Explore the stark landscape, frigid sea, and wild animals in one of the most remote and inhospitable places on Earth. National Geographic Pristine Seas Explorer-in-residence Enric Sala leads a group of scientists on the first international scientific expedition to Franz Josef Land. His team works with Russia's most formidable biologists, geomorphologists and ornithologists to understand how climate change is affecting this remote ecosystem. From diving in subzero temperatures to running away from polar bears to avoiding titanic icebergs, the Pristine Seas team faces some of its most dangerous challenges to date.
Meet slime molds: the brainless blobs that can learn, make decisions, and navigate mazes. Who says you need brains to be smart? Extremely primitive life-forms called slime molds can navigate mazes, choose between foods, and create efficient networks—no brain required. New research on these organisms, which are neither plant nor animal, could help reveal the fundamental rules underlying all decision making.
2020 • Nature
Spring arrives in the polar regions, and the sun appears after an absence of five months; warmth and life return to these magical ice worlds - the greatest seasonal transformation on our planet is underway. Male Adelie penguins arrive in Antarctica to build their nests - it takes a good property to attract the best mates and the males will stop at nothing to better their rivals! But these early birds face the fiercest storms on the planet. In the Arctic, a polar bear mother is hunting with her cubs. Inland, the frozen rivers start to break up and billions of tons of ice are swept downstream in the greatest of polar spectacles. This melt-water fertilizes the Arctic Ocean, feeding vast shoals of Arctic cod and narwhal. The influx of freshwater accelerates the breakup of the sea-ice - an area of ice the size of Australia will soon vanish from the Arctic. On land, a woolly bear caterpillar emerges from the snow having spent the winter frozen solid. Caterpillars normally become moths within months of hatching, but life is so harsh here that the woolly bear takes 14 years to reach adulthood. Once mature it has only days to find a mate before it dies! Alongside the caterpillars white Arctic wolves race to raise their adorable cubs before the cold returns.
Richard Hammond continues his exploration of weird and wonderful animal abilities by focusing on super-senses, and discovers how those same animal senses have inspired some unlikely human inventions. Richard gets buried in a Californian gold mine, attempts to talk to a rattlesnake by telephone, and is taken for a ride by a monster truck that drives itself. Along the way, he encounters elephants who can talk to each other through solid rock; seals who use their whiskers to sense the shape, size, speed and direction of an object that passed over thirty seconds earlier; and a blind cyclist who relies on fruit bats to get him safely down a twisting mountain bike trail.
No two islands in the Galapagos are the same. The imperceptible drift of a continental plate keeps each island biologically isolated. David Attenborough explores this evolutionary crucible, encountering tortoises that weigh up to half a tonne, finches that use tools and lizards that communicate using press-ups; for Darwin, this was all evidence for his theory of evolution. We see the final footage of the world famous tortoise fondly known as Lonesome George, the last survivor of his species. David Attenborough was the last person to have ever filmed with him. Darwin’s famous visit had a downside – the arrival of man. David investigates the impact we’ve had in these islands, as our influence is a double-edged sword. We’ve disrupted the natural balance but he also believes Darwin would be thrilled with the advances we have made in science. We’re also now uncovering evidence that evolution is more rapid than Darwin could ever have imagined. Whatever wonders the Galapagos Islands hold today, they are only a hint of what awaits them in the future.
For many animals, group living offers protection, better food, and more social opportunities. For their young, it's a valuable education. From flamboyant flamingo mating dances, to elephant calves growing up under the watchful eye of the group matriarch, peer into some of nature's most tight-knit social groups.
From earthquakes to tsunamis to volcanic eruptions, natural disasters are both terrifying and fascinating - providing endless fresh material for documentary makers. But how well do disaster documentaries keep pace with the scientific theories that advance every day? To try and answer that question, Professor Danielle George is plunging into five decades of BBC archive. What she uncovers provides an extraordinary insight into one of the fastest moving branches of knowledge. From the legendary loss of Atlantis to the eruption that destroyed Pompeii, Danielle reveals how film-makers have changed their approach again and again in the light of new scientific theories. While we rarely associate Britain with major natural disaster, at the end of the programme Danielle brings us close to home, exploring programmes which suggest that 400 years ago Britain was hit by a tidal wave that killed hundreds of people, and that an even bigger tsunami could threaten us again.