The stunning natural history documentary Blue Planet II, is out on DVD. Narrated by David Attenborough with the accompanying book which is authored by James Honeyborne andMark Brownlow. This programme has been made possible by using cutting-edge breakthroughs in science and technology to explore new worlds, and reveal astonishing creatures and extraordinary new animal behaviors not seen before, Breakthroughs in technology such as rebreathers and deep sea submersibles have enabled us to access areas which were previously out-of-bounds and enhanced our knowledge of the oceans, and our understanding of what goes on in them has been increased accordingly.
Blue Planet II Explores many different marine environments. The first episode “One Ocean” gives a general overview of the series and includes Giant Travelly’s launching themselves out of the water to catch newly fledged Sooty Terns who have unwisely decided to land on the sea for a rest, while Dolphins and False Killer Whales hunt together and cooperate in order to catch more food. The next episode “deep seas” looks at the little known region at the bottom of the ocean where there is perpetual darkness. Despite this many bizarre looking crustaceans and fish manage to live here, with many providing their own light by means of bioluminescence in order to catch food while Six gilled sharks, Spider Crabs and primative Hag Fish feed on the carcasses of dead whales which have floated down from the surface. Many species of deep sea coral also live here. Super salty Brine also accumulates at the bottom of the ocean but even here Eels feed on animals which have succumbed to the salinity, however this is fraught with danger as spending too much time here also sends the eels into Toxic Shock and they end up meeting to the same grisly fate if they are not careful. Elsewhere Scalding hot Deep sea hydrothermal vents such as “Godzilla” and “The Lost City” exude toxic fumes along the mid Atlantic Ridge and look uninhabitable, but are also home to a surprisingly wide variety of bizarre crustaceans and fish which are not found anywhere else on the planet. These Deep Sea Hydrothermal vents also create hydrocarbons, which are very important for building solid skeletons and may have been where the very first life forms on Earth evolved.
The episode “coral reef” looks at the extensive communities which inhabit coral reefs including the wide variety of colourful fish, molluscs, cephalopods such as Octopus, Squid and many species of crustaceans such as crabs, shrimp, prawns and Lobsters. These areas also play in important role for open ocean dwellers such as Manta Rays who visit the reefs in order to be cleaned of parasites by the local fish who get a free meal in return. The episode also looks at the way some fish and octopus on the reef also co-operate with one another in order to secure a meal, the larger fish can’t get into the smaller crevices to catch the prey so the octopus reaches in to flush out the prey. The Clownfish also co-operates with the deadly sea anemone whose sting is lethal to all other fish but it protects the Clown-fish who in turn helps the anaemone. The episode also looks at the Reef sharks who patrol the reefs at night ready to eat any unwary fish caught unawares out in the open. Sadly coral reefs are under increasing threat from warming seas caused by man made pollution and gasses which are heating up the atmosphere and seas and causing ecolgical damage including coral bleaching. The next episode “open ocean” looks at the lives of the many species Whales, Dolphins, sharks, Sunfish, manta Rays and and other marine animals which spend most of their lives patrolling and feeding out in the open ocean”
The next episode “green seas” examines the many inhabitants which live among Seaweed and kelp forests which are bursting with life including Sea Lions, sharks, Sea Otters and many crustaceans and cephalopods. The episode also looks at the intelligence of cephalopods such as octopus who hunt crabs, and avoid capture by sharks by disguising themselves And have a novel way of escaping when caught. The episode also features Giant Cuttlefish who also use disguise this time in order to fool rivals and secure a mate and Spider crabs who migrate en-masse to shallow water when they are about to moult in order to ensure fewer casualties.
The next episode is “coastal regions” examines the inhabitants of sheer cliffs and rock pools. Rock pools are home to a wide variety of crustaceans such as many species crabs, shrimps and prawns, molluscs such as mussels, periwinkles, limpets, barnacles, jellyfish and many species of fish. The episode also features large communities of nesting birds including guillimots, Puffins Terns and Black Backed gulls who all nest on inaccessible cliffs in order to escape most predators but despite this their young are still preyed upon by predatory Frigate Birds and Arctic Skuas.
The final episode “Our Blue Planet” looks at the impact human activity has had on the ocean from Acidification and coral bleaching caused by warming seas, pollution, over fishing, killing of sharks and littering of the planets oceans with plastics which has had a disastrous affect on some species such as coral reefs but has allowed species like predatory Humboldt squid to benefit from the overfishing of sharks, although Whale numbers are starting to recover since whaling was banned in most countries and underwater. Kelp forests are also starting to recover since people stopped hunting sea otters for their pelts, as the sea otters kept the sea urchins in check and prevented them swarming and eating all the kelp forests