GOING WILD WITH A SPLASH
Dive into a week of encounters with the world’s most incredible marine wildlife – live from California.
They’ve broadcast live from a plethora of UK reserves ( Springwatch), from the Maasai Mara ( Big Cat Live) and even from five continents in one night ( Planet Earth Live). But this month the BBC embarks on a completely new live natural-history extravaganza, this time from Monterey Bay, California.
Viewed from the air, Monterey Bay is that chunky little bite out of the coastline just south of San Francisco. “The wildlife here is nothing short of extraordinary,” says series producer Adam White. “It all stems from spring upwellings in the sea, which bring nutrients to the surface and kick-start a monumental food-chain. As the summer progresses, more and more species arrive to feed, with the biggest – blue and humpback whales, sealions, elephant seals and great white sharks – turning up towards the end. Big Blue Live will give viewers the chance to welcome in these amazing animals, and to understand more about the ocean ecosystem.”
You need only glance at the Monterey tick-list to understand why it’s known as the ‘Serengeti of the Sea’. No fewer than 34 species of marine mammal frequent these waters, some of them travelling impressive distances for a share in the summer feast. Blue and humpback whales swim from their breeding grounds off Mexico, for example, while elephant seals come from the far North Pacific and great whites originate in Hawaii. “We filmed the start of the whale migration earlier in the year,” says Adam. “We’ll be looking at the journeys the animals have made and what they’ve endured to get here. We’ll have eyes and ears everywhere, but filming them is still going to be a huge challenge. These creatures may be big, but the ocean is very, very big.”
Monterey’s waters boil with wildlife today, but the scene could have been very different. Many species,
FILMING THE WHALES IS GOING TO BE A HUGE CHALLENGE.
THESE CREATURES MAY BE BIG,
BUT THE OCEAN IS VERY,
Adam White series producer
including sea otters and humpbacks, clung on in the early 1900s following centuries of hunting. But since the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act and the designation of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in 1992 – itself part of a network of sanctuaries along America’s West Coast – there have been some remarkable recoveries. Humpbacks, for instance, have bounced back with such gusto that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has proposed removing 10 out of 14 populations from the endangered species list. “It’s possibly one of the greatest conservation successes on the planet,” says Adam. “And the fact that it’s all happening between two of the largest cities in the world – San Francisco and Los Angeles – is pretty inspiring.”
As well as bringing viewers encounters with the world’s most charismatic marine wildlife, Big Blue Live will also report on cutting-edge ocean science and examine ongoing conservation issues. “Yes, there’s amazing wildlife here, but problems remain,” says Adam. “Blue whales continue to get struck by container ships, for example, and humpbacks still get entangled in nets. We need solutions to these challenges.”
Humpback whales face many dangers on their journey to Monterey, including predatory orcas and entanglement in fishing nets. Big Blue Live will assess how successful their year has been.
Sun 23 August, 7pm; Thurs 27 August, 8pm; Sun 30 August, 7pm