The South Pacific (2009) prod. BBC Nature Unit
TV Documentary Series
By Alan Bacchus
This title is not to be confused with Oscar and Hammerstein’s musical, or Steven Spielberg’s The Pacific, or even the French theatrical doc Oceans. This BBC series further expands on the monumentally successful series Planet Earth, for another six episodes of stunning high definition nature goodness, this time specifically in the Pacific Ocean.
Why the Pacific Ocean? As the opening narration describes it’s subtropical, relative inhabitability and its sheer girth which covers 1/3 of the earth means there’s a wealth of life in this region of the world which most of us never get to see. In certain parts of the Ocean there are islands so remote their nearest neighbours are thousands of miles away.
But the Pacific Ocean is hardly anything new, and footage of funny jellyfish, great white sharks, snakes, anteater, or tropical birds are nothing we haven’t seen before. But under the super glossy high definition imagery, suddenly animals, nature and people we take for granted becomes as mindbogglingly beautiful as anything in Avatar.
The series splits of into six episodes, each concentrating on a specific aspect of the Ocean. Episode 1, ‘Ocean of Islands’ explores the effects of the relative remoteness of many of the tiny island which dot the 19,800 kilometre-wide blanket of crystal blue water. It’s the same collection of oddball creatures which fascinated Charles Darwin, flesh-eating caterpillars; large crabs which can open coconuts, in addition to the isolated native communities with continue to thrive without much contact with the globally connected world. Perhaps the most delirious are the inhabitants of Pentecostal island who engage in ritualistic bungee jumping using on twist vines instead of flexible cord.
Other episodes include: ‘Castaways’ which looks at how plants, animals and humans colonized even the most remote islands; ‘Endless Blue’ which uses the true story of the journey of a 19th century shipwrecked whaling ship to show us brutality of living on the ocean; ‘Ocean of Volcanoes’ shows us how the violent eruptions of molten rock brings life into the Ocean; ‘Strange Islands’ shows us the usual animal life which evolved from the remoteness of the islands; and ‘Fragile Paradise’ which inevitably has to preach to us the dangers of environmental destruction.
The BBC cameramen, producers, directors use the same visual philosophy of Planet Earth to astonish us once again with the treasures of life and nature which is in abundance in this special place. Ten years ago I would have never have believed that a nature documentary like March of the Penguins, or Winged Migration or Oceans would ever be cinema-worthy films. South Pacific never got to the theatres, but considering the success of the Planet Earth-adapted feature film Earth, the South Pacific could easily have been Oceans.
'The South Pacific' is available on Blu-Ray from Warner Bros Home Video