BLUE PLANET 2 is taking nature lovers on a voyage of discovery with never before seen wonders from below the waves.
Sir David Attenborough’s new BBC blockbuster is unveiling exclusive underwater scenes captured for the first time with the reprise of one his most celebrated wildlife series.
A generation after the doyen of documentary makers filmed the Blue Planet comes a sequel destined to write its name not just in television history but the annals of science.
As with last year’s celebrated Planet Earth 2 that excelled beyond its forerunner and captured a 13 million UK audience, its marine counterpart will also take nature film production into new dimensions with a countless list of television firsts in its seven-part primetime run.
Sir David Attenborough’s new BBC blockbuster
The amazing thing is how every film and every series has found new things
Over four years, the BBC’s acclaimed Natural History Unit mounted 125 expeditions in 39 countries, with film teams recording up to 6,000 hours’ dive time from shallow shores to the ocean depths to get its superlative footage.
To reach mysterious marine landscapes more enigmatic than the surface of Mars, crews also spent 1,000 hours inside submersibles, capturing the alien shapes of creatures that could have come from deep space.
The nature of filming underwater, with all its expense and logistical issues, meant film-makers and scientists worked symbiotically, researching and recording marvels now spawning scientific papers that will ultimately play an essential role in conserving marine habitats.
Blue Planet 2’s autumn series will focus on seven aspects of life in the marine habitats that take up than 70 per cent of Earth’s surface, from the calm, warm waters of coral reefs to the coastal margins and the inky-black darkness of the ocean deeps.
Among the sequences Blue Planet 2 has filmed and will be broadcasting for the first time are:
* In the episode focussing on coral reefs, grouper fish were filmed using “headstand signals” to encourage octopuses to help them hunt, behaviour that has added vital knowledge about communication across the species divide.
* Fish known as giant trevally hunting down seabirds learning to fly. Once only a fisherman’s fable, the Indian Ocean predators were witnessed launching themselves out of the water to catch young terns in mid-flight. This behaviour has not been studied before.
* Footage of false killer whales and bottlenose dolphins socialising and foraging together for the first time is providing important data for two separate publications.
An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
* Violent eruptions of methane gas bubbles the size of basketballs shooting from the seafloor is giving scientists importance evidence about the rising water temperatures of Gulf of Mexico.
* On Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the monocle bream has figured out how to avoid the ravenous attentions of the predatory bobbit worm by blowing water on their exposed jaws. The newly witness behaviour has now been published in the leading scientific journal, Nature.
For presenter Sir David Attenborough, producing ground-breaking television series never fails to astound him with the continuing revelations about the nature’s wonders.
“The amazing thing is how every film and every series has found new things,” he says.
Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is threatened with extinciton
“I know it’s a cliché that the world is full of an infinite variety of animals, but when you start out you think ‘It’s all very well that’s what it says in the book but what are we going to do?’ But these guys, the producers, turn up with the answers again and again and again and there are new things to see.”
After reviewing the final cut in all its glory, Sir David added:
“Actually watching it now on this big screen I saw more details in many of those stories. We’ve all seen them lots of times but I’ve never seen them on the big screen before and there were details on fish behaviour which I thought was completely new.
“You suddenly saw this fish which is more intelligent than you imagined. It was extraordinary. And that was aided by the fact that the underwater camera technology now is absolutely parallel with what we have on land.
Prince William at the World Premiere of ‘Blue Planet II’
“But in some ways it doesn’t look new – you’re not surprised when suddenly there’s a close up underneath the fish’s jaw! We take it so for granted but actually it gives such power to the shots in the sequences. Amazing.”
Among the arsenal of the latest television gadgetry used during filming were ultra high definition drones to capture mantra rays, UHD low-light cameras, underwater probes and “tow-cams” dispatched to record spinner dolphins.
For executive producer James Honeybone, the lure of the marine world has never been greater for television makers and scientists.
“The ocean is the most exciting place for us to be right now because scientific discoveries and new technologies have given us a completely fresh perspective on life beneath the waves,” he says.
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“This series reveals new stories, featuring spectacular new places and extraordinary new animal behaviours that help us to better appreciate the wonder, magic and importance of the seas.”
Since the turn of the new Millennium, when the first Blue Planet was screened, mankind’s fascination with the oceans has only intensified.
“In the four years of making this series, countless new scientific discoveries and papers have been published,” he explained.
“With more people studying the oceans now than at any point in history, we understand both how the oceans work and our influence on them better than ever before. And that means we can portray a contemporary portrait of the world’s oceans as they are today.
“What we reveal is sometimes shocking and even sad, creating a broader mix of emotions across the series. But perhaps the most exciting aspect of making this series has been that to best deliver new insights, we’ve not just been reporting the latest findings of marine biologists, we have joined forces with them, making discoveries together.”