DIVE IN DEEP WITH BLUE PLANE T II
Discover our planet’s oceans like never before
The multi-award winning series The Blue Planet was first broadcast in 2001, a natural history TV series on the world’s oceans. The original series was acclaimed for its musical score and cinematography, and was the first of its kind to comprehensively explore different aspects of marine life and behaviour. Continuing on this journey, Blue Planet II embraces the advancements in technology since its predecessor to explore new ocean habitats and present compelling new stories. The series will use revolutionary new technology to get eye-to-eye with even the smallest of creatures. Says James Honeyborne, Executive Producer of the series, “At first glance, it may seem as alien a world to us, as we are to it, but with the latest diving and submarine technologies, it’s possible to explore the oceans today like never before.”
Over the course of more than four years in production, the teams behind the series have mounted 125 expeditions, visited 39 countries, and filmed on every continent and across every ocean. The series uses new age technology like tow-cams, suctioncams and Ultra High Definition probe cameras (amongst others) to record new behaviours and explore new ocean habitats. The series also aims to bring viewers faceto-face with concerning issues that are affecting the health of our oceans, and how this impacts us all.
A five-minute series prequel was released globally in September 2017, featuring an exclusive soundtrack called ‘(ocean) bloom’. Radiohead, one of the world’s most acclaimed rock bands, and Hans Zimmer, one of the planet’s most accomplished movie and TV composers joined forces on this project. Inspired by the sounds and musical palette of
Blue Planet II, Radiohead and Hans Zimmer recorded an orchestrally reimagined version of the Radiohead song Bloom, with Thom Yorke re-recording the vocals. This short introduction to the series, narrated by series presenter Sir David Attenborough, features an array of the most awe-inspiring shots and highlights from the new series, as well as several exclusive scenes that do not feature in any of the seven episodes.
INTERVIEW WITH JAMES HONEYBORNE, EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
Why is now the right time for a new series on the oceans? 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. 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. How much harder is it to make blue-chip natural history films underwater compared to on land? The sea is a restless, ever changing environment; that’s part of its great appeal and mystery. But with that comes great challenges. Anyone who works with the ocean has to respect its capricious power. Filming underwater means being at the mercy of its great forces – tides, currents, winds, waves, crushing depths, poor visibility…can all make life extremely challenging. Those unpredictable elements, combined with the fact that we know less about the oceans than any other environment on Earth, means that underwater wildlife films are incredibly difficult to make. So we have joined forces with scientists, explorers and marine experts at the frontier of the known ocean to achieve this, together.
How has new technology been used in Blue Planet II? It is amazing how much filming technology has moved on since the original Blue Planet series. We have harnessed new technology to tell stories - some never seen before - in completely new ways. Our underwater teams can now dive for much longer than conventional scuba ever allowed. Rebreather diving gives our teams time to sit silently and watch, with no bubbles or disturbance underwater, and really get to know new creatures and their behaviours.
The original series would have shot aerials on 16mm film, from helicopters. Now we have ultra HD drones that can be deployed anywhere they’re permitted – and they have revolutionised the way we can immediately witness oceanic events from above, adding detail and insight events like the ‘cyclone’ feeding strategy of manta rays over the coral reef, for example.
And submersibles carrying ultra HD and extreme low-light cameras have opened up the world of the deep ocean like never before, recording previously unseen events such as hunting packs of Humboldt squid, at 800m deep.
What has been your highlight of the whole shoot?
I’ve had some great experiences, working with ‘The Deep’ team, filming brine pools and a methane volcano in the Gulf of Mexico, and on location in Antarctica. But for me, it’s been those unexpected moments when we review material coming in from all over the world that has really made my day. It’s one thing seeing a fish flying through the air, that’s
unexpected enough, but then seeing a fish flying through the air and catching a bird in its mouth, wow...
.... the fish catches the bird?
Yep - a bird-eating fish! The fish launches out of the water with phenomenal speed and acceleration and catches this bird in mid-air. And we filmed it in ultra-slow motion. To me it’s an iconic image, because in a moment, it transforms our understanding of what fish are capable of. It’s was originally a fisherman’s tale – a story we had only heard rumours of – and the only way of finding out if it was true was to go into the Indian Ocean and film it ourselves. I think that image alone speaks of the awesomeness, the power, the drama and the surprise that the ocean still delivers.
INTERVIEW WITH MARK BRONLOW, SENIOR PRODUCER
Introduce us to Blue Planet II: This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to introduce a new generation to the wonders of our ocean world. The Blue
Planet did an incredible job back in 2001, but with so many scientific discoveries in the oceans since then, along with advances in technology, we now possess a whole new understanding of life beneath the waves.
How is the series divided into episodes?
The introductory episode called ‘One Ocean’ is going to introduce the audience to the central premise of the series, which is that you’re going to see things you’ve never seen before. Through a series of new discoveries in the programme you’ll realise that everything within the ocean has a relationship with everything else. We’ll see that the oceans are all inter-connected and ultimately, we all connect to the oceans.
Then we follow with five habitat-based programmes, each giving the audience a distinctive experience. None more so than ‘The Deep’ – this is our sci-fi film. We’ve spent more time in subs on our first shoot than in the entire original Blue Planet episode. We are the first people to get a manned sub to the deep sea (1000m) in Antarctica.
Then in contrast there’s the ‘Coral Reefs’ film, full of fun, vibrancy and colour. It showcases the incredible concentration of life crammed into these overcrowded undersea cities.
We then journey offshore into the ‘Big Blue’, one of the largest habitats on the planet, filled with incredible stories of animals that go through exceptional feats of endurance to survive. In this vast marine desert we showcase a family of deep diving sperm whales, even taking a ride on a mother’s back, as she dives into the abyss.
We may think of our ocean’s as blue but there is another surprising world of the ‘Green Seas’. From towering undersea forests of giant kelp to vast prairies of sea grass, this is an almost Brothers Grimm fairy tale of all the strange and magical creatures that live within these secret worlds.
Here sea dragons lurk, bizarre giant cuttlefish breed, and an ingenious octopus outwits a forest full of sharks.
In the last of our habitat-based episodes we visit our Coasts. They may be our window to the oceans, where
we go for rest and relaxation, but the creatures that live here have to go through incredible hardships to survive in this divide between land and sea. From sea lions that drive massive tuna onto dry land to heroic puffins struggling to feed their young. This episode is going to be extraordinary because we’ve got so many new, incredible stories.
In each of the above habitat-based episodes, we try to give a snapshot of the context of the modern ocean.
But in our final episode, ‘Our Blue Planet – the Future’, we really get into the substance of the major issues impacting the world’s oceans today. Is it hopeful or pessimistic?
Well there’s no two ways about it, there are big problems out there. There are scientific heroes (in my eyes) and dedicated experts who are trying to document it and find solutions. What are the challenges of telling stories about the oceans compared to making natural history films on land? Our challenge is to make people fall in love with less familiar animals and find personality in them. For instance, on the Great Barrier Reef we discovered that there is marine life like the tusk fish, octopus and coral grouper that are capable of behaviours so sophisticated, so smart, that scientists compare their behaviours to those of chimpanzees. Suddenly we’re realising there isn’t this vast difference between us and them. What’s the relationship between scientist and filmmaker on a project like Blue Planet II? In the past, with other terrestrial wildlife series, the camera crew may have followed the studies of a particular scientist. They would have followed a scientist to a given location, set their tripod down with a long lens and sat and filmed the subject from afar. However, because of the practicalities of underwater filming, the cost of boats and the complexity of launching these really ambitious shoots to the far-and-beyond, a lot of scientists simply just don’t have that access. So, on this series, there’s been this wonderful synergy where we’ve been able to work with the scientists and contribute to their science through our filming. KEY STORIES FROM ACROSS HABITATS
ONE OCEAN ‘One Ocean’ takes us on a journey through the vastly varying ocean life from the tropics to the poles.
Written by Miles Barton, Sequence Director A fish that launches itself, missile-like, to take birds from the air, sounded too extraordinary to be true. Despite it being a fisherman’s tale with no photographic evidence to back it up, I decided it was worth taking the greatest risk of my 30 year career. So four of us set off to a remote atoll on the Seychelles with 800kg of kit, including a stabilised camera, to film the action from a boat. Despite seeing splashes all around us from the start, the attacks on low-flying terns happened so quickly and randomly, it was almost impossible for cameraman Ted Giffords to frame up on the action. The unpredictability and constant drifting of the boat meant a frustrating week for Ted. But our Seychellois guide, Peter King, knew his trevallies well. He suggested that we go back on shore to a remote beach where for a few days each month the tides brought the trevallies close to shore. Here we had a much better view of the fish as they stalked the birds from underwater. Peter could even predict the ones most likely to attack. So despite all the expensive hi-tech equipment, it was local knowledge that enabled us to turn the myth of a wild bird-eating fish into a reality.
THE DEEP ‘The Deep’ takes us on a journey into the deepest parts of the ocean, dark and unknown.
Written by Orla Doherty, Producer We set out to capture scenes at the extraordinary brine pool – an almost mythical lake at the bottom of the sea – and a death-trap to any unfortunate creature that strays into
its toxic waters. For several days, we had been capturing wonderful footage of the scene that lay below us at the brine pool. But in the spirit of exploration, we ventured further west in the Gulf, to a site described to me by Dr Samantha Joye, our expedition scientist and deep sea researcher as a ‘thin curtain of bubbles’. When we dived there the next day, we found nothing but a barren desert when we first touched down. Then suddenly, just ahead of us, something shot out from the seabed.
We watched it rise up into the water column – a huge bubble, the size of a basketball. As it ascended, a trail of sediment fell away from it, drifting back down. Then another bubble, and another. Suddenly, we were entirely surrounded by giant bubbles of methane, erupting from what had been an empty abyssal desert only minutes before. It felt as if we had voyaged to another planet and we nick-named the site ‘War of the Worlds’.
We returned to ‘War of the Worlds’ twice more during our expedition.
Both times, there was barely a puff coming from the methane volcano. We had been unbelievable lucky -the deep had given up one of its great secrets, but only the once.
Coral reefs are the under-sea mega-cities home to a quarter of all marine species.
their behaviour is so sophisticated that some aspects of their intelligence might rival that of chimpanzees. Groupers are mid water predators feeding on small coral reef fishes. They are fast in the open sea but too large to access prey in cracks and crevices. For this reason they seek out the assistance of a more manoeuvrable marine creature – a reef octopus. But what is truly amazing is that this is not simply a passive partnership – these animals communicate with each other. By assuming the headstand position and shaking their head from side to side above where a little fish is hiding, the grouper is able to tell the octopus where the prey is hidden. Gestures such as this are thought to only occur in the largest brained species and mean that fish are able to think flexibly to achieve their goals. Not only is this behaviour challenging our understanding of what a fish knows but it’s also making scientist rethink the definition of animal intelligence. BIG BLUE The big blue is a marine desert far from shore and kilometres deep, home to spectacular marine creatures.
Lanternfish & mobula rays
Written by Sarah Conner, Assistant Producer Lanternfish are part of a mass daily migration of animals that live in the deep sea in the daytime but rise at night into the warmer shallow waters in the open ocean to feed. However, these lanternfish are thought to also stay at the surface at certain times of the year into daytime to spawn. As predators attack the lanternfish, it can turn the sea white making it look like the sea is boiling.
The team had tried and failed to film this in the Coral Sea, off Australia in December 2014.
So when, 18 months later, the team heard of sightings of a ‘boiling sea’ from the other side of the Pacific Ocean, off Costa Rica, they reacted quickly. Series Producer, Mark Brownlow developed a plan - they would to look for the predator of the lanternfish, which off Costa Rica wasn’t just yellowfin tuna but the larger spinner dolphins. Mark worked from a research vessel stationed 20 miles offshore, as a base for searching and filming by helicopter. Being able to cover vast distances allowed Mark to find the dolphins and with perseverance manage to film the boiling sea of lanternfish being feasted on by tuna from the air. Underwater cameraman, Roger Munns also managed to capture the action underwater to create the dramatic sequence of spinner dolphins and tuna as they hone in on the lanternfish in the Big Blue.
The surprise was that mobula rays also joined the feeding frenzy. Previously it was thought these rays only ate by filter-feeding plankton. There had been a couple of scientific papers published that showed small fish in the stomachs of dead mobula rays but science had assumed the fish were eaten by accident until the Blue Planet II footage was shared with Josh Stewart from the Manta Trust & Scripps Research Institute. Upon analysis of the Blue Planet II footage, Josh felt confident that it proved for the first time that the mobula rays were deliberately and actively hunting the lanternfish.
GREEN SEAS In our green seas, sunlight powers kelp forests, mangroves, and prairies of sea grass.
Cuttlefish Spawning Aggregation
Written by Yoland Bosiger, Series Researcher Every winter over a hundred thousand giant cuttlefish aggregate to spawn along a restricted area of rocky reef in northern Spencer Gulf, South Australia. These cuttlefish are the largest cuttlefish species in the world reaching 10 kg in weight. It is also the only known spawning aggregation of cuttlefish in the world and males can number eleven to one in the aggregation. This huge bias is thought to have produced an array of different behavioural strategies to win the females affections. Large males use size and brute force to fight off rival males while smaller individuals use a sneaker strategy to try to slip unnoticed past a larger male to get to a female. Some smaller males even mimic females to deceive the larger males. New science, since The Blue
Planet reveals that unbeknownst to the larger males who are battling amongst each other to gain access to a female, it is in fact the wily female who decides who to ultimately mate with. By flashing a white stripe along her flank she can tell an unappealing male that she is not receptive and be left alone while switching it off if a more attractive suitor approaches. As there were so many cuttlefish and so many different behavioural strategies playing out, it took the filming team a couple of days to be able to get their eye in for this white stripe behaviour.
It was only when the cameraman Hugh Miller decided to swim over the top of the cuttlefish rather than staying at their eye level that the stripe became readily apparent. Hugh was then able to capture a female displaying a white stripe to her larger cuttlefish protector whilst showing no stripe to a male mimic.
The female then mated with the mimic right under the giant male’s nose! Blue Planet II has filmed the white stripe behaviour professionally for the first time.
COASTS The coast is where two worlds collide. ‘Coasts’ is the story of how marine wildlife survives in an ever changing world.
Pacific Blenny Making Of
Written by Miles Barton, Producer How do you film a 3-inch long creature just above the tideline as waves break along the rocky shore? This was the task I gave cameraman Rod Clarke on the Pacific island of Guam. It’s home to the pacific leaping blenny, which spends most of its life in the splash zone playing chicken with the waves. Rod’s first comment to me was “You never said they were that small!” as we peered at the rocks trying to find these tiny, camouflaged fish. As every wave arrives the blennies leap away from the water by flicking their powerful tails. To film this behaviour in extreme slow motion Rod had to immerse himself for hours on end in the sea, perched on a small stool, with myself periodically shouting a warning to save the camera when an extra big wave arrived. Then we could move on to film a more intimate part of their lives that has never been filmed before. We found one particular male – our star. He had a nice nest hole a metre above low water
mark from which he emerged to graze the algae on the damp rocks. While grazing he was a drab green/brown but as soon as a female appeared he would become jet black and bob and wriggle while flashing his orange dorsal fin. This spectacular dance seemed to work as he was visited by several females who laid their eggs in his nest during the days that we sat in the waves filming him.
OUR BLUE PLANET In ‘Our Blue Planet’, Sir David Attenborough examines human impact on the ocean.
Norway Orcas - A story of hope
Written by Will Rigeon, Producer Our ever-increasing appetite for fish has led to many of the world’s fisheries being overfished. Almost a third are now at risk of collapse. But is it possible to satisfy our demand for fish, without emptying the oceans?
Overfishing in Norway in the 1950s led to collapse of the Norwegian spring spawning herring stocks, and by the late 1960s the herring were considered commercially extinct.
A moratorium in the early 70’s, followed by strict regulation and better management of fisheries, has led to a spectacular recovery. Numbers began to increase in the 1980s and today, over a billion herring pour into the fjords of Norway every year to overwinter, before spawning in the spring. This is now a vitally important fishery again and one of the greatest natural spectacles in our ocean – attracting hundreds of humpback whales and one of the largest gatherings of orcas on the planet. An inspiring story, demonstrating that some fisheries can be managed in a sustainable way.
A scientist uses lasers to
measure a whaleshark. Growing up to 12 meters and over 20 tons, it is the largest
fish in the ocean. Scientist Jonathan Green attempts to unravel the mystery of why large pregnant females arrive
there every year. In a world where tens of millions of sharks are killed every year for their
fins, understanding these migrations is critical for the future of these ocean giants Scan this QR Code for
the audio reader Photograph by Jonathan Green
copyright BBC NHU 2017
TOP LEFT: James Honeyborne, Executive Producer
of Blue Planet II
Photograph by Alex Board copyright BBC
TOP RIGHT: Scientist Steve Simpson uses a multi-directional
hydrophone to record the sounds of the reef. Scientists
have recently discovered that many fish on the coral rely on sound
at key stages in their life - and that man-made noise is interfering with this Photograph by Roger Munns copyright BBC NHU
RIGHT: Mark Brownlow, Series Producer
of Blue Planet II
Photograph by Alex Board copyright BBC
BELOW: The fangtooth has the largest teeth relative to body size for any fish in the entire ocean. It also has pressuresensitive canals in its head and along its body, which help it to detect movement in the pitchblack world it lives in. As a result, it’s the most successful predator in the deep ocean’s Midnight Zone –a world the sun never reaches Photograph by Espen Rekdal copyright BBC NHU 2017
A mud volcano in the Gulf of Mexico, where bubbles of methane erupt from the deep seafloor, dragging plumes of millennia-old sediment with them as they rise
Copyright BBC 2017
Walrus mother and pup resting
on iceberg, Svalbard, Arctic
A bustling reef in Fiji. Tropical reefs are some of the busiest places in our ocean and shoals of Sea Goldie spend their days foraging in schools in the clear waters above patches of coral reef
The whale shark visiting the remote Galapagos Islands. The Whale Shark is largest living fish in the ocean, but using tiny teeth and filter pads eats some of the smallest creatures in the sea, plankton.
For many years it was unknown why Whale Sharks came to Galapagos as unusually most were large adult females and appeared to be pregnant Photograph by Simon Pierce copyright BBC NHU 2017
Humpback whales, feeding communally off the coast of Monterey. A vast deep canyon at the head of the bay is the source of great upwellings which feed tonnes of seasonal phytoplankton, macroplankton and shoaling fish and this in
turn draws in the ocean giants
Photograph by Joe Platko copyright BBC NHU 2017
Sunlight breaks through the kelp forest canop.
Macrocystis, also known as giant kelp, is found all along the west coast of North America. It has a phenomenal
growth rate, fueled by the sun and fed by nutrient rich upwellings
Photograph by Joe Platko copyright BBC
Ochre starfish are the main predators of limpets in rockpools. But the limpets are known to fight back Photograph by
Paul Williams copyright BBC NHU 2017
RIGHT: An Atlantic puffin with a beakful of food for its chick. Hornoya Island, Norway Photograph by Miles Barton copyright BBC NHU 2017
A superpod of sperm whales gathering of the coast of Sri Lanka.
Sperm whales are large, intelligent and sociable whales found around the world. Their numbers plummeted due to commercial whaling, but off Sri Lanka a rare sight of a superpod can be seen in
spring perhaps showing us how the oceans used to look
Photograph by Tony Wu copyright BBC NHU 2017
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