By Utpal Borpujari
A male humpback whale’s mating battle, called the “heat run”, from beginning to end; Komodo dragons bringing down an animal ten times their size in a real-life drama lasting over two weeks; a pebble toad rolling down a mountain, bouncing like a rubber ball, to escape a tarantula; the bizarre mating ritual of the elusive Vogelkop bowerbird found in the deep forests of New Guinea; an astonishing night scene showing massive numbers of Humboldt squids shunting cooperatively for sardines; and the entire growing season in a woodland filmed in one shot, utilizing time lapse. These are some of the never-before-seen images from the natural world, that will come alive on your TV screens, courtesy Discovery Channel.
The images are part of 130 incredible stories of nature, shot across seven continents in a period spanning over 3,000 days, for an epic series called “LIFE”, which will air at 8 p.m. from May 24 for two weeks, followed by a repeat airing from June 12. Introduced by the inimitable David Attenborough, the series captures what the channel describes as the most spectacular and fascinating behaviours that living creatures have devised in order to thrive. “Many of these have been captured for the first time using the latest in state-of-the-art high-definition filming techniques,” says Discovery Networks Asia Pacific’s India general manager Rahul Johri.
The filmmakers involved in the project, reflecting its epic proportions, even developed ingenious methods for capturing breathtaking images, such as the ‘Yogi Cam’ which allowed a camera to track smoothly alongside migrating reindeer and elephants. Intricate cable rigging was employed to enable the crew to ‘fly’ a camera through thousands of monarch butterflies in Mexico, providing a unique “butterfly-eye” perspective. “ ‘LIFE’ brings some of the most incredible stories ever caught on camera and highlights the efforts of men and women who spent days, weeks and months patiently waiting for a perfect shot,” says Johri.
“LIFE” will launch with a premiere episode, titled “Challenges of Life”, which will provide an overview of the series. The main episodes are “Reptiles and Amphibians”, “Mammals”, “Fish”, “Birds”, “Insects”, “Hunters and Hunted”, “Creatures of the Deep”, “Plants” and “Primates” – practically every living being.
The series will have some breathtaking visuals, in trademark Discovery Channel style. For example, we will see three cheetah “brothers” hunting as a team, stalking and bringing down an ostrich twice their size, as also the spectacle in Brazil of brown-tufted capuchin monkeys demonstrating an extraordinary level of skill and perseverance to crack open the palm nuts they love to eat. The monkeys pick the nuts, strip them of their husks and leave them to dry. After a few weeks they transport them to a huge anvil-like rock and smash them with a harder hammer stone. Then there are dolphins filmed from the air as they go “mudringing”, or creating circles of mud to entrap fish, and killer whales working as a team to hunt seals in Antarctica, filmed from the air and sea.
In one of the heartwarming sequences in the series, viewers will witness how an elephant grandmother shoves her inexperienced daughter aside to pull her newborn granddaughter out of the mud and save her life. The episode on mammals, which has this sequence, also shows the migration of ten million fruit bats to one giant mega-roost in Zambia, a massive colony only recently discovered by scientists, and possibly the largest congregation of polar bears which are seen feeding on a huge whale carcass even while confronting one another.
The high-end technology used in filming of the series has enabled its makers to even film, in super high-speed, flying fish laying eggs on a bit of flotsam on the open sea and the flying out of the water. The episode on fish has other tantalising visuals like those of tiny gobies in Hawaii climbing 400-feet-high waterfalls to lay their eggs in safe pools, and sailfish, the fastest fish in the sea, attempting to pluck a single fish out of a baitball, again filmed at super high-speed as also were visuals of the spatule-tail hummingbird courtship display.