CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: The lazy life of a baby elephant seal – wouldn’t it be blubberly!
Animals With Cameras
For Peat’s Sake — Our Lives
Next time round, if we’re permitted any say on reincarnation, I’m coming back as a northern elephant seal. Their life consists of getting fat and lying about.
After four weeks of glugging milk that’s richer than double cream, an elephant seal pup weighs 15st. That’s a big baby.
Cameraman Gordon Buchanan wanted to know how an animal that hefty copes when it first goes swimming.
To find out, he and a team of scientists attached a bodycam to a seal, in Animals With Cameras (BBC2).
Cameraman Gordon Buchanan (pictured with a loggerhead sea turtle) wanted to know how a hefty northern elephant seal copes when it first goes swimming
To find out, he and a team of scientists attached a bodycam to a seal, in Animals With Cameras (BBC2). Pictured: Caribbean Reef Shark with hydrodynamic camera fitted
It turns out the pups, which look like airships with soppy eyes, barely swim at all. They just bob about, buoyed up by all that blubber.
But as adults, they’ll need to voyage 6,000 miles a year and dive for up to two hours. To get into shape, they go sunbathing on the Californian beach.
Gordon’s camera revealed they’re only pretending to laze about and kip. In fact, this is when the seals practise holding their breath.
Eating, snoozing and flopping about in the shallows — as the Beach Boys sang, wouldn’t it be nice?
This isn’t the first time Gordon has attached lenses to wild animals, but in this series he captures his most remarkable footage yet.
The most incredible film came from a high-definition, slow-motion camera the size of a finger that was strapped to the tail of a diving seabird, the gannet.
This isn’t the first time Gordon has attached lenses to wild animals, but in this series he captures his most remarkable footage yet. Pictured: Female loggerhead sea turtle
There was a little too much filler of scientists staring agog at laptops — we know what a human with a beard and a cagoule looks like. Show us more of those baby seals
Even though ocean fish stocks are dwindling, gannet colonies seem to find enough food.
The camera showed how they do it — gannets skimming the waves off the south coast of Ireland looked for whales, dolphins or trawlers. Fish were sure to be close by.
Shots of the birds dive-bombing the Atlantic and snatching mackerel almost from the jaws of the dolphins were extraordinary, showing us images we could only previously imagine.
Equally unseen was a shark’s-eye view of the deep seabed off the Bahamas, and turtles feeding on seaweed at a shipwreck near Cape Verde.
There was a little too much filler of scientists staring agog at laptops — we know what a human with a beard and a cagoule looks like. Show us more of those baby seals.
The sequences where cameras were deftly attached to the animals, though, were well worth seeing.
A loggerhead with a telescopic lens on its back looks like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle armed with a bazooka.
Cleverly, the salt water dissolves the glue after a few hours, leaving the animals none the worse for their experience.
Smart camerawork was one of the features of an Our Lives documentary, For Peat’s Sake (BBC1) which, despite its terrible title, proved a gentle joy.
Smart camerawork was one of the features of an Our Lives documentary, For Peat’s Sake (BBC1) which, despite its terrible title, proved a gentle joy
While the locals on Lewis talked about the tradition of cutting peat slabs, the screen kept panning across the Hebridean landscape. Pictured: Margaret, weaving in her loomshed
This was our second visit to the Highlands and Islands in two days, and better paced than ITV’s jaunt with David Hayman.
While the locals on Lewis talked about the tradition of cutting peat slabs for their cottage hearths, the screen kept panning across the stunning Hebridean landscape.
The most fascinating picture was a black-and-white one.
A group of tiny women in long dresses and shawls lugged the peat home, with creels or baskets piled high and strapped across their shoulders.
Each spadeful of the rich soil weighed as much as a bag of cement. Those indomitable ladies must have been carrying more than their own body weight — yet one of them was knitting as she walked.
Overall it was a gorgeous glimpse of a life that somehow persists in the 21st century. Some things change — country’n’ western music is popular there now.
But 76-year-old Donal still sings the Gaelic airs as he works.
‘Well, that’s scared the midges away,’ grumbled his nephew.
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