Steve Backshall leads a team of elite explorers - including world leading underwater cave explorer Robbie Schmittner, former Royal Marine Aldo Kane and diving camera operator Katy Fraser - into the wilds of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. Under the vast jungle here is the largest unexplored network of caves in the world, comprising thousands of kilometres of passageways. They are stunningly beautiful but incredibly dangerous - much of the system is under water. First the team must trek through tough, scorpion-infested jungle to camp alongside a giant sinkhole in the jungle floor - a dark gateway to an underworld full of nightmarish creatures.
2019 • Nature
Going down into these narrow flooded passageways is not for the faint-hearted but, with only an estimated one percent of the caves explored, it is an opportunity for the team to write themselves into cave diving history, by pushing further in than anyone has before. This is a challenge that tests even the most accomplished cave divers. Steve must face the terrors of being lost in an underwater silt cloud in a cave. But there is a bigger issue at stake. All life in the Yucatan depends on the fresh water in this network of caves, but it's being contaminated by human development. With every metre the team maps, it adds to the knowledge of the system, which, in turns, helps protect it for future generations.
2019 • Nature
We look at the ways in which plants have adapted to survive in the harshest climates on Earth. Whether in the driest, hottest deserts or the coldest Arctic wastes, plants have come up with some ingenious ways of surviving, including eating animals and actually caring for their offspring.
Antarctica is the most remote and pristine wilderness on the planet. , It is a timeless and harsh land like no other. Night here can last three months and in the peak of summer the sun never sets. To understand how life can exist in this continent of snow and icebergs you must spend a year there. You discover that despite being the least habitable place on Earth, life abounds in Antarctica. Megafauna such as humpback whales and orca, massive seals and stately penguins all take the brutal conditions head on and thrive in this year on ice.
2017 • Nature
For the animals in the polar regions, autumn means dramatic battles and epic journeys. Time is running out - the Arctic Ocean is freezing over and the sea ice is advancing at 2.5 miles per day around Antarctica. Polar bears gather in large numbers on the Arctic coast as they wait for the return of the ice. Soon, tempers fray and violent sparring contests break out. Meanwhile 2,000 beluga whales head for one special estuary, a gigantic 'whale spa' where they will thrash their snow-white bodies against the gravel and exfoliate. Inland, the tundra undergoes a dramatic transformation from green to fiery red. Here, musk ox males slam head-first into each other with the force of a 30mph car crash as they struggle to defend their harems. Frisky young caribou males play a game of 'grandma's footsteps' as they try to steal the boss's female. Down in Antarctica, Adelie penguin chicks huddle together in creches. When a parent returns from fishing, it leads its twins on a comical steeplechase - sadly there's only enough for one, so the winner gets the meal. Two months later and the chicks are fully feathered apart from downy Mohican hairdos - they're ready to take their first swim - reluctantly though, as it seems penguins are not born with a love of water! And with good reason - a leopard seal explodes from the sea and pulls one from an ice floe, a hunting manoeuvre that has never been filmed before. As winter approaches and everyone has left, the giant emperor penguin arrives and makes an epic trek inland to breed. The mothers soon return to the sea leaving the fathers to hold the eggs and endure the coldest winter on earth.
Helen looks at volcanoes. With shocking eyewitness footage of eruptions, and new thermal imagery and ultra-high speed photography, we can now capture on camera the complex processes crucial to understanding how and why these forces of nature erupt.