Blue Planet II – Week One

Sunday night always provides pretty strong television for you and your housemates alike to sit down and unwind after a long week of assignments and drinking, this week however, was something special. Blue Planet II finally made a return back onto out TV screens, 16 years after the programme’s first launch in 2001! The documentary series, narrated by the God that is Sir David Attenborough, was watched by 10.3 million viewers on Sunday (BBC Two), smashing the figures from the likes of the X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing. In these 16 years technological advances has made it possible to see more of the planet’s most amazing oceanography in amazingly clear detail, in worlds that we could not possibly imagine without seeing it in person. During one of the opening scenes Sir David Attenborough says how “Oceans cover 70% of the surface of our planet, and yet they are still the least explored” – to put that into perspective, we actually know more about the surface of the Moon (384,400 km away) than we know about the bottom of the ocean floor (11km at its deepest).

The series itself has taken 4 years in the making, consisting of 125 expeditions over 39 countries and 6,000 hours of underwater filming (that’s the equivalent of 250 days)!

So, what did we cover in the first episode? The title “One Ocean” implies how all of the water stored in the Earth’s oceans are inherently linked, providing migratory currents for fish to travel along and spawn. We saw a variety of different climates, starting in the tropical coral reefs which acts as one of the most diverse ocean habitats. Within this, we saw a baby dolphin learn the medicinal properties of using coral to scrub its skin and reduce inflammation, we also saw a tusk fish use its teeth as a tool in opening shells for food. And finally, in what was arguably one of the most exciting scenes of the first episode, we saw how giant trevallies can launch themselves out of water to snatch fledgling terns mid-flight. In another display of amazing adaption, we observed how some female fish (wrasse) can become male, claiming a reef and all of the other females for itself (who needs males, huh?)

We also saw the importance of role of phytoplankton in our oceans, providing a source of usable energy for nearly all ocean-dwelling organisms, which produce as much carbon as all of the plants on the land. The annual migration of mobula rays towards Mexico’s Sea of Cortez, whereby a feeding frenzy began as bioluminescent plankton were disturbed, creating an amazing display of light during a pitch-black night.

Towards the Arctic regions, the importance of sea ice maintenance was observed by walrus mothers searching for a block of ice for their young to rest upon. However, with rising temperatures, we are expecting the sea ice to continue to decrease (30% of sea ice has been lost over the last 40 years), so what will the future hold for walruses and polar bears?

In next week’s episode on Sunday (BBC Two, 8-9pm), we explore the deep ocean and how organisms have been able to adapt to survive in such harsh conditions. The deep ocean episode from the original series was arguably the most spectacular, so make sure to book an hour on Sunday to explore what new treasures the Blue Planet crew have discovered.


James Deed


Image: The Guaradian