Blue Planet II – ‘One Ocean’

Blue Planet II was the biggest ratings hit of the year in the UK, and apparently so popular for people streaming it in China it slowed down the internet there. As with Planet Earth II, it is a natural history documentary sequel narrated by David Attenborough, but focusing specifically on the oceans. It took four years to make, and I think it’s safe to say that all that work paid off. This first episode was an introduction to the whole series.

(And yes, I’m talking about the biggest show of 2017 when we’re well into 2018, but I felt this needed more time and attention.)

The episode noted that we know less about the ocean than we do about the surface of Mars! It’s a bit ironic really that oceans cover 70% of the surface of Earth, but are the least explored. The programme also pointed out that oceans also cover 97% of all water in the world.

The opening act were that usual crowd pleaser, dolphins surfing. The crew had to use a jet ski and an inflatable boat to film the dolphins!

Dolphins were also seen having an apparent friendship with another species, false killer whales. They joined together, forming an army of 1,000, and individuals appear to recognise each other. They hunt together, and teaming up means they catch more food.

Mobula rays leap into the air too. It gave the appearance that they were flying, even though they aren’t.

We saw plankton at night luminate, glowing blue. It looked magical seeing the rays swimming towards them, even though what we were seeing was predator and prey.

The tusk fish was shown looking for a small clam among the coral, and taking it to a particular bowl-shaped coral so it could smash the clam open. It took the tusk fish a long time, but he managed it! He has been nicknamed “Percy the persistant”.

There were some disturbing sights too. Fledgling terns getting eaten by a trevally, a big fish with a huge mouth. Some trevallys jump into the air to catch the fledglings in flight! We saw their feathers floating underwater, and the twisted remains of one bird. The fledglings do need to be in the water, as they are just learning to fly and need to rest sometimes. One fledging had parents which seemed to be warning it to get out of the water. It just about escaped getting eaten.

The fjords in Norway have lots of herring. They are small, but together they look as big as a ship! Unfortunately for them, they attract lots of predators. Orca, also known as killer whales, are very clever hunters, they whack the herring with their tails. Humpback whales also come, their method of catching herring is to come up from below and collect the herring in their mouth.

One of the most famous scenes in the episode was a kobudai. The males are much bigger than the females, and the male will have a territory and mate with all the females there. However, the largest females will eventually become male! Some fish are able to change their sex. In the case of the kobudai, the new male will challenge the existing male, and if he wins, he will take over, and mate with the females in this territory. This way, they ensure their genes are spread further, being able to produce young with other kobudai both as a female AND as a male.

Seas control the weather. The sun heats the sea, which creates water vapour that becomes clouds, and therefore rain and wind, which become big storms.

An important issue which was given focus was global warming, David Attenborough’s narration pointing out that “the oceans are changing at a faster rate than any other time in human history”. Unfortunately, facts alone aren’t enough to convince people or get a
message across. But seeing examples of it can, especially if there is an emotional side to it, and that was the response with a lot of viewers after seeing the devastating impact global warming is having on environment and wildlife for themselves.

Ice is melting at a fast rate in recent years. Walrus mothers have to go on dry land with there being so little sea ice now. There is also the danger of polar bears the closer they are to land. Polar bears are after walrus pups, as an adult walrus would be far too big to attack. Once the walrus release the polar bear is about, they all go into the sea. The polar bear has cubs to feed herself though. Both the walrus and the polar bear are mothers trying to raise, protect and feed their young.

Competition for a space on the remaining ice is fierce, the walrus fight with their tusks. In the one we see, everyone ends up falling off. The icebergs here are melting and crumbling to pieces.

Many viewers loved the shot of a walrus mother holding her pup with her flippers. The bond between a walrus mother and her pup is extremely strong, and the mothers stay in contact with their young all their life.

Visually, ‘One Ocean’ was absolutely beautiful, with many shots looking like paintings, with the crashing waves of the sea. Colours were mainly blue, grey and white. Not just the oceans, but the storm clouds too. The slow motion pace allowed the time for viewers to take it all in.

There were brief shots of rainbows and aurora borealis. There were also bright, vibrant colours of the tropical fish! The footage was close-up too. We did learn that the new technology allows less noise and bubbles, so they can get closer without scaring the creatures away.

‘One Ocean’ was a great opening episode. As David Attenborough said in the introduction, it went “across the globe, from the warm waters of the tropics to the coldest around the poles”, giving an overview of the oceans in the planet. The episode had lots of variety and certainly showed this would be another brilliant series.

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