Blue Planet Live – sharks, snot and sea turtles

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 25 March 2019

18 months after the BBC’s Blue Planet II brought the beauty and the battles of the world’s oceans to our sofas – the follow up Blue Planet Live made a big splash on Sunday evening. From shark infested waters, cabbage smelling whale snot and brave littler turtle hatchlings heading down the beach – this was a real holiday from the home horrors of Brexit.

Clare Fischer watched the drama unfold.

Spyhopping Grey Whale Spyhopping Grey Whale

There’s no denying it, the BBC can put on a good show. Slick from the start with some fabulous underwater images, Blue Planet Live opened with Chris Packham almost beside himself with excitement as a two grey whales – a mother and her calf - frolicked in front of his boat: “What about that?” said Chris. A drone gave us the full view of the frolicking. This was Baja off Mexico where the warm shallow waters of Scammon’s Lagoon attract these beauties who crave human contact and visitors are actively encouraged to give them a pat. Chris couldn’t get his hand overboard quickly enough and, after he peered down the blowhole, was rewarded with a blast of grey whale snot – which apparently smells like cabbage and brussels sprouts! It really is exciting to see the sheer size of these marine creatures and the desire they have to interact with humans. It’s pretty cool stuff.

Caribbean Reef Sharks Caribbean reef sharks

Over in Australia we caught up with Liz Bonin on Heron Island who was on sea turtle watch in this area of the Great Barrier Reef. Liz went for a bit of snorkel and you could feel the warmth of the waters coming through the screen. Can I just say at this point – not one technical hitch as far as I could see …the links were as smooth and calm as the waters Liz was treading - but things were about to get a bit more hairy. Liz handed to Steve Backshall in Bimini, Bahamas. Talk about pristine waters…the drone view of white sands and speed boats in the blue ocean took you right there. Steve was dead excited. He was going to go diving in shark infested waters – live on the telly! In he plopped and he kept up a running commentary until he reached the bottom where he told us that the Caribbean reef shark was going to be his most common encounter – he reckoned there were 20 of them cruising around in the water in front of him already. We all love Steve ….so that last thing we wanted was for him to be in dange. But he was loving it! “This is almost a blue print for a shark you’d expect to see on a reef,” yelled Steve in between breaths. “It’s torpedo shaped (chhhhh), fantastically streamlined (chhhhhh) and the classic crescent shaped (chhhhhhh) tail for explosive speed.” Apparently, sharks can detect a drop of blood in a stretch of water the size of an Olympic swimming pool. I was relieved that Steve was covered up in his dive suit, wouldn’t have wanted a little graze to turn things nasty.

Green turtle hatchling Green turtle hatchling

Back in Aus with Liz and we met up with Janine Ferguson who was excavating a turtle nest. Liz always seems very serious – even when there are cute little turtle hatchlings on hand. But even Liz got a bit moist eyed when we saw, on tape, a nest erupting with about 50 hatchlings as she and her new pal, Janine, looked on. “Oh, this is the most extraordinary thing I’ve ever seen,” gulped Liz. “Not that way, little one, not that way. Every instinct is telling them, head to the sea. It’s the most emotional thing to watch.” Seriously, this was beyond cute. But of course, very few of these little wee flippery, slippery things make it to adulthood. But let’s not dwell on that eh?

We took a bit of break from the little turtles then to meet the most extraordinary woman. Sharks are not mindless predators eating everything in sight Stevie B told us and to help dispel this rumour they need their supporters. In the Bahamas they have the very woman. A knight, quite literally in shining armour. We meet Cristina Zenato dressing up in chain armour as if she’s about to go on the Crusades in the 12th Century. She’s a champion of the marine world and of sharks in particular. Over the side she goes…..and this next bit had to be seen to be believed. She’s been diving the same site off Grand Bahama for two decades and this has resulted in her having a unique relationship with one particular group fo sharks. She’s the Shark Dancer – that’s what they call her locally. We see her standing on the bottom with ‘her babies’ a group of Caribbean reef sharks who are literally snuggling up to her….she’s stroking them and then one is sitting on her flipping lap!! Nothing beats it she says, because you can feel everything about the shark so close is it to her. She even removed a fishing hook from the throat of one not very touchy, feely shark, and now that one is like her bestie.

We finished with another sighting of the cabbaged breathed grey whale round Chris Packham’s boat.

It was a stunning piece of programming – you must catch up on it if you missed it. This week the action switches to the UK coastline, every afternoon at 4.30pm.

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