My name is Elin and I’m a fourth-year MSci Marine Biology student at the University of Southampton. Like Kieran, I’ve been following the Blue Planet 2 series with great enthusiasm, and I’ve really enjoyed seeing the theory we’ve learned in lectures come to life in wonderful HD. With this in mind, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the natural spectacles we might expect to see in the upcoming Blue Planet 2 episodes, starting with Big Blue.
Known as the world’s greatest wilderness, the ocean is a vast environment stretching over 70% of the world’s surface. In contrast to the sheltered reefs and coastal shelves that border our shores, the open ocean is not unlike a desert with little food and protection for marine life; yet some of the ocean’s most remarkable species make this ‘big blue’ their home. These animals have thrived here by exploiting specialist ecological niches, such as the fast-swimming striped marlin that navigate the open ocean in search of their widely-dispersed prey, sardines, or the three-metre-long oceanic sunfish that specialise in jellyfish hunting.
Expect to see the day-to-day problems and perils that these animals face – raising your young in this wilderness can be a huge challenge, leaving scientists perplexed about where and how many species accomplish such a task. It is well-known that sea turtles, for example, lay their eggs in the sands of specific beaches across the world; however, we are still unsure where the hatchlings go for several years of their life after they make their dash to the freedom, and dangers, of the sea. As ever, advancements in technologies such as satellite tracking juvenile sea turtles is helping to progress the study of open ocean animals.
Another scene we’re likely to enjoy is a feeding frenzy of dolphins, tuna, and sharks, as a shoal of smaller fish trapped near the surface provides a momentary but plentiful feast in the wilderness. Whilst this scene of ocean predators attacking large bait balls (tightly packed shoals of small fish) is one that we have previously experienced through The Blue Planet, the Blue Planet 2 team has taken the frenzy to the next level with new aerial technology revealing the truth behind ‘boiling seas’.
I am also confident that this episode will continue to reinforce a key message from previous episodes, that despite its enormity, we are having a large and undeniable impact on our ocean and the marine life within. We have previously seen the detrimental effects of climate change through the eyes of a walrus mother and calf struggling to find sea ice in the warming Arctic, deep-sea trawling devastating cold-water coral reefs, and distressing scenes of coral bleaching along the Great Barrier Reef. Marine litter, especially plastics, is another increasing threat to life in our ocean, with around 8 million tonnes of plastic dumped into the ocean annually. It is therefore unsurprising that plastic has quickly become one of the most worrying and serious impacts that we are having on the marine environment – blanketing surface waters in some regions (for one, the great Pacific garbage patch is twice the size of Texas) and mimicking food sources like jellyfish for many marine animals. After experiencing making Blue Planet 2, Sir David Attenborough recently stated that plastics are one of his biggest concerns for the ocean, urging global action for the reduction of plastics consumption, so expect some heart-wrenching footage of its effect on the ‘big blue’.
Feel free to share any comments or questions regarding The Big Blue – I hope you enjoy the episode!