Press Centre

Britain’s Sharks

  • Episode: 

    2 of 2

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Fri 25 Mar 2016
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    9.00pm - 10.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 12 2016 : Sat 19 Mar - Fri 25 Mar
  • Channel: 

  • Status: 

In the second of these two programmes, Britain’s Sharks, Ben Fogle and Ellie Harrison return the body of a Humpback Whale to the sea and reveal, for the first time in UK waters, how the death of these marine giants can trigger the biggest feeding event in the ocean.  Viewers will get to witness the whale fall event, the first time this has been studied and filmed in the UK. Supported by leading experts, both programmes promise to present an unrivalled opportunity for viewers to gain a close insight into marine life around the British Isles
“I’ve got to pinch myself that this is actually happening,” says Ben Fogle as an extraordinary expedition to the Celtic Deep, an area of deep water sitting right between the Cornish Welsh and Irish coasts, gets underway.
Floating behind the ship is 9-metre humpback whale, its life tragically taken when it got caught in lines and drowned.  Since whales were protected in the 1960s, their numbers are on the rise and more and more are being found. 
“When a whale dies, it’s an incredibly important ocean event that feeds thousands of mouths.  In the UK most get taken to landfill,” says whale-fall expert, Nick Higgs. “Now, for the first time in British waters, we are going to find out who comes to the feast.”
En route to the Celtic Deep, Ben takes his first dive in the UK’s first Marine Conservation Zone, 12 miles to the north of Devon. The area is teeming with life and Ben spots his first shark, an egg case with a tiny shark growing inside. It belongs to a nurse-hound, one of our most common sharks that can grow to well over a metre.
The next day Ben Fogle and Ellie Harrison are 50 miles from land with the whale floating behind, mimicking exactly what happens when a whale dies at sea. A 1.5 metre blue shark breaks surface. Travelling from as far away as the east coast of north America, its mostly females and young blues that ride the Gulf Stream east to feed in our rich waters every summer.
“We’ve got two circling!” says Ben as he gets in the water. Blue sharks have been responsible for four recorded fatalities, so the divers need to take care, because with so much food around the sharks are at their most dangerous. Ben watches as more than 15 million calories of whale are slowly being recycled. We see some of the largest blue sharks, at 2.7 metres, ever filmed in British waters. “That was just extraordinary. It’s like another world down there,” says Ben post his first dive.
With numbers increasing hour on hour, next it's Ellie Harrison’s turn to dive. “It’s quite stressful, their behaviour has changed,” says Ellie.  10 minutes in, the blue sharks start bumping the divers - something sharks often do prior to an attack.  The dive is then aborted after safety diver, Lloyd Jones, gets nipped by a shark.
Twenty four hours after arriving in the Celtic Deep the team see more sharks than they could ever imagine.  With the sea now too dangerous for the divers, they deploy a remotely operated camera to watch the sharks from the surface. “This is absolutely breath-taking! Have you ever seen it like this in British waters before?” asks Ben as he watches the sharks live on a monitor. Sharks race in from all directions. Underwater, they’re stacked all the way down to at least 30 metres and viewers witness a major feeding event - one of nature’s great spectacles and happening in UK waters.
As bad weather closes in again, the team have to cut short their expedition and sink the whale.  ‘Whale-fall’ is reached at 86 metres, its final resting place the Celtic Deep.
Now it’s the turn of the creatures living on the seabed. Whale fall expert Nick Higgs leaves a time-lapse camera, which will take a photo every hour for the next six months. He’ll come back to monitor the whale for years to come.