Once a mountain kingdom of ancient palaces and emperors, Korea in the 21st century is largely known for its modern cities and decades of conflict. Tensions between North and South may be what defines it to outsiders but beyond the battle scars there is another side to Korea. In the south are large pockets of untouched wilderness where extraordinary animals flourish and Koreans continue to practice age-old traditions in tandem with the seasons and with nature. It is in these connections, rather than in division, that we see the true Korea. At the southernmost tip of the peninsular we follow a pod of bottlenose dolphins through the volcanic islands of Jeju. They click at each other as they encounter a human in their midst, but the dolphins know this diver well - they have shared the ocean with the Haenyeo, or sea women, for thousands of years. We travel onwards to the isolated island of Marado, where three generations of sea women are preparing for a dive. Today is the start of the conch season, and they work hard whatever the weather to maximise their catch. In the grounds of an ancient palace on the mainland, a raccoon dog family takes advantage of a rare event. Just once every five years, hundreds of cicadas emerge from below ground providing an easy feast for the raccoon dogs who voraciously fill their bellies. Those that escape their jaws make for the safety of the trees, where they metamorphosise into their flying form. On the mud flats of Suncheon Bay we find a habitat that is neither land nor sea. Only recently has the ecological value of mudflats been recognised. A staggering 50 per cent of the earth's oxygen is produced by phytoplankton - microscopic algae that are found here in great abundance. That is why the mudflats are known locally as the lungs of the earth. Plankton is far from the only life here - the mud of the bay is rich in nutrients and supports one of the most diverse ecosystems on the peninsula. We follow the story of a young mudskipper who has emerged for his first mating season. His journey to find love is paved with obstacles.
In this episode, Professor Brian Cox shows how Earth's basic ingredients, like the pure sulphur mined in the heart of a deadly volcano in Indonesia, have become the building blocks of life. Hidden deep in a cave in the Dominican Republic lies a magical world created by the same property of water that makes it essential to life. Clinging to a precipitous dam wall in Italy, baby mountain goats seek out Earth's chemical elements essential to their survival. In the middle of the night in a bay off Japan, Brian explains how the dazzling display of thousands of glowing squid shows how life has taken Earth's chemistry and turned it into the chemistry of life.
A young jaguar embarks on the first solitary hunt of his adult life, deep in the Pantanal, a vast wetland 10 times larger than the Everglades. His target is a savage caiman, a relative of the crocodile, who will fight back for any opportunity to turn the tables on his inexperienced predator.
In the wild North Atlantic, massive whale pods, giant turtles and monstrous jellyfish ride the Gulf Stream, a huge ocean current that becomes a migration superhighway and helps warm northern Europe. Meanwhile, fishermen battle for survival in mountainous seas as they try to reap the current's natural fertility.
In the heart of Brazil lie the immense wetlands of the Pantanal--an area 10 times the size of the Florida Everglades. In the dry season, over 650 species of birds descend onto the shallow marshes to feast, breed, and raise their young, including the the regal jabiru, the colorful hyacinth macaw, and the noisy chacalaca.
Covering more than half of Israel, the Negev Desert is a land of harsh extremes, one where flora and fauna must adapt to searing summers and bitter winters. Spend a year alongside some of its toughest inhabitants in their ongoing quests for survival.