`Blue Planet' plumbs depths of seven seas

TV preview

January 26, 2002|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

Amazingly, we know more about the surface of the moon than about the surface of the ocean.

But Blue Planet, an eight-part look at the Earth's oceans debuting at 9 p.m. tomorrow on the Discovery Channel, could change that. It's not hard to imagine scores of youngsters, their curiosities piqued by the incredible images and fascinating stories being told onscreen, vowing to become oceanographers when they grow up. And with such enthusiasm do great explorations begin.

Blue Planet wastes no time in capturing viewers' attention, opening with the big boys: rare shots of mammoth blue whales cruising near the ocean surface. (Amazingly, given that these are the largest creatures ever to roam the planet, scientists know precious little about them.) Narrator David Attenborough, whose own wildlife series (The Living Planet, Life On Earth) set the standard that Blue Planet matches, notes that the blue whale's heart is the size of a car, that it eats up to 40 million krill a day and some blood vessels are so huge, you could swim down them.

In just that first hour, "Ocean World," shows photographs of fierce-looking hammerhead sharks being groomed by smaller fish that feed off the bacteria and other bits of flotsam clinging to the shark's skin; 500,000 albatross feeding off the waters surrounding an island near the Falklands; and vast clouds of plankton, the tiny crustaceans that serve as the basis for the oceanic food chain. Much of the footage in the series, which took five years to put together, is of animals and behavior never before documented on film.

Incredible photography dominates the series' first four parts, which air from 9 p.m.-11 p.m. tomorrow and Monday. (Part 4, "The Deep," with its deep-sea creatures that appear to be straight out of a horror movie, is especially impressive). Although Attenborough's involvement was restricted to narration, this feels just like one of his own productions - the highest praise that could be paid any wildlife series.

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