Sir David Attenborough: ‘Every episode of Blue Planet II makes my jaw drop!’

Sir David Attenborough reveals the wonders of the sea in Blue Planet II, which starts tonight on BBC1 at 8.00pm

It’s 16 years since Sir David Attenborough hosted the award-winning Blue Planet and now the ground-breaking natural history series is unveiling more remarkable creatures that live in our seas and oceans in a spectacular sequel Blue Planet II.

Here, Sir David Attenborough shares the highlights of Blue Planet II with TV Times…

You have had such a long career; did Blue Planet II still feature things that surprised you?

Sir David Attenborough: “I couldn’t believe what I saw. I’ve made films about things like coral reefs for 50 years and thought, ‘What else can they show?’ but every programme has something new that makes my jaw drop. There are absolute wonders and so many things that I didn’t know about, concerning animals that I thought I knew about and I’m astounded by the new species and behaviour that we see, particularly in the deep sea.”

Blue Planet Tusk Fish

The first episode features a tusk fish using ‘tools’ to open a clam and dolphins surfing and forging long-lasting ‘friendships’ with false killer whales as they hunt together. Do you think we underestimate the cleverness of sea life?

DA: “Well that interaction between dolphins and false killer whales is extraordinary and mysterious but they’re among the most intelligent animals in the sea and have complex communications through whistles. What’s surprising is the intelligent things that fish are doing. They think and take on board more than you imagine.”

What was the highlight of the series for you?

DA: “In the coral reef episode there was footage of a reef cleaning station in Borneo. We see turtles relax while little fish pick off their parasites and dead skin One turtle sits back and shuts its eye while a little cleaner fish works over it to remove things. It’s like it is enjoying a facial and just chilling out.”

Blue Planet turtle

What did you make of the new technology that is used?

DA: “The underwater camera technology now is parallel with what we do on land, it’s amazing. They even put a camera on an orca and that is an extraordinary achievement. I gulped at that sequence.”

The series also looks at the threats faced by our oceans what can we do?

DA: “Tragedies happen because of the plastic in the oceans. In one sequence, we see albatrosses gather food for their young but only plastic comes out of their mouths so the chick is going to starve and die. We could use less plastic and I hope there will be a scientific advance that could destroy plastic without any side effects. I’m also convinced of climate change and that human beings could do something about it. We have to recognise the responsibility that we have for two thirds for the world. We think we live a long way from the oceans but what we do here has a direct effect on the oceans and impacts back on us.”

Have you ever had any bad experiences in the water?

DA: “Just incompetence as a diver. I started diving in 1954 and I haven’t improved! One of the worst moments was when I arrived at a shoot and they said, ‘Just go about 40 feet down and swim around’ and I said, ‘40 feet?! I haven’t dived for five years!’ If you haven’t dived for five years and you get down and you go to take a breath and there is nothing there that is unpleasant.”

Blue Planet II begins tonight on BBC1 at 8pm