This image released by PBS shows a humpback whale to promote a three-night special called "Big Blue Live," starting Aug. 31. The event is a collaboration with the BBC about marine life in California's Monterey Bay. PBS calls it "one of nature's great reality shows," made possible by the bay's unique geography and a turnaround from severe pollution that curtailed marine life there for many years. (Bertie Gregory/naturepl/PBS via AP)
One of nature’s great reality shows
August 31, 2015
PBS is bringing a live whale watch into the nation's living rooms. And it is throwing in some seals. There will be sea otters. There will also be dolphins. And there will be pelicans.
It is for three evenings. It is starting Aug. 31. The public broadcast station is airing a show with the BBC. The programs will be about marine life in California's Monterey Bay. "Big Blue Live" will have separate East and West Coast feeds.
PBS calls it "one of nature's great reality shows." It is made possible by the bay's unique geography. They bay has undergone a turnaround. Severe pollution had cut marine life there for many years. Nutrients from deep-water canyons flood the bay at this time of year. They turn it into a prime feeding area. That is according to Bill Gardner. He is PBS vice president for programming and development.
Producers and camera operators have been getting ready. They have traveled to Mexico. They are filming whales that migrate to Monterey Bay. They also have been to New Zealand. They are filming birds that make the long journey over the Pacific Ocean. Ships are being used. Drones are being used too. They will help producers see the areas of the greatest animal activity.
The BBC is doing its own live broadcasts. That is during the week before U.S. viewers see it. The BBC started the project. Gardner said tt made perfect sense for PBS to join in.
"This is live natural history. It can engage our audience. And it was right in our backyard," he said.
No one can be sure that whales will be most active right during the broadcasts. So, stories are being prepared in ahead of time. That is for the quiet times. One story will show a scientist studying shark migration. Another will show the bay's rebirth through the return of sea otters.
The telecasts will be an hour-long. They will begin at 8 p.m. on both coasts. That is still late afternoon for West Coast viewers. But it will be getting dark for East Coast prime time. That might mean less live footage for western viewers. But they will also be able to see the switch to nighttime animal activity.
"You can never guarantee anything live," Gardner said. "But we feel that we have hedged our bets. So that we can have something that will keep people riveted."
The U.S. broadcasts have three anchors. M. Sanjayan is a senior scientist at Conservation International. Liz Bonnin is a British host of BBC science programming. And Joy Reidenberg is a marine mammal expert. She has been on PBS shows. A website will stream ongoing live views from the bay. It will be for viewers interested in a deeper dive.
Participants say that all the attention will not have a bad effect on the animals involved. Strict rules say how close watch boats can get to the whales. Reidenberg said it mostly takes that professional help to know where the animals are.
"It is a positive thing because people get to interact with the animals and see them. And the more they see the animals, the more they love the animals. And the more they love the animals, the more they want to protect them," she said.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why is the program called "Big Blue Live?"
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