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Series: Nature Great Events
The Great Melt
Every year, around the world, seasonal changes transform entire landscapes and draw in millions of creatures as these great events unfold. This fantastic series combines the epic scale of Planet Earth and the intimate, emotional stories of charismatic animals as they struggle to survive. Using state of the art technology, these programmes capture the Earth's most dramatic and epic wildlife spectacles and the intimate stories of the animals caught up in them.
The Great Melt: The summer melt of Arctic ice, opening up nearly three million square miles of ocean and land, provides opportunities for millions of animals, including beluga whales, families of Arctic foxes, vast colonies of seabirds, and the fabled Arctic unicorn, the narwhal. For polar bears, however, it is the toughest time of year. Why? How will they survive? A mother polar bear and her cub make their first journey together onto the sea ice. They are looking for ringed seals, their favourite prey. It is a serious business but the cub just wants to play. The melting ice makes it harder for them to hunt and threatens their survival. In a unique aerial sequence, the migration of narwhal with their distinctive unicorn-like tusks is filmed for the first time. The whales' journey is risky as they travel along giant cracks in the ice. If the ice were to close above them, they would drown. Hundreds of beluga whales gather in the river shallows. They rub themselves on smooth pebbles in one of the most bizarre summer spectacles. Guillemot chicks take their first flights from precipitous sea cliff nests to the sea 300 metres below. They attempt to glide to safety but many miss their target. Their loss is a bonus for the hungry Arctic fox family waiting below. As the melt comes to an end the bears gather, waiting for the sea to freeze again. Two 400kg males square up to each other to spar.
The Great Salmon Run
Every year grizzly bear families in North America depend for their survival on a spectacular natural event: the return of hundreds of millions of salmon from the Pacific Ocean to the mountain streams where they were born. The salmon travel thousands of miles to spawn and then die. The great run not only provides food for bears, but for killer whales, wolves, bald eagles, and even the forest itself. The question is: will the salmon return in time to keep hungry bears alive?
A mother grizzly and her cubs emerge from their den high in snowy Alaskan mountains. Filming from the air the team capture a TV first, following the bears as they negotiate a near vertical slope on their journey to the coast where they await the return of the salmon. Meanwhile, the salmon are making their way to the to river mouths where they must swim upstream and against the current. The programme reveals how they tackle the torrents and leap over waterfalls, a feat equivalent to a human jumping over a house. Dozens of hungry bears eagerly await the salmon that make it up river. In another TV first, underwater cameras record the ingenuity and fancy footwork they use to collect dead salmon from the bottom of deep pools.
The Great Migration
Each year more than one million wildebeest and zebra invade the Serengeti grasslands, making it a paradise for the predators that live there. But what happens when the herds move off again? We follow the moving story of one lion family's struggle to survive until the return of the great migration. Nature's Great Events tells the story of the epic trek of herds that follow the rains to fresh pastures, and the tale of the predators they leave behind.
The crew captures the desperate plight of a single pride of lions, revealing a different side to the Serengeti. Rather than being a predators' paradise, it is a land in constant change, with wildebeest following the rains and leaving the lions to tough it out. The Ntudu pride has seven cubs, and is already suffering as the wildebeest leave to find fresh pastures. The four pride females struggle to find enough food for their hungry offspring. As weeks turn to months, the pride members become more emaciated and frailer, and the number of cubs dwindles to just two. As the herds begin to return, the plains reveal one final secret. For the first time since 1967 the Serengeti's only active volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai, begins to billow ash and smoke. Filmed from the air, the team captures the exciting action. Fertilised by the volcanic ash over millions of years, these short grass plains are among the most productive grasslands in the world. After months of hardship, the pride's tragic story, through sickness, drought and fire, is over as the herds return, providing plentiful food.
The Great Tide
A mighty army of dolphins, sharks, whales, seals and gannets hunt down the billions of sardines along South Africa's east coast each winter. This is the Sardine Run: an underwater Armageddon, the greatest gathering of predators anywhere on the planet, and the most spectacular event in the world's oceans. From intimate moments of the creatures caught up in the run, to the dramatic finale of this spectacular event, The Great Tide is an action-packed feeding-frenzy, filmed underwater, on the ocean's surface, and in the air.
However, in recent years the sardine run has become less predictable, perhaps due to the warming effects of climate change. If the sardine run does not happen, the lives of the animals caught up in the drama hang in the balance. Pioneering a unique boat stabilised camera mount for surface filming, Nature's Great Events crew capture all the high octane action as the predators compete for sardines, filmed with aerial, underwater and above water cameras. Super slow motion cameras also capture the very moment gannets plunge into the water, hitting it at sixty miles an hour.
A violent winter storm is the trigger for the sardines to begin their desperate dash. They are followed by a super-pod of 5,000 dolphins and further up the coast more predators gather. A shoal of sardines 15 miles long is pushed into the shallows and aerial shots show thousands of sharks gathering to feed on them. The climax to the sardine run is a spectacular feeding frenzy as the dolphins round the sardines up into balls on which all the predators feast. Gannets rain down in their thousands, sharks pile in scattering the fish and a Bryde's whale lunges in taking great mouthfuls of sardines.
The Great Flood
The great flood in the Okavango turns 4,000 square miles of arid plains into a beautiful wetland. Elephant mothers guide their families on an epic trek across the harsh Kalahari Desert towards it, siphoning fresh water from stagnant pools and facing hungry lions. Hippos battle for territory, as the magical water draws in thousands of buffalo and birds, and vast clouds of dragonflies. Will the young elephant calves survive to reach this grassland paradise? The experienced mother elephants time their arrival at the delta to coincide with the lush grass produced by the great flood.
In a TV first, the programme shows the way they use their trunks to siphon clean water from the surface layers of a stagnant pool, while avoiding stirring up the muddy sediment on the bottom with their feet. Lechwe swamp deer, zebras, giraffes, crocodiles and numerous fish and thousands of birds arrive in the delta. And, in a phenomenon never before filmed in the Okavango, thousands of dragonflies appear - seemingly from nowhere - within minutes of the flood arrival, mating and laying eggs. As the flood finally reaches its peak, elephants and buffalo, near the end of their epic trek across the desert, face the final gauntlet of a hungry pride of lions. In a heart-wrenching sequence, a baby elephant is brought down by a lion in broad daylight.
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