Movie Review:  “Gone In A Gulp”

Broadcast date:  2017

Review, short version:  All thumbs up.

Review, long version:

“Honey, I’ve found our next vacation destination!”

snake island china.jpg

“Look!  It’s Shedao Island, off the coast of China, it’s not crowded, it has beaches and lots of hiking opportunities!”

“Sweetie, that all looks great, except for one thing.  Well, 20,000 things.”

“What do you mean?”

“That’s Snake Island.  And the only inhabitants are 20,000 venomous pit vipers.”

(Long pause)

“OK!  I’ll keep looking!”

But lucky me – I got to see Snake Island, thanks to the intrepid camera crews from NHNZ, movie larger croppedthe natural history unit of New Zealand media company Television New Zealand.

They came, they saw, and they filmed the island and the vipers – and so much more – for the documentary Big Pacific.

Big Pacific aired in 2017 on PBS, but I missed it the first time around.  When I recently learned it was being rebroadcast, I was SO ready for it.  I’m fascinated by our oceans, by how little we know and what scientists, divers and other explorers are constantly discovering.

I was amazed by what I watched – and by the risks taken in some cases, like Snake Island.

And by the masters of cinematography who went to I-lost-count-of-how-many locations, and captured gorgeous shots like this:

Image 1
The nomura jellyfish can grow up to 6½ feet in diameter and weigh over 400 pounds.

And this:

dugongs cropped
Dugongs look like manatees, but they’re more closely related to the elephant.

And this:

No ocean program would be complete without great white sharks – but will we see them mate?

Love that in-their-face imagery!

It’s a fact:  We know more about outer space than we know about what goes on in our oceans.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

Headline (2)

More than eighty percent unexplored!

But Big Pacific makes a glorious dent in our sea of ignorance with six+ hours of animals in and around the Pacific Ocean, in search of their next meal and/or next partner and/or next place to hide from predators.

They’re just living their lives, like these guys:

longlure_01 Cropped Smaller longlure-frogfish
Now you see him – now you don’t.  This longlure frogfish (left) almost disappears when he blends in with his surroundings.
blue-whale-621674 blue whale mouth extended smaller
The blue whale, the largest animal ever to live on earth.  It presents a sleek 80-foot-long profile (left) until it takes in 12,000 gallons of water to filter out its food – tiny krill.
Sea-otter cropped smaller Red-Sea-Urchin
Sea otters may look cute to us – but not to red urchins.  An adult sea otter can eat 1500 red urchins a day – about a third of the otter’s weight.

The narration of Big Pacific is fascinating and sometimes whimsical – like when they describe the ocean as a “liquid universe,” the eating habits of some residents as “gone in a gulp,” and the coastal fauna as a “cathedral of kelp.”

And so many species are featured – the fast and slow, the big and small, the ancient and the newly discovered, the male that turns into a female, and the female who mates – and TV New Zealandthen eats her partner.

“A true dinner date,” notes the narrator.

Here’s the PBS description of Big Pacific:

Episode 1:  Mysterious

Man has explored land, the ocean’s surface, and large parts of the solar system, and in the 21st century we are just beginning to explore the depths of the Pacific Ocean.  We yearn to unravel the mysterious Pacific – but she does not give up her secrets willingly.

 Episode 2:  Violent 

Surrounded by the Ring of Fire, the Pacific Ocean is the epicenter of natural mayhem.  Violence is part of life in the Pacific and creatures that live here must choose whether to TV NZ_02 croppedavoid conflict or rise to meet it.

 Episode 3:  Voracious

There is plenty of food in the Pacific Ocean, but it is the challenge of finding that food that drives all life in the Pacific.  In the voracious Pacific we meet a destructive army of mouths, a killer with a hundred mouths and the biggest mouth in the ocean.

 Episode 4:  Passionate

In the Pacific, the quest to multiply has spawned a stunning array of unusual behaviors and adaptations.  There are forest penguins with a tenuous marriage, the secret rendezvous of great white sharks, and the tale of male pregnancy.

There’s also:

Episode 5: Behind the Scenes

Follow the adventures of the filmmakers behind Big Pacific.  This “Making Of” special explores the highlights and challenges of wildlife filmmaking.TV NZ-01

One last note.

Today it’s almost impossible to watch a nature show without hearing about the dangers threatening our environment, due to human impact including climate change.

There is some of that in Big Pacific, but it doesn’t drive the narrative.

The goal of Big Pacific is to “break the boundaries between land and sea, moving throughout the Pacific Ocean to present a broad range of locations, species, natural phenomena and behaviors.”

Goal:  Met.

And exceeded.

wolf eel larger wolf eel and diver cropped
This wolf eel looks like it’ s having a bad day, so divers, beware.  Wolf eels can grow up to eight feet in length and inflict bone-crushing bites.


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