Docu-series on different species of South Pacific

Filmmaker Mark Brownlow braved the vagaries of the weather to feature unique aspects of South Pacific

Mark Brownlow

Award-winning wildlife documentary film director Mark Brownlow is known for his works, ‘Ocean Giants’, ‘Hidden Kingdoms’, ‘Planet Earth’ and Freshwater’, mostly featured on BBC and Discovery Channel.
His latest series, ‘South Pacific’ that premieres on December 23, 9 pm on Sony BBC Earth, documents the scale of the largest ocean on Earth, the isolation of its islands, the extraordinary journeys wildlife and humans have gone through to reach these specks of land, and what happened to both after their arrival. 

In an interview with Metrolife, Brownlow talks about the making of the series and more.

What was the thought behind choosing South Pacific for a feature?

South Pacific is one of the most romantic oceans on the planet. It conjures up the image of a mysterious paradise.

I wanted to discover what it’s all about, the wonderful things that make this isolated paradise and its extraordinary stories of survival.

If not for anything else, this is one of the toughest places to live on earth by virtue of its extreme isolation. There are challenges with finding enough food and water here. So, it’s also a story of survival.

What kind of research did you have to undertake?

When we make a natural history series, we spend over half a year researching it, before filming.

The story of South Pacific would not have been possible without an international network of scientists from Australia, the Far West of Pacific and South America. We worked hand-in-hand with scientists throughout to create a series that was not only entertainment but also scientific. This oceanic system is a fascinating one because it is born out of a ring of fire and it’s highly volcanic. It’s the largest ocean on the planet-spanning 7,000 miles across and is filled with extraordinary diversity and wonder.

What kind of creatures did you encounter?

From giant whales to tiny spiders, we encountered everything. I was very lucky to film a rare tragic event just off the coast of Australia when a herd of young bachelor male Sperm Whales got stranded. A strange thing about male sperm whales is that their social bond is so strong that instead of abandoning a member of the pod who has been stranded, they all strand and die together.

We also saw many gigantic land crabs known as Coconut Crabs. They are so powerful that they can crack open coconuts with their claws.

We filmed the Desert Paradise in New Guinea, one of most ornate and behaviourally fascinating birds ever.  They have these very elaborate courtship displays that they use to entice a mate and get them to scout for food in the jungle.

We also saw Tree Kangaroos in New Guinea. They are considered threatened due to hunting and habitat destruction. They’ve got long shaggy pelts.

On a whole, it’s these bizarre and extreme experiences that makes the South Pacific so unique.

As a director, what were some of the challenges involved in pulling off the feature?

There were numerous challenges in filming. New Guinea is a very rugged and remote place. The infrastructure is not as developed as in the West. The country is made up of a series of valleys that are miniature worlds within worlds, which made travelling around New Guinea itself, very tough.

As we progressed further into the South Pacific, we had to deal with some unique challenges. The amount of distance one has to cover, and the kind of isolation you experience on the journey, makes it very tedious.

Once you reach, you are subject to the vagaries of weather–the high seas, strong winds and storms. It’s amusing how we think of the South Pacific as a paradise and on a good day it is second to none. But there are some places which can get exceedingly hot under the tropical sun.

Same is the case with Macquarie island which has extreme hot weather. It is home to King Penguins, Elephant Seals and creatures you would associate with Antarctica. While incredibly challenging, it was also a fulfilling experience.
(South Pacific premieres on December 23, 9 pm on Sony BBC Earth)

 

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