nigel marven’s shark island (1/5)
Returning to Five for a brand new series of natural-history adventures, wildlife expert Nigel Marven heads off to an uninhabited Pacific island where it is said that there are more sharks than anywhere else on earth.
Intrigued by these top predators since he was a child, Nigel travels to Cocos Island –an atoll near the coast of Costa Rica –where he has four weeks to discover why there is such a great concentration of sharks in the area. To do so, he employs a dive boat with a specialist crew and a selection of equipment, including a state-of-the-art miniature submarine which can go 400 metres down for up to four hours – and will open up a whole new world to Nigel on his adventures.
Nigel is particularly interested in the mysterious hammerhead sharks that come to Cocos in great numbers, and is fascinated by the diversity of sharks around the island. In attempting to unravel the mysteries of Shark Island, Nigel has numerous close encounters with other animals above and below the surface, including the unique Cocos goby – a tiny fish that has evolved to live in freshwater and climb the island’s vast waterfalls to reach a utopia free of predators and competition.
In Monday’s opening programme, Nigel makes the arduous 32-hour journey to the remote outpost where his adventures can begin. On his first dive, he tags along with an ancient sea turtle to get an unusual view of life on the reef, coming face-to-face with mating whitetip reef sharks and meeting some of Shark Island’s lesser-known inhabitants. He also dives to a deep underwater pinnacle –the favoured haunt of the bizarre scalloped hammerheads, Shark Island’s most famous residents.
In Tuesday’s edition, Nigel finds out more about the huge numbers of hammerheads that visit the island. He then heads into the jungle to discover how land animals have reached this speck of land, and encounters a bird known as ‘the holy ghost’ deep in the rainforest. Elsewhere, he stumbles upon the Cocos goby – a finger-length fish that has not only evolved to survive in freshwater, but has learned to climb even the most powerful waterfall.
On Wednesday, Nigel has a day of intensive shark-hunting. First, it is time to enter the abyss –in search of the elusive, deepwater prickly shark. Nigel and his submarine pilot drop off the very edge of Shark Island, meeting some bizarre deep-sea creatures – including a new species of moray eel. Next, Nigel sets his sights on the island’s most common shark, the white-tip. After learning the lay of the land, he comes back after nightfall… and an eerie underwater experience turns into an exhilarating adventure as he joins a pack of 60 hunting sharks in action.
On Thursday, in an effort to find out whether sharks come to Cocos looking for love, Nigel heads under the boat to try and get close to a batfish. But his advances are interrupted by the arrival of some enormous silvertip sharks – openwater predators that have come into the shallows. Having survived the encounter, Nigel heads for a spectacular underwater cavern just offshore and discovers that it is full of rays. Later, he learns that a huge school of 500 hammerheads has arrived, so he goes to find them in his submarine.
On Friday, Nigel takes on his most dangerous dive yet. He is looking for silky sharks – sleek, fast, blue-water predators –but they find him first. A huge school gathers at the edge of his vision, then slowly circles inwards… Next, he heads 300 metres underwater in a determined attempt to find the prickly shark. Incredibly he succeeds – coming face-to-face with this four-metre-long monster of the deep in an awe-inspiring encounter. Finally, Nigel tries to wrap up the mystery of the hammerhead schools, tying together the evidence from his four-week adventure on Shark Island.