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 they are throwing in some seals and sea otters. And even dolphins and pelicans.
It is for three evenings starting tonight, Aug. 31. The public broadcast station is airing a show with the BBC 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 and a turnaround from severe pollution that reduced 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, said Bill Gardner. He is PBS vice president for programming and development.
Producers and camera operators are already preparing. They have traveled to Mexico to film whales that migrate to Monterey Bay. They also have been to New Zealand for birds that make the long journey over the Pacific Ocean. Ships are being employed. Even drones are being used. They will both keep producers informed about the areas of greatest animal activity.
The BBC is doing its own live broadcasts during the week before U.S. viewers see it. They instigated the project. It made perfect sense for PBS to join in, Gardner said.
"This is live natural history that can engage our audience and it was right in our backyard," he said.
Since no one can be certain that whales will be most active exactly during the broadcasts, stories are being prepared in advance for the quiet times. One story will profile a scientist studying shark migration. Another will picture the bay's revival through the return of sea otters.
The hour-long telecasts 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 transition 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. They are M. Sanjayan who is a senior scientist at Conservation International. Liz Bonnin is a British host of BBC science programming and and Joy Reidenberg who is a marine mammal expert. She has been on PBS shows. A website will stream continuous 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 negative impact on the animals involved. Strict rules govern how close observer boats can get to the whales, for example. And it generally takes that professional help to know where the animals are, Reidenberg said.
"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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