David Attenborough’s new 3-part BBC One series on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is set to debut in 2016. It will provide an estimated one billion people worldwide with the chance to see the “world’s largest living organism” – nearly 350,000 square kilometers (135,135 square miles)– dazzling ecosystems of corals, tropical fish, sponges, anemones, plants, even microscopic life. At more than 1,242 miles in length, the Reef stretches from Queensland’s northern tip to Bundaberg in the south.
Great Barrier Reef Is Fragile
The timing of Attenborough’s series cannot be overstated. Many in the science community think the Great Barrier Reef is in trouble, its condition precarious – the result of increased illegal dumping, overdevelopment of ports with increasing number of ships and barges crossing the reef, and the predatory crown-of-thorns starfish that threatens to kill off the coral.
The GBR is designated by the United Nations (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Area – some 1.9 million people come to visit or dive in it each year, making it Australia’s most popular destination. In May a working group of the World Heritage Committee reviewed the GBR’s status and while giving it a highly conditional approval, expressed deep concern about its future and whether it is “in danger.”
There’s a 2050 sustainability plan in place, but that is no assurance, say UN officials, that the GBR is safe. June 28-July 8, the World Heritage Committee meets in Bonn Germany to make a final determination. State of the Great Barrier Reef (Australia)
Grand Man of Natural History Media
At 89, Attenborough is considered the “godfather” of natural history documentaries, dating to the 1950’s. He is unstoppable – even after a new pacemaker was inserted about 18 months ago –having written, starred in or narrated some 100 TV documentaries on the natural world, including at least 10 series. And he’s got spunk: he’s climbed, crawled, soared and dived into every corner of the planet for productions in film, HD and 3D — and won awards in all three media.
Imagine your granddad hanging from a 250-foot rope inside Borneo’s Gomantang Cave while a million bats brush by him on their nightly outing for dinner. Or perched high in the tree canopy, supported only by an aerial swaying bridge. That’s David Attenborough!
During the 18-month production of Attenborough’s 10-part First Life series, the team travelled 40,000 miles across four continents — from Canada’s Rocky Mountains to 40˚C heat in Australia.
Newest Media Technologies at Work
While he’s been around since the days of black-and-white TV, Attenborough is ardent about using new technologies to capture everything from satellite imagery to MicroMonster 3D cameras that will pick up life in the Great Barrier Reef that’s too small to see.
The Great Barrier Reef production uses super high speed cameras, new macro lenses, and time-lapse photography, among other techniques, to capture miraculous life on the Reef.
Brits recently voted Attenborough their “greatest living national treasure,” topping a recent poll as the most trusted figure in the UK.
BBC Intro and videos on the Great Barrier Reef
Audubon Article 2015 on Attenborough’s 10-part First Life Series
NPR interview with Attenborough on two-part special Rise of Animals: Triumph of the Vertebrates