Back with Will Smith (“Fresh Prince”, “Seven Pounds”), and director Darren Aronofsky (“Black Swan”, “The Wrestler”) for their series, Welcome To Earth, and this time it’s swarms.
Turns out that, many years ago, Will saw a photo in a National Geographic magazine of the Wildebeest migration. Some 1.5 million animals travelling 300 miles across the Serengeti.
Will is with George Steinmetz, an American wildlife photographer. They look at the Wildebeest through night vision goggles and can see them moving in the dark, but here’s the thing, they don’t see so well and aren’t so intelligent, so how are they doing it?
As usual with Welcome To Earth, we see other parts of nature to make the point. This time we are in Nepal and the world’s largest Honey Bee and the collectors of the nectar, hanging in bare feet from rope ladders.
When our man goes up, he’s a little more protected, but what he wants to show us is the ‘shimmer’. There are up to 100,000 bees in a single hive and if he moves his hand or foot close to them, the whole thing shimmers.
It’s the bees way of protecting themselves, making them look larger than they actually are. We see a similar thing with the Wildebeest. Not so much a shimmer, but when a predator approaches they all scatter, as one.
There are some rules to a swarm: one – don’t get too far away from your neighbour, two – don’t get too close either and three – if your neighbour turns, you turn.
Nothing illustrates this better than seeing thousands of Starlings, moving at up to 40 miles per hour, in perfect harmony through the sky. No accidents, and all within close proximity, a bird in front, behind, above and below.
As we go back to the Wildebeest the boys are after the big shot, the one George really wants to get, is of them crossing the Mara River. Filled with Crocodiles and fast flowing water, it’s the most dangerous part of the migration and difficult to capture as they have a few crossing points they use, it’s a suicide mission in many cases.
Will thinks he’s got lucky when they catch one Wildebeest cross, but it doesn’t get far before a Croc gets it. None of the other ‘beest followed, watching their companion from the sides.
We head to the Solomon Islands and see the extraordinary Flashlight Fish. This thing can make their cheeks light up, but it takes enough of them, all lighting up in the same direction at the same time, for the swarm to happen.
It’s the same with the Wildebeest, it’s not enough that one or two go, lots need to go and then they all go.
A great episode of Welcome To Earth, Will is loving it, fulfilling a lifelong ambition to see this migration. Once again the cinematography is outstanding as is the sound from Daniel Pemberton. Just wait till you see the Slime Mold, it’s like an alien species.
8th December 2021
THE QUICK SELL
Thirty years ago, Will Smith was mesmerized by a photo of the incredible wildebeest migration across the Serengeti in a National Geographic magazine. Now he visits those same wildebeests and discovers an amazing survival strategy.
TV / STREAMING PLATFORM