David Attenborough narrates says he’s “absolutely astounded” by the footage the film teams have captured for Blue Planet II, the epic seven-part sequel to the 2001 series of Blue Planet.
“There are so many new things in this,” he says. “The camera technology is now absolutely parallel with what we do on land.”
For him the most jaw-dropping scenes are in the second episode of the series, which focuses on life at the bottom of the ocean. Submersibles spent around 500 hours filming on the sea floor, capturing not just otherworldly animals but also stunning underwater landscapes.
“I couldn’t believe what I saw,” he told guests at the London launch of the series. “When I saw eels diving into a lake at the bottom of the sea – it takes a bit of time for your mind to get around that. How could there be a lake at the bottom of the sea?”
Blue Planet II – the vital statistics
Years in production: 4
Expeditions mounted: 125
Countries visited: 39 (and remember this is a series about the oceans)
Hours filming underwater: 6,000
Depths explored at: 1,000m
Attenborough said the two greatest challenges facing the oceans were rising temperatures and plastics. “What we are going to do about a (potential) 1.5 degree rise in the temperature of the ocean over the next ten years I don’t know, but we could do something internationally about plastic tomorrow. And I just wish we would.”
He was circumspect when asked whether the films should deliver a conservation message alongside spellbinding wildlife sequences: “The temptation is just because it’s the most important story you have to spend all your time on it. But that would be a mistake in my view. I think the right time to tell that story is when you begin to establish an understanding of how important and vast the issue is. And that’s what the first six programmes do.”
The seventh and concluding film deals with the future of the oceans.
Executive producer of the series James Honeyborne says each episode will reflect the perils facing the oceans – “you just can’t avoid it. It wouldn’t be right” – but stressed the important goal was making people connect with the underwater world. “Once we meet these animals and get to know them then we can care about them and their world.”
And caring was at the heart of Attenborough’s final message to the audience. “We have a responsibility. Every one of us. It is one world and it is in our care. And for the first time in the history of humanity – the first time in 500 million years – one species has the future in the palm of its hands. I just hope he realises that is the case.”
There are seven instalments: a powerful scene-setting opener and a thought-provoking finale sandwich episodes named The Deep, Coral Reefs, Green Seas, Big Blue and Coast.
What will be the best moments of Blue Planet II?
Look out for a spectacular sequence featuring the bird catching Giant Trevally fish, hunting squadrons of Humboldt squid, surfing dolphins, shell-smashing Tusk fish, and dancing Mobula rays.
Who made the music for Blue Planet II?
Prolific, and multi-award winning, Hollywood film composer Hans Zimmer has produced the music for this series, as he did for the BBC’s last big natural history hit Planet Earth ll. Zimmer’s extraordinary back catalogue includes music for Lion King, Gladiator, The Dark Night, Inception and, more recently, Dunkirk. He says he signed up for this project “because it is truly important”.
“This is film-making at its best because you are capable of changing the human relationship to the world. By telling the story of the oceans we are inevitably telling the story of what our fate is going to be. This is an adventure in us learning our to love our environment.”
How was Blue Planet II filmed?
An armoury of new technology has been deployed in the making of the series, key among them the re-breather apparatus that allows cameramen and women to remain underwater for significantly longer than conventional breathing kit. And not just that: the re-breathers produce no bubbles. Says executive producer Honeyborne: “It’s really by sitting next to these fish for literally hours at a time with no bubbles being made that the fish get totally relaxed and let you into their world. That’s when you can look a fish in the eye and see an intelligence you simply hadn’t appreciated before.”