Today’s “Planet Earth Report” –David Attenborough on the “Beauty and Horror” of the World’s Oceans

 
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“With revolutionary technology we can enter new worlds and shine a light on behaviors in ways that were impossible just a generation ago. We’ve also come to recognize an uncomfortable fact: The health of our oceans is under threat. They’re changing at a faster rate than ever before in human history.”


“Never,” declares sir david attenborough in the first episode of Blue Planet II, his latest hallucinatory swath of masterpiece nature television, “has there been a more crucial time to explore what goes on beneath the surface of the seas!” Attenborough is perorating from the prow of the research vessel Alucia as she plies indigo waters, blipping and whirring and swishing her sensors over the deep.

 

The sea around him spreads away, miracle-stuffed, glowing with vitality, writes James Parker in today's Atlantic. At 91 years of age, Attenborough looks rather pelagic himself, a wise and crusty father fish propped against the railing to deliver his sermon. But the old energy is still there, the bucking head movements and the lunging, italicized delivery. As he leans back into a carefully composed tableau of blues—powder-blue shirt, Prussian-blue water, azure stripe of sky—his message, which is the driving conceit of the show, is clear: Having gained access at last to the deep-down information, having consulted with the farthest and freakiest of the fish folk, we are discovering that much of the deep-down information is about us, the frigging humans, and how we’re ruining everything.

 

 

 

We see an orca as it takes out 30 herring with one swat of its casually explosive tail. Blue Planet II, currently screening on BBC America, is among other things a showcase for the probing, insatiable technological spirit of Homo sapiens: drones, suction cameras attached to the backs of killer whales, submersibles carrying film crews to unprecedented depths.

“We develop technologies in pursuit of what we want,” James Honeyborne, the executive producer, told Wired magazine, sounding like one of the engineers who built Jimi Hendrix’s effects pedals. And what we want is to see. To see an orca as it takes out 30 herring with one swat of its casually explosive tail. To see a Mobula ray flapping through lightless water while churning plankton clouds into frail spasms of bioluminescence—“the most delicate light,” as the diver-cameraman Alfredo Barroso describes it. (He can’t see it—he’s shooting blind—but his ultra-photosensitive camera picks it up.)

Image credit: With thanks to Audun Rikardsen / BBC 

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