Education and Communications

How Wildlife Overcame South Georgia’s Haunting Past — Ep. 5 | Wildlife: Resurrection Island

when this place was in full swing a cloud of smoke covered the skies 300 men toiled as thousands of whales lost their lives is Salieri but who started this and how did we get to the point of nearly exterminating the world life from this island how is it possible that life can come back from the dead the island of South Georgia was the scene of one of the worst wildlife massacres in history species driven to near extinction the whaling stations were abandoned this is an awe-inspiring story of how if given the chance Nature can bounce back on a scale you’re not going to believe my name’s Bertie Gregory and I’m a National Geographic wildlife filmmaker this is Resurrection Island five or six days sailing ahead of us 870 miles cause stuff on the bar and hotter pontoon we’re on our way this is the story of our adventure to South Georgia once devastated but now home to one of the highest concentrations of wild life on the planet Amy I can’t wait to see living proof that it’s not too late to save wild places but I thought that was bad now we’ve hit the Antarctic circumpolar current the largest wind driven currents on earth with sudden shifts in temperature and visibility Wow 34 and we bumped into this really weird eerie sea fog and you know it’s fine for us imagine what it must have been like for the first people coming to South Georgia somebody up the bow maybe someone up the mast just spying for icebergs the extreme winds and colds here a huge deterrents for human life but the ACC actually creates the perfect conditions for wildlife the current is very nutrient-rich and the underwater topography surrounding South Georgia channels these nutrients up to the surface kicking off a food chain bonanza [Music] this is nuts we’re in the middle of nowhere and a couple of dolphins have come to play in the foul way [Music] everything’s starting to get wilder and Wilder all good indications that were getting a bit closer to laughs there it is it doesn’t look real cold and desolate in the south glaciers miles and the North coveting grass as tall as a human [Music] when Captain Cook first arrived here in 1775 he thought he had finally found Antarctica but after rounding the southern tip he realized it was just an island he was so angry he even named it Cape Disappointment he said and I quote doomed by nature to perpetual frigid nests never to fill the warmth of the sun’s rays whose horrible and savage aspects I have not words to describe must of the raining or something because it looks pretty neutral to me a not so funny consequence of Captain Cook’s findings was that he sent word back to England that the place was packed full of seals the first boats arrived just a few years later living conditions were terrible but hey business was great a hundred and twelve thousand pelts in one season alone by the 20th century The Wailers had followed suit boats got bigger and so did their captures the largest whale ever recorded on our planet was the 33 meter a hundred and ten foot long female blue whale she was processed in the brand-new station of grouper Caen in 1912 [Music] South Georgia became the principal location for all land-based whaling in the southern hemisphere 300 men were sent here they brought their families they played football they built a church over a hundred and seventy-five thousand whales were killed seals depleted from millions to just four hundred individuals and the boats brought an invasion of egg-eating rats that ran riot through the bird colonies it’s so eerie and to think that we had the understanding that there’s only so hard you can push populations of whales and seals but we just kept work we just kept going and going and going because it was all about short-term economic gain not long-term sustainability hunted to extinction whaling became financially enviable one by one the stations were shut down all this destruction forced us to reckon today South Georgia is a protected area the biggest island rat eradication program in history was launched and the island was declared rat-free in 2018 many of the birds have bounced back in big numbers fur seals have sprung back from just four hundred to over three million this contrast sums up south Georgia this place was once all about death now it’s jam-packed full of life have rebounded in just unbelievable proportion things are definitely better now but South Georgia faces a new set of threats the warming climate and changing ocean currents have major repercussions for the wildlife here like forcing mat penguins to forage further from their breeding Islands the longline fishing industry needs international cooperation to save species that stray from protected waters but the resurrection is not quite finished southern right whales are one of the longest living animals and so there’s a good chance that one of these whales was alive whilst whaling was going on on South Georgia so to know that they’re now coming back and they’re having a go at some mating it’s great news for the whales great news for South Georgia and obviously great news for the whole concept of a second chance let’s make sure we give more of our wild places a second chance [Music] [Applause] [Music] you [Music] [Music]
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