Human Planet: Oceans – Into the Blue

Humans are the only animals that have managed to adapt to life in every habitat on Earth. From oceans to jungles, the poles to the deserts, Human Planet explores man’s incredible ability to survive in the most extreme environments.

Three years in the making, the series travels to the far-flung corners of the globe – the team visited more than 70 filming locations – to bring the most diverse, original and, in some cases, never-before-seen stories of human endeavour to BBC One.

The series is narrated by John Hurt and features original music by world-renowned composer Nitin Sawhney.

Oceans: Into The Blue explores the extraordinary adaptability and ingenuity that enables humans to survive in the marine environment, combined with the profound effect living by the sea has had on our cultures.

In Northern Spain fishermen risk life and limb collecting highly valued goose barnacles – pounded by the Atlantic waves, they abseil down cliffs to reach their prize, which will fetch more than €200 a kilo at market. In Indonesia subsistence whalers from the village of Lamalera are also after a marine bounty – a huge sperm whale. Using bamboo harpoons, in their wooden boats, the men take on the whale in an almighty battle of wits and skill. If they succeed, their village will have food for months.

The fishermen of Laguna in Brazil have learned to harness the ocean’s natural resources. Working in skilful harmony with dolphins, many of which they know by name, they are able to increase their seasonal harvest of mullet. In the distant islands off Papua New Guinea, “shark-caller” Blais – one of the last of his kind – also works with nature to use his ancient spiritual skills to hunt sharks.

In the coral seas surrounding the Philippines a crew of Pa’aling fishermen take their lives in their hands in a highly dangerous mass fishing technique. In this overfished area, diving to depths of over 20m is the only way to catch enough fish for the village. A generator, with its intricate web of hose pipes, provides the only air supply for the young divers below, who risk the all-too-lethal effects of the bends. Scubazoo underwater cameramen Simon Enderby and Roger Munns were tasked with filming the chaotic, but strangely balletic event. Watch a preview below.

“I’d filmed Bajau fishermen using a similar technique but not on the scale with which the filipino’s attacked it” recalls Roger “It was a kind of controlled mayhem down there, at times you didn’t know where to look there was so much activity going on. What struck me most was the danger that these guys put themselves in, and for such little reward. They risked their lives daily, with tragic accidents commonplace, yet the fishermen seemed not to care…. or perhaps had no other choice”

The production crew spent 10 days at sea with the Pa’aling fishermen, living on small wooden outrigger boats, open to the elements, while searching for good fishing grounds. Some of their experience behind the scenes is related after the Oceans show and features both Simon and Roger onscreen. You can also see it online here (UK viewers only)

Few people in the world have such an intimate relationship with the sea as the elusive Bajau Laut sea gypsies who spend most of their lives afloat. Rarely visiting the mainland, the Bajau Laut live in stilt huts over the coral reefs and on houseboats; some of them still have an incredible ability to hunt underwater holding their breath. Human Planet follows one Bajau spear fisherman, called Sulbin, as he defies the usual laws of nature with an incredible underwater hunt, 20m down, lasting two-and-a-half minutes. Watch this incredible freedive on the viewer below:

Simon Enderby filmed Sulbin on his epic hunt “As I bobbed around on the waters surface, in full scuba diving kit and with my underwater camera, I couldn’t help but be amazed as I watched Sulbin take a last few deep drags of his hand rolled cigarette, pull off his shirt and shorts, affix his wooden goggles over his eyes and take a few big breaths before slipping off his hand-made wooden boat and into the watery depths. I filmed as he descended to the 20m deep sea floor where he began to walk along the bottom as if on a gentle sunday morning stroll. After 2 minutes of searching Sulbin finally selected his desired fish, lined up his antiquated wooden speargun, and fired. Successful, Sulbin pushed off from the seafloor and returned once more to his boat with his family’s next meal leaving me bemused and bubbling away with my high tech scuba gear.”

As well as handling underwater filming for two of the sequences in Human Planet – Oceans: Into the Blue, Scubazoo also provided location management services such as visa applications, permits and logistics for the Bajau freediving scene.

Human Planet – Oceans: Into the Blue airs in the UK on BBC One HD on the 13th January 2011 at 8pm. It is simulcast on Freesat channel 108, Freeview channel 50, Sky channel 143 and Virgin Media channel 108.

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