakes with a Nasa funded scientist. When footage came on the screen of similar water gurgling down a moulin, absent mindedly I told her that I had abseiled down inside one.

"What! You never told me that"

She yelled at me.

"Is it dangerous?"

I backtracked and explained we had ALL the correct safety equipment, of course.

"What did it sound like?"

I tried to relate the experience in words, deferring to David Attenborough who was explaining it far better than I could.

I can remember the sound of thousands of cubic metres of water gushing down the hole below me, how could I forget it? I remember the sonic boom of part of a glacier front crashing into the sea, I remember the unearthly thunder of a glacier shifting under my feet. These sounds are why I spend most of my year planning just four week's work, to get one more short, precious season in paradise.

Melt lake

Melt Water on the Petermann Glacier in Greenland


On another trip I had patiently waited on the bank of a meltwater ravine like the one in the programme, ready to throw a line to my colleagues, so the kayaks they were paddling did not get swallowed by water gurgling into the glacier. So as not to scare me they told me afterwards I was all that stood between them and oblivion.

Kayaking on Petermann glacier


Gripped by the programme, we watch a time-lapse sequence of the front of a glacier grinding through the rock and ploughing moraine in front of it.

"How long does it take to do that?" she asked

It depends on which glacier, but I had to admit to her that I have worked on a glacier where movement was detected in just one day.

Watching the TV version of my memories is more significant now sharing it with my daughter. I no longer need to bang on about how much the polar regions will change in her lifetime. Now Sir David Attenborough is doing it for me; the impact of climate change at the top of the world, from this night onwards, is endorsed by Britain's National Treasure.

Only a month ago I was working on a Greenpeace ship on the sea ice at 81º north off the coast of Svalbard. Sea ice of course is made in a completely different way to glaciers, but is profoundly affected by the same changes in our climate. Still brushing ice and snow from my jacket I overheard the satellite phone call I didn't want to hear, that the minimum extent of the sea ice was the second lowest since satellite records began.

The beauty of the ice and the urgency of its loss are the paradox of our Frozen Planet and nowhere on earth is climate change more evident, but the impact is also subtle and systemic. It feels like every set of photographs I bring back from the region can raise as many questions as give answers.

After the programme had finished I opened my computer, curious to see what others had thought of it. Listening to my daughter's footsteps upstairs as she went to bed, I watched the Twitter feed about the programme revolve in front of me. Reading the comments felt like seeing inside our consciousness, the closest we get to a collective opinion of wilderness.

Among the mass of 'wow's and the blur of praise, certain words took shape; like 'energy' and then scanning down the 100s of short messages I saw the word 'oil'. Most importantly the word 'change' finally jumped out of this matrix of post TV euphoria. It felt like natural-history-broadcasting had come of age and years of campaigning by many of the organisations I have worked with had not been in vain.

Photographs alone can't do the Arctic the justice it deserves, it's how we interpret them. The glacier's speed is relative to our knowledge and ability to listen; it is us that must decide how fast is too fast and communicate that feeling upwards to our governments until they listen. To the sounds of the glaciers creaking and the water gurgling down those moulins, we must add our own human voice.

Nick Cobbing has joined Greenpeace on several Arctic expeditions, producing award-winning photography. Five of his photos are featured in BBC's Frozen Planet book.