Into the Wild New Zealand (2022) s01e04 Episode Script

Ocean Legacy

Two great
ocean wanderers
return to New Zealand,
the land of their birth,
on a quest to start
the next generation.
The coming year will be a
great struggle, to have their young
and raise them until they
are able to fend for themselves
in the enormous southern seas.
This is the pinnacle
of their life cycle.
This is their ocean legacy.
A male northern
royal albatross has not
set foot on solid ground
for more than a year.
Now, he is coming
home, taiaroa head,
a rocky, windswept
headland in the chilly depths
of New Zealand's south island.
With a wingspan
stretching more than 10 feet,
he's one of the
largest birds on earth.
His rigid wings are built
to soar vast distances
on the powerful air currents
that wrap around Antarctica,
not for landing on a precarious
headland in high winds.
He uses his large
webbed feet as air brakes
and his tail as a rudder.
After 13 months and
around 120,000 miles,
finally, he's home.
He was born here.
And taiaroa head is
probably the only ground
he'll ever touch in his life
span of more than 45 years.
It's not only his
homeland that he's loyal to.
He's waiting here for his mate.
He hasn't seen her
in more than a year.
Only death or failure
to raise offspring
will break the couple apart.
The albatross's return signals
the onset of breeding season.
All around him is the clamor of
established couples reaffirming
their bonds and young albatross
in their first breeding year
competing for partners.
They groom to form bonds.
Beak clapping is also a
favored courtship ritual.
Choosing a life partner
is a serious business.
And tempers can run high.
For the lone male, all he
can do is wait and hope
that his partner will reappear
from the perilous
southern ocean.
Taiaroa head lies on
New Zealand's east coast.
It's buffeted by weather
from all directions.
The strong winds
give these latitudes
the nickname, the roaring 40s.
But this wild coast lies close
to vast submarine canyons,
where nutritious upwellings
promote incredible sea life.
It makes a great breeding
spot for all kinds of animals.
For this male new
Zealand fur seal,
spring is the time of bedding.
This is what he
is fighting for
A rocky bay, where
around 15 females
have chosen to have their pups.
After pupping, they'll
come into season.
Until then, he'll have
to hold this territory
if he wants to mate with them.
The beach master weighs
in at a massive 330 pounds.
At nine years old, he's
something of a prodigy.
Most males don't reach their
prime until around 10 or 11.
Jealous eyes are
always watching,
waiting for their
moment to challenge him.
This male is a teenager
in fur seal terms,
and not yet ready to
challenge the beach master.
But his hormones
are driving him to try
his luck with the females.
He sneaks in at the
edge of the territory.
The females
vigorously reject him.
They are heavily pregnant.
And the beach master
drives the point home.
But the sneaky challenger
hasn't given up quite yet.
The demands of dominance
are constant and exhausting.
And the challenges will
become more formidable
as the season progresses.
Taiaroa head is an odd place
to find an albatross colony.
They're nesting only a few
miles from the city of dunedin,
at the mouth of a busy harbor.
But the abundant food from
the nearby submarine canyons
keeps them coming back.
The male albatross is still
waiting for his mate to return.
If she has been claimed
by the southern ocean,
he'll eventually abandoned
this year's breeding season
and leave taiaroa
head, returning
in between one and seven
years to search for a new mate.
Finally, the male
hears a familiar call.
His partner has returned.
They breed only
once every two years.
So it's been more than a year
since they've seen each other.
This is a mature couple,
with many breeding
seasons behind them.
They don't spend too much
time on courtship rituals.
And soon, they get
down to business.
The female will lay her
single egg about a week
after fertilization.
Until then, feeding and
nest building are the priority.
It's December, summer in
the southern hemisphere.
And pupping season is now
underway at the fur seal colony.
Small bundles of
fluff and blubber
are wriggling all
over the rocks.
But one female is
having a hard time.
She has been struggling
to give birth for seven hours.
And if she can't deliver
soon, both she and the pup
are in serious danger.
The young beach master
keeps a close eye on his females.
They come in to heat around
nine days after giving birth.
He's close to reaching his goal.
But nine days is a long
time to hold territory.
The pressure is building.
As mating gets
closer, bigger males
will begin to challenge him.
Tragedy has
struck for the female
that had the difficult labor.
The pup suffocated
in the birth canal.
But what mother nature takes
from one she gives to another.
The nearby gull colonies
rely on the nutrition
supplied by the 50% of
pups that die in their first year.
Her neighbor has had better
luck, a perfect male pup.
They learn each
other's smell and call,
so they can find each
other on the chaotic beach.
He faces a life of
battle and hardship.
He will spend the next
10 years growing strong
enough to challenge for his
own territory, for the chance
to father pups of
his own, and seen
his genes off into the future.
At taiaroa head,
the albatross nest
now holds a precious cargo.
Working in shifts,
the couple never
leaves the egg unattended.
Royal albatross have one of
the longest incubation periods
of all birds, about 11 weeks.
And that time is almost up.
The male returns from feeding.
It's now his partner's
turn to go to sea.
She seems reluctant,
but finally leaves.
Albatross need the
right conditions to lift off.
Males can weigh up to 22
pounds and females around 17.
So wind is crucial
to get them airborne.
The grace that she
lacks on land is more than
made up for in the air.
Special tendons in her
shoulder lock her wings in place.
All she needs to do is glide.
She seldom flaps her wings.
Instead, she uses
them like sails
that harness the air currents
and reaches speeds of
over 70 miles per hour.
She skims the water using
her incredible sense of smell
to search for prey
near the surface,
before landing and
plucking them from the water.
Back on land, the albatross
male is also hard at work.
Incubation is a subtle art,
especially on taiaroa head.
The climate here is warmer
than at most albatross colonies.
And his egg runs the
risk of overheating.
The male rolls the egg over
to even out the temperature.
Finally, the sound
he's been waiting for.
A brand new albatross
chick sees the world
for the very first time.
But cracking the
eggshell is hard work,
even with the help
of a special egg tooth
on the tip of its beak.
The father does not assist.
It's nature's way of
weeding out the weak.
Late in the day,
the hole in the egg
isn't much bigger than
it was in the morning.
If the chick doesn't
manage to break free,
its life will be over
before it begins.
The male seal pup
is only a few days old.
But he's all alone.
His mother has left
him to go hunting.
The beach is full of dangers.
Each body tells
its own grim story.
Enormous males leave
victims in their wake.
They are completely
heedless of the pups
as they compete for territory.
And as time for
mating approaches,
the violence intensifies.
At sea his mother
hunts around the clock.
Squid and octopus come
to the surface at night
and are the favored food.
But many types of fish
might also be taken.
But while she hunts,
she must also be cautious.
Many predators
stalk these waters,
including great white sharks.
Starvation is the
greatest killer of pups.
This pup stays close to
where his mother left him,
the safest option, usually.
A female approaches.
But this is not his mother.
It is the cow that
had the stillborn pup.
Perhaps driven by her
frustrated maternal instinct,
or even grief, she is intent
on kidnapping the pup.
Despite the objections
of the neighbors,
she carries him away from
where his mother left him.
But help is at hand,
from an unlikely source.
The young beach master
comes to the rescue.
He's not here to save the pup.
He wants to mate
with the female.
But she's not ready.
To evade the male, she
eventually abandons the pup.
He now finds himself
alone and disoriented.
His mother finally
returns from the sea.
Her pup is nowhere to be seen.
She calls for him.
But the beach is chaos.
So many mothers, so many
pups, and a cacophony of calls.
Then she hears a familiar sound.
The short time
they've spent together
has been enough to
create a recognition
that rises above the din.
Mother and pup are reunited.
They settle down to nurse.
The albatross female
returns from fishing.
Finally, she gets a glimpse,
a tiny female hatchling.
Even though it's the
first time they've met,
the chick may well
recognize the mother's call
from while she was
still inside the shell.
The enormous beak, powerful
enough to crush crustaceans
and overpower squid
becomes a grooming tool
of the utmost delicacy.
But there's little
time for bonding.
The amount of food the
chick will need is enormous.
The male immediately heads
off on the next fishing expedition.
The chick
instinctively taps the tip
of the mother's bill to
stimulate the feeding instinct.
And its first meal is served.
The albatross version
of mother's milk
is a mixture of seafood
and stomach oil.
It's already partially digested.
And the young chick
can easily break it down.
It is now a week since the
females began to give birth.
And they're due to come
under heat at any time.
The young beach master
senses that his time is near.
He is constantly
checking the females
to see if they're ready.
But another huge
male approaches.
He is in his prime, a little
older than the beach master.
Often posturing is enough
to settle a confrontation.
But these two seem
evenly matched.
There is only one way to
find out which is stronger.
They joust, sinking their
teeth into each other's necks.
The flesh is thick, adapted
for this kind of combat.
The beach master is
shoved over a small ledge,
giving the challenger
a chance to latch
onto more sensitive skin.
He makes the most
of the opportunity.
There is a new
master on this beach.
The new beach master has
timed his arrival perfectly.
The male pup's mother
has come into estrus.
She will only be
receptive for 24 hours.
The beach master's nose
leads him straight to her.
They will mate for
as long as 30 minutes.
The new beach master
must only hold his territory
for the next few days.
And he will have a
good chance of mating
with all of the females.
With his mother occupied,
the young pup wanders away,
a dangerous move
for a pup his age.
He wanders down
to the water's edge.
He seems curious
about the strange element
that will govern his life.
For the first time he
glimpses the underwater world.
Instinctively he
slides into the pool.
His swimming is clumsy.
And he can only hold his
breath for a few seconds.
There is so much to learn.
But this is the world
he was born for.
The water carries his
weight, gives him freedom.
The albatross have
found a steady rhythm.
One guards the nest while
the other goes out to feed.
The chick needs to
grow from 10 ounces
to close to 17 pounds
in just over eight months.
The chick is doing well.
But mom is not providing
as much food as she ought to.
The mother might be
sick or carrying an injury.
If the chick loses her now,
the chances of survival are slim.
The drama of
breeding season is over.
All of the mating occurred
in less than two weeks.
The females will not be
in season for another year.
So the beach master
has no reason to stay.
It's been a successful
breeding season.
But he hasn't fed
since coming ashore
more than eight weeks ago.
He needs to replenish
the blubber he has lost
before winter arrives.
For the two-month-old
pup, a shallow rock pool
is his playpen while
his mother is at sea.
He's building his strength
and swimming technique.
His first step to independence.
It's April.
And the southern
seasons shift again.
Autumn has come to taiaroa head.
The albatross chick
now weighs 13 pounds.
Her energy demands are so
high that both parents are forced
to leave her in search of food.
She's able to eat over
four pounds at each sitting.
Her mother returns.
But even after
foraging for days,
she's only able to
provide a small meal.
This chick is ravenous.
Just 15 minutes after
landing, she takes off again.
The chicks survival hinges
on the father providing
much more than her share.
At the seal colony, the
young male and his friends
are now a lot more rambunctious.
Even at such a young
age, his territorial instincts
are taking shape.
A yearling strays
into the pup's pool.
The pup's new teeth are sharp.
And they make it
clear he's not welcome.
The young pup is venturing a
lot closer to the open sea now.
But he's still not
confident enough to dive in.
It is July at taiaroa head.
And the cold of
winter has drawn in.
Icy winds and waves
batter the exposed headland.
For the seven-month-old
albatross chick,
this is a time of change.
She is beginning to
replace her fluffy down
with tougher flight feathers.
She will need to take to
the skies in two months
if she is to survive
her first year.
But before she can fly,
she has to lose weight.
Because at more than 17 pounds,
she's actually heavier
than her mother,
too heavy to get airborne.
Exercise helps.
She is building the
strength she needs.
She instinctively
faces into the wind,
feeling its power in her wings,
the updraft she will need when
the big moment finally arrives.
Her father returns
with another meal.
But the chick's
mother is missing.
She hasn't made an
appearance in over two weeks.
The father has been working
overtime to fill the void.
It's likely the mother
will never return.
If the chick had
been much younger,
this setback would
have been disastrous.
And taiaroa head would
have lost one more female.
But at this stage in her life,
she can cope with
being fed less often.
For the father it's
a massive blow.
It is time for him to head
back to the southern seas.
He will return to taiaroa head.
But it might take years
before he finds another mate.
The chick is now well
and truly on her own.
Back at the bay, the pup
is now seven months old.
And he's ready for an adventure.
It seems he and a
friend are going on a hike.
They follow a trickle of fresh
water and head upstream.
The forest is soon
thick around them.
And they are now hundreds
of yards from the sea.
They have never been
this far from their colony.
But it seems this is
a well-traveled path.
A pool formed by
cascading freshwater,
much deeper and less fickle
than the tidal pools at the coast.
The play is more boisterous now.
They chase each other
like they are pursuing prey
or fleeing predators.
And the males tussle.
They are learning
the moves they will
need one day to compete
for territory on this very coast.
They are learning who
is strong and who is weak,
already beginning to decide
who will be a future beach master.
It's September.
And spring is in the air in
New Zealand's wild south.
For the young albatross,
time is running out.
It's been more than a
month since she last fed.
She's been exercising her
wings and has a full complement
of flight feathers.
Hunger must be driving her.
Perhaps her incredible
sense of smell
detects the familiar
scent of the squid
her parents fed her on the
wind that blows in from the sea.
She has slimmed down
to the perfect weight.
240 days since she
hatched, she's ready.
Down at the water's
edge, the young seal also
feels the pull of the open sea.
The big moment is approaching.
The young albatross
tests her powerful wings.
Perhaps the moment is right.
It's been nine months
since they entered this world.
The seal waits for
the perfect wave,
And the albatross for
the perfect gust of wind.
A new world welcomes them.
And one day, like their
parents, they will return
to pursue their
own ocean legacy.
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