Press Centre

Martin Clunes Islands of America

  • Episode:

    4 of 4

  • Transmission (TX):

    Tue 26 Feb 2019

  • TX Confirmed


  • Time

    9.00pm - 10.00pm

  • Week:

    Week 09 2019 : Sat 23 Feb - Fri 01 Mar

  • Channel:


  • Published:

    Mon 11 Feb 2019

The information contained herein is embargoed from all Press, online, social media, non-commercial publication or syndication - in the public domain - until Tuesday 19 February 2019.


Series overview


 “Everyone has an image of America: A land of big shops, bright lights and asphalt highways stretching right across the continent. But there is another America – and I set out to find it.”  Martin Clunes


Martin Clunes embarks on an epic journey around the coast of America to discover what life is like on the surrounding islands for a new documentary series for ITV, Islands of America. 


Following the successful series on the Islands of Britain and Is-lands of Australia, Martin has developed a fascination for the unique quality and appeal of island life, often in the most remote places on the planet.


This time he sets off on a 10,000 mile journey, from the west to the east,  to explore the vast swathe of islands which are scat-tered beyond America’s shores. He travels from Hawaii’s islands of fire and Alaska’s islands of snow and ice, to the playgrounds of presidents off the New England coast.



Martin says: “I wanted to look beyond corporate America and dis-cover the other United States, out past the mainland margins, and what life is like on these unique and diverse islands.


“On this island journey I meet men and women who’ve lived through many of nature’s worst extremes. And it seems one thing they all share is a profound wisdom about these challenges.”


Episode 4


Martin arrives in New York for the final leg of his journey to explore Manhattan Island, and its world famous Empire State Building, and nearby Ellis Island. 


With special access to the very top of the Empire State Building, Martin is able to see the city’s 500 miles of coastline and more than 40 islands.


“From up here you can clearly see how New York has been shaped by the water,” Martin says. But with no head for heights, and being 1000 feet up with only a handrail at hip height he found the experience “frankly terrifying”.


Safely back on the ground Martin takes the ferry to Ellis Island to where one in three Americans can trace their roots. The island opened in 1892 as an immigration centre for those arriving in the US by sea.


Park ranger and guide Doug Treem takes Martin into the Grand Hall on the island where the fate of millions of families was decided. He sets a mental agility test for Martin as the immigrants would have had to do if their were any doubts about their suitability.


More than nine out of ten immigrants passed the citizenship test to enable them to begin new lives in America. Among them were 62 people sharing the same surname as Martin. 


Coney Island, home to the world’s most iconic amusement park, is Martin’s next port of call. Since its opening in 1920 it has become a New York City landmark, and several of the rides have become stars in their own right.


Martin is cajoled into trying some of the rides with his guide, Brooklyn born teacher Richard Rodriguez. When he was 19, in 1977, Richard got his name in the Guinness Book of Records for the world’s longest rollercoaster marathon - 104 hours, 2375 times, pausing only for bathroom breaks.


Richard persuades a reluctant Martin to go on the vintage rollercoaster, the Cyclone. Travelling at speeds up to 60 miles an hour from dizzying heights is not something Martin wants to repeat, and he is only too relieved to be back on the boardwalk.


From one iconic playground to another - next stop, 200 miles from New York, Martha’s Vineyard. Seven miles off the mainland Martha’s Vineyard is a magnet for holidaymakers and a playground for the wealthy.


Martin cycles around the harbour in Edgartown where scenes for the blockbuster film Jaws were shot 40 years ago. Just up the coast - near the island of Monomoy, in Cape Cod – work is 

being done to try and rehabilitate the great white shark’s terrifying image.


Martin sets sail in a small boat with senior marine biologist Dr Greg Skomal, who runs a conservation project aiming to improve our understanding of these frightening, but majestic, creatures. 


When Jaws was filmed in the 1970s, shark sightings in these waters were pretty rare. But since then, their numbers have risen dramatically because there are plenty of seals for sharks to eat. The problem is that the shark’s hunting grounds are also popular with holidaymakers. Despite warning signs on the beaches, people will still take their chances in the sea.


As Martin and Dr Greg were patrolling they spot a great white shark near a popular bathing beach, and immediately alert the lifeguards to get people out of the water.

Martin says: “In just a few hours, we’ve encountered 12 great whites. It is exhilarating – but also a bit alarming.”


The final place on Martin’s epic island journey is Maine, America’s most easterly state, with hundreds of islands off its coast. He boards the Sunbeam support ship, a charitable mission which has been running for more than a hundred years, offering help to the most isolated island communities. The ship’s crew includes a nurse, a chaplain, an engineer and a steward, who organise everything from coffee mornings to counselling, and care for the communities’ physical, mental and spiritual needs. 


The Isle au Haut is Martin’s last island stop. The crew of the Sunbeam support ship prepare a massive breakfast for the islanders, providing a chance for one of America’s most isolated communities to catch up. Martin meets the children from the island’s primary school to discover what life is like for them on this isolated community.


Martin concludes: “It seems right to finish my journey here with these children – they’re the future of this island. And seeing them enjoy the simple pleasures of island life will stay with me for a very long time.”


The series producer is Ian Leese, who also directs episodes one and three. Tom McCarthy produces and directs episodes two and four.  The executive producers are Bill Jones and Philippa Braithwaite.