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Documentary series looking at the most dramatic wildlife spectacles on our planet, showing how life responds to natural events which can dramatically transform entire landscapes.

Genres: Animals
Station: BBC One (UK)
Rating: 0/10 from 0 users
Status: Ended
Start: 2009-02-11

Nature's Great Events Season 1 Air Dates


S01E01 - The Great Melt Air Date: 11 February 2009 21:00 -

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 ofseabirds 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.

In the final ten-minute diary, Quest for Ice Whales, the crew show how they managed to capture footage of the elusive narwhal on their annual journey through the ice.


S01E02 - The Great Salmon Run Air Date: 18 February 2009 21:00 -

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.

In the final 10-minute diary, Close Encounters of a Grizzly Kind, wildlife cameraman Jeff Turner, who has filmed bears for 20 years, reveals how he pioneered techniques to show for the first time how bears caught salmon underwater.


S01E03 - The Great Migration Air Date: 25 February 2009 21:00 -

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? This programme follows 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 final ten-minute diary, Pride and Peril, tells the harrowing story captured by film-maker Owen Newman of the Ndutu pride which he followed for more than a year.


S01E04 - The Great Tide Air Date: 04 March 2009 21:00 -

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.

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, the 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 60 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.


S01E05 - The Great Flood Air Date: 11 March 2009 21:00 -

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.

Bull hippos also converge on prime territories formed by the rising flood water. Two big bulls do bloody battle, at times being lifted out of the water by their rival.

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.


S01E06 - The Great Feast Air Date: 18 March 2009 21:00 -

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Every summer in the seas off Alaska humpback whales, sea lions and killer whales depend on an explosion of plant life, the plankton bloom. It tranforms these seas into the richest on Earth. But will these animals survive to enjoy the great feast?

The summer sun sparks the growth of phytoplankton, microscopic floating plants which can bloom in such vast numbers that they eclipse even the Amazon rainforest in sheer abundance of plant life. Remarkably, it is these minute plants that are the basis of all life here.

But both whales and sea lions have obstacles to overcome before they can enjoy the feast. Humpback whales migrate 3,000 miles from Hawaii, and during their three-month voyage lose a third of their body weight. In a heart-rending scene a mother sea lion loses her pup in a violent summer storm, while another dramatic sequence shows a group of killer whales working together to kill a huge male sea lion.

In late summer the plankton bloom is at its height. Vast shoals of herring gather to feed on it, diving birds round the fish up into a bait ball and then a humpback whale roars in to scoop up the entire ball of herring in one huge mouthful.

When a dozen whales work together they employ the ultimate method of co-operative fishing - bubble net feeding. One whale blows a ring of bubbles to engulf the fish and then they charge in as one. Filmed from the surface, underwater and, for the first time, from the air, we reveal how these giant hunters can catch a tonne of fish every day.

In Swallowed By a Whale, cameramen Shane Moore and David Reichert were filming bait balls when a 30 tonne whale roared past, within feet of them, swallowing the entire bait ball.

Nature's Great Events Actors

David Attenborough(Narrator)



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