Dolphins – Spy in the Pod
Air date: Episode 2 8pm Thursday 9th January, 2014 on BBC 1
Narrated by: David Tennant
Making of Dolphins – Spy in the Pod
For the series, 900 hours of intimate behaviour were recorded over the course of 1 year, in countries as diverse as Mozambique, Canada, Florida, South Carolina, Honduras, Costa Rica, Australia, South Africa and Argentina.
Dolphins are highly intelligent and often nervous in the wild, making them hard to approach. This makes filming their intimate behaviour extremely difficult; especially as they are always on the move.
The Spy Creatures were designed to infiltrate the dolphins’ hidden lives by looking like the marine creatures a dolphin might encounter in their everyday lives. The intention wasn’t to fool them, they’re far too clever for that! These novel devices tweaked the curiosity of the dolphin pods, encouraging the dolphins to let them into their lives, allowing them to capture behaviour that has never been seen before.
Working alongside the spy creatures was an elite team of underwater cameramen who not only filmed them in action but also helped maintain and operate them below the surface. In the course of the filming period, they dived over 1500 times and spent nearly 3000 hours at sea filming with the Spy Creatures and dolphins in all weathers. Over half of the filming took place via free diving (as opposed to using scuba gear), in depths ranging from shallow coral reefs to nearly 70 feet deep!
The Spy Creatures:
Each Spy Creature was intended to fulfill a different role and habitat within the marine world, and get the kind of shots that were impossible for the crew to capture with conventional underwater cameras. They allowed the Spy team to follow the dolphin activity no matter where they went or what they did- whether it was above the surface or just below, around a coral reef or diving into the depths.
The bottlenose dolphins had a special affection for the Spy Pufferfish and Spy Nautilus, often balancing them on their noses or chins and bouncing them like footballs. Spy Nautilus was once hit so hard by a boisterous young male it flooded and sunk to the bottom, but its cameras kept rolling.
Tunacam had complete motor failure at a depth of nearly 40 metres. It would have sunk into the deep abyss if the cameraman hadn’t abandoned filming to dive in after him!
Spy Squid was the only Spy Creature to be damaged beyond repair, finally losing his tentacles to a huge Potato Cod.
Spy Turtle spies on a pod of bottlenose dolphins
In Mozambique, the Spy Creatures follow the story of a newborn bottlenose dolphin and, for the first time, show what it’s like to grow up in a dolphin pod. Alongside his mother, baby experiences a mysterious gathering of stingrays and then watches the pod as they hunt huge kingfish. He soon gets to grips with his sonar and discovers the knack of ridding himself of pesky suckerfish.
Nearby a pod of male dolphins live a playboy lifestyle; playing chicken with a supertanker, visiting a coral health spa and surfing the waves with SpySquid.
The Spy Creatures also capture many other extraordinary events such as dolphins using mud rings to catch fish and the incredible courtship rituals of bottlenose dolphins as they woo females with bouquets of seaweed.
In Costa Rica, Spy Dolphin and Spy Tuna encounter spinner dolphins. These extraordinary animals perform incredible corkscrew leaps andcongregate in huge gatherings known as superpods. The Spy Creatures film one of the greatest and rarest sights in nature as two superpods come together to create a megapod comprised of thousands of individuals. They also join the spinners as they hunt huge shoals of lanternfish, while dodging the gaping mouths of giant rays
There’s humour too when Spy Turtle catches real turtles in an amorous close encounter and Spy Squid comes face to face with a hungry potato bass.
Bottlenose Dolphins Pass the Puffer
The adventures continue as a young male leaves the security of his mother’s pod to set up life alone. He forms a strange friendship with a humpback dolphin, joins a teenage gang and discovers the narcotic effects of a hapless pufferfish. In Australia, the Spy Creatures encounter dolphins that appear to have taken to wearing hats as well as those that travel so fast they hydroplane across the water surface. In South Carolina, Spy Dolphin joins a pod that have learnt to safely strand themselves on mud banks as they drive fish shoals ashore.
The King of the Dolphins, the Orca, shows us the value of family life as they use shock and awe tactics to catch fish, and speed and stealth to pursue the fastest dolphin in the world – Dall’s porpoise. In Patagonia, their family skills reach a peak as they drive themselves ashore chasing sea lion pups.
In the Caribbean, a real life dolphin secret agent carries its own spy cameras into the pod, to uncover the mysteries of dolphin interactions and communication.
In this extraordinary undersea voyage into the dolphin’s world, much of the behaviour has never been seen before. Seen though the camera eyes of thirteen different Spy Creatures this is dolphins up close and irresistible.
Behind the Scenes
Perfect replicas of these ancient denizens of the deep. Each with miniature HD cameras for eyes and a miniature jet turbine inside for propulsion, blasting water out of a small siphon below the tentacles. They are gentle and slow, creeping up and remaining passive and gentle when encountering marine creatures.
Spy Tuna can accelerate to over 15 mph and dive to 25 metres. Its unique jet-propulsion system is completely internal and safe to any marine animals that get too close. It has a large HD camera in his mouth and two miniature HD cameras in its eyes giving all-round vision when inside a dolphin pod. The camera in its mouth feeds back a live picture to the operator who can adjust its direction accordingly. Spy Tuna has adjustable pectoral fins at the front and a steerable tail rudder at the back.
The most versatile surface surveillance Spy Creature. Capable of filming both above and below the water with its articulated, robotic neck and miniature HD cameras for eyes. Spy Turtle is powered by the same bespoke jet drive propulsion system as Spy Tuna, and can be sent right into the heart of the action.
A duo of Spy Creatures that stick together and lurk around reefs and shallows. Their shape and colour attract real shoaling fish allowing them to blend in with the marine background without raising suspicion or attracting attention. They too have miniature HD cameras in either their eyes or mouth. Working as a double act they have all angles covered.
A state of the art ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) with a baby dolphin’s body built around it. It too possesses HD cameras as its eyes, as well as a two-way hydrophone and speaker system which allows it to record dolphin sounds and then play them straight back again – engaging the dolphins in conversation.Its outward appearance always intrigues the dolphins, encouraging them to stop for a closer look at this stranger in their midst!
A cheeky, quirky character with miniature HD cameras in both eyes, jet propelled with rapid bursts of compressed air and water to propel him along. His rapid bursts of speed can send him off-course, sometimes landing him in tricky situations but always able to capture amazing material of dolphins at play.
A stationary giant clam with shells that open to reveal an array of miniature HD cameras, offering a unique vertical view. It also has a bespoke bubble machine which attracts and allures the dolphins to take a closer look. It also acts as remote mothership for the nautilus.
A surface only Spy Creature that can be rapidly deployed and reach speeds of 15 miles per hour. It has mini HD cameras for eyes and powerful internal electric motors. The topside counterpart of Spy Tuna, it takes over when other Spy creatures can’t keep up with the fast pacing action.