Our Great National Parks (2022) s01e04 Episode Script

Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, USA

1 [tranquil music plays.]
When I was a kid, this was my playground.
The Pacific Ocean, the world's largest and deepest.
It inspires awe, wonder, and sometimes even fear.
Our oceans are as critical to our survival as the air we breathe.
Around the world, we have protected close to 8% of these waters.
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is an example of that.
Stretching along a quarter of California's coastline, from San Francisco in the north, to Big Sur in the south this unique reserve protects more than 6,000 square miles of the Pacific Ocean.
[birds squawking.]
It's a hot spot for visitors from migrating wildlife, to the tourists who come to see them.
Monterey's rich waters are a huge draw, even for the biggest animal of all time.
The magnificent blue whale.
[dramatic music plays.]
All this natural wonder right on California's doorstep.
[dramatic music continues.]
But can protected places and millions of people coexist? [dramatic music continues.]
Could there be a future for wild spaces where, alongside all of us, nature still thrives? [dramatic music swells.]
[birds squawking.]
Each season in Monterey Bay creates its own dramatic story.
The toughest time of all is winter.
It's December at Point Año Nuevo towards the northern end of the sanctuary.
[tranquil music plays.]
These remote sand dunes are reserved for California's most charismatic visitor.
[tranquil music continues.]
Northern elephant seals named for their long snouts, which males flaunt to attract a mate.
[tranquil music continues.]
[elephant seals snort.]
But at this time of year, the females have other things on their minds.
Each mom usually gives birth to a single pup.
[elephant seal croaks.]
[elephant seals squeal.]
This one is just four weeks old and already weighs 300 pounds.
All thanks to his mother's milk.
[tranquil music plays.]
At 55% fat, it's some of the richest in the animal kingdom.
But producing such nutritious milk comes at a cost.
After a month on the beach, his mom has given all she can.
[tranquil music continues.]
She must return to the sea to feed herself never to return to him.
[elephant seal croaks.]
For the first time in his life, this pup is on his own.
He's big enough to be weaned, but he's still hungry.
[elephant seals squeal.]
Being abandoned is a trial that every pup must face.
Most of these weaners now fast until they're old enough to hunt for themselves.
But once in a while, a pup comes along that is not prepared to accept his fate [suspenseful music plays.]
and attempts to pull off a milk heist.
[suspenseful music continues.]
It will call for cunning and deception.
[suspenseful music continues.]
And the ability to go in under the radar.
[suspenseful music continues.]
Easier said than done.
[jaunty music plays.]
All he has to do is bump this pup out of the way.
[elephant seal croaks.]
[dramatic music plays.]
[elephant seal croaks.]
[elephant seal squeals.]
Maybe he could use a distraction.
Luckily for him fights regularly break out between the two-ton males.
[elephant seals growl.]
[suspenseful music plays.]
Almost there.
[suspenseful music continues.]
He can't afford to get caught in the crossfire.
[suspenseful music continues.]
[elephant seal screeches.]
[suspenseful music crescendos.]
[elephant seal squeals.]
[elephant seal squeals.]
It's a lucky escape.
Around one in 40 youngsters die from being crushed every year.
As peace returns and the colony settle down for a snooze [elephant seal snores.]
he spots a soft target.
[suspenseful music plays.]
If he doesn't wake up Mom.
[suspenseful music continues.]
Easy does it.
[suspenseful music continues.]
[suspenseful music crescendos.]
Success! Mom hasn't seen the switch and drives her own youngster away.
This young criminal mastermind gets away with another round of feeding.
And a head start when he first goes to sea in spring.
[tranquil music plays.]
Only about one in a thousand pups masters this sneaky strategy.
Those that pull it off become so enormous that scientists call them super weaners.
[elephant seal squeals.]
But for most, winter in Monterey means there is less food to go around.
And in the vast, open expanse of the sanctuary, finding the next meal is never easy.
[dramatic music plays.]
These supremely intelligent killer whales are the ocean's top predators.
[dramatic music continues.]
They live in close family groups.
This pod relies on the wisdom of their experienced matriarch [dramatic music continues.]
named Star by the researchers who study her.
One of Star's daughters is pregnant.
Orca have calves about every five years.
So it's more important than ever that they find food, and soon.
A lone California sea lion.
[suspenseful music plays.]
[suspenseful music intensifies.]
A much-needed meal for Star and her pregnant daughter.
[joyful music plays.]
Their celebration helps strengthen the family bonds.
[joyful music continues.]
But this kill won't keep them going for long.
Star must lead her family in the search for more.
It's not just the lack of food that makes winter such a tough time here.
As the swell rolls in it meets the sanctuary's shallow coastal waters.
[dramatic music plays.]
It becomes one of the biggest and best-known waves in the world.
[dramatic music continues.]
Epic for surfers.
[dramatic music continues.]
But the waves' relentless power can make the coast an exhausting place to live.
Although there are places to find shelter if you know where to look.
Monterey's man-made harbors were once home to commercial fleets that stripped the ocean of its wildlife on an industrial scale.
[tranquil music plays.]
Many species, from sardines to the great whales, came close to extinction.
In 1992, Monterey Bay was declared a national marine sanctuary.
Now these same harbors offer some respite.
[tranquil music continues.]
A place to relax.
[birds squawking.]
And recover.
[tranquil music continues.]
The southern sea otter.
Once hunted for their pelts, their numbers fell as low as 50.
[sea otter squeaks.]
Now protected, the sanctuary supports over 2,000 of these critters.
[boat horn blares.]
The old whaling port of Moss Landing at the center of Monterey Bay welcomes its newest arrival.
A baby sea otter pup, just a few hours old.
He's utterly helpless, so relies totally on his mom.
She needs to keep him warm and dry.
It's a never-ending job.
[sea otter squeals.]
Fortunately, we have created some handy haul-out sites.
If she can find any space amongst the crowds.
[jaunty music plays.]
And even when she does [jaunty music continues.]
it's just too high.
[tense music plays.]
[sea otter croaks.]
Time for a feed and a rest in the warmth of the sun.
[sea otter whimpers.]
As a new mother, she can't just stay with her pup.
To produce quality milk, she must be well-fed herself.
And that means leaving him alone.
But the harbor's walkways are too busy.
[sea otter squeaks.]
So the search is on for a quiet, dry place to stash him away safely.
[tense music plays.]
Now that he's safe, the rarest of opportunities for a new mom.
[tranquil music plays.]
Some "me time.
" She forages for shellfish and burrowing worms.
Nursing moms need to double the calories they eat.
[tranquil music continues.]
Until he's weaned in six months' time, he will depend on her finding enough food for both of them.
[tranquil music continues.]
And the newest resident of Monterey Bay is back where he most wants to be.
[tranquil music continues.]
The sanctuary also nurtures life beyond its waters.
Warm currents flowing up from the south release their heat into the air taking the bite out of winter and creating the perfect conditions for a precious visitor.
Arriving in these protected coastal woodlands within the city of Santa Cruz a western monarch butterfly.
[tranquil music plays.]
It's flown up to 1,000 miles to get here, all the way from Canada.
And it's not alone.
[tranquil music continues.]
An entire colony will spend the next few months here, protected from the harsh winters further north.
[tranquil music continues.]
Once, millions sheltered in these woods.
Now, less than 1% remain, the others lost to climate change and habitat destruction.
These trees are one of their few protected havens.
Now, the monarchs must hold out for spring to arrive.
[tranquil music continues.]
Finally, after the long wait, a warmer sun rises.
[tranquil music continues.]
They spread their wings to absorb the heat.
And flap to stir cold flight muscles.
[tranquil music continues.]
Then, when the moment's right [joyful music plays.]
they head inland to lay their eggs.
With successive generations working their way back towards Canada carrying a new hope for the future of their species thanks to the gift of the ocean's winter warmth.
Reminding us that the health of our climate and our ocean are intimately connected.
The arrival of spring is marked by a change in the prevailing winds.
Northwesterlies drive an upwelling of cold water from the deep.
It also brings nutrients to the shallows.
[uplifting music plays.]
And within weeks, mesmerizing patterns start to appear all along the coast.
[uplifting music continues.]
Forests of kelp.
These giant algae support a vibrant community.
The perfect place for Monterey's sea otters to search for food.
[uplifting music continues.]
And the kelp helps in the fight against climate change by capturing up to 20 times more carbon per acre than forests on land.
[uplifting music continues.]
This hungry otter won't find what he's looking for up here.
[uplifting music continues.]
At the base of the kelp is a spring pantry of fresh food.
[uplifting music continues.]
But it's not all to his taste.
Sea otters are fussy eaters.
When young, they get a taste for their mom's favorite food.
Some eat spiky urchins.
But not this one.
[uplifting music continues.]
He loves mussels.
Lots of them.
And when the otters need to kick back and digest their meal they roll themselves up in the fronds [uplifting music plays.]
and enjoy a nap without drifting out to sea.
[uplifting music continues.]
The spring kelp acts as a safe haven for many.
But beyond lie deeper waters with nowhere to hide.
Monterey Bay conceals an underwater abyss every bit as magnificent as the Grand Canyon.
Just over 10,000 feet deep, it splits the bay in two.
Any animal swimming along the coast will cross the canyon.
Star and her hungry family know it.
Now a grandma, Star has a two-month-old calf to look after.
[tranquil music plays.]
She's timed their arrival here to set an ambush for their most important prey.
Every April, gray whales and their calves migrate north through the sanctuary.
Sticking close to the safety of the shore, they are camouflaged by the kelp forests.
[quiet tense music plays.]
But when they reach the middle of the bay they have no option but to break cover.
[tense music continues.]
Adult grays are about eight times the weight of an orca.
Too big to take on.
So the smaller calf will be the target.
Enough to feed the whole family for many days.
[tense music plays.]
When hunting, they fall silent.
The largest adults lead the attack.
[dramatic music plays.]
First, they ram the calf hitting it with so much force, they lift the 2,000-pound young gray almost out of the water.
[dramatic music continues.]
But its protective mother fights back.
One swipe of her huge tail could be deadly to an orca.
[dramatic music continues.]
They push the calf away from its mother.
[dramatic music continues.]
One by one, they launch onto its back trying to drown it.
[dramatic music continues.]
In the thick of the action, the youngest orca calf, already learning from its elders.
[suspenseful music plays.]
The gray whale's mother hasn't given up yet.
She tries to keep her calf's head above the surface.
But she's no match for the family working together.
[dramatic music plays.]
It's a mercifully swift end to events.
[birds squawking.]
This one whale will sustain many.
And Star has passed on the skills her family will need to survive.
Spring turns to summer, and there's a dramatic change in the weather.
After warming the land all winter, the sea now cools it.
[melancholy music plays.]
The cold water welling up from the deep meets the warm summer air and sea fog starts to form.
Known locally as the June Gloom, it blankets the shore.
[melancholy music continues.]
At the sanctuary's northern edge, it envelops San Francisco's iconic Golden Gate Bridge.
[melancholy music continues.]
For the next few months, it will bring badly needed moisture along the coast to one of the most drought-ridden states in America.
Supporting towering forests.
[hopeful music plays.]
And maintaining a lush, green landscape through the hottest months.
[hopeful music continues.]
But gradually through the summer, the sunshine burns off the fog and begins to warm the sea surface.
New creatures start to appear.
[tranquil music plays.]
Some having traveled thousands of miles.
[tranquil music continues.]
Majestic blue whales.
They pair up here en route to mating grounds further south.
Giant sunfish, ten feet across, lie on their sides to soak up the sun's rays.
[tranquil music continues.]
Risso's dolphins play in the swell.
And a mysterious new arrival.
[suspenseful music plays.]
A great white shark.
[suspenseful music continues.]
She's around six years old.
Not yet big enough to maintain her own body temperature.
So she's heading for a warm, shallow cove by Santa Cruz already busy with other summer visitors.
[suspenseful music continues.]
But she's just six feet long [uplifting music plays.]
and only interested in eating fish.
[uplifting music continues.]
For the last few years, dozens of young great whites have been hanging out here in summer.
Nicknamed Shark Park, this is the northernmost place in the Pacific these youngsters are known to gather.
An inspiring opportunity for the sanctuary's human visitors to appreciate these icons of the ocean.
[uplifting music continues.]
But Monterey's greatest spectacle is still to come.
[tranquil music plays.]
Where sunlight meets the nutrient-rich water rising up from the deep the ocean turns green.
Billions of microscopic algae called phytoplankton multiply.
[tranquil music continues.]
They might be tiny, but these plant-like cells are critical for all life.
Globally, they generate more oxygen than all the world's rain forests combined.
[tranquil music continues.]
Within days, a green flame forms on the surface of the ocean that's visible from space.
These blooms are the first rung of a complex food chain.
And as summer turns to fall, they trigger the start of one of the most incredible events in the ocean.
[tranquil music continues.]
Beginning with sea nettle jellies.
One and a half feet across and up to 15 feet in length these otherworldly creatures drift until they find the plankton blooms.
Then, pulsating, they fight the current to gorge themselves.
[tranquil music continues.]
Forming huge swarms.
[tranquil music continues.]
The great gathering has begun.
Anchovies arrive in their millions, also here to feast on the plankton.
[tranquil music continues.]
These dark, dense shoals of fish can stretch over a mile wide.
But they, too, are on the menu.
[birds squawking.]
[tense music plays.]
California sea lions.
Anchovy hunters.
[tense music continues.]
Hundreds strong.
[tense music continues.]
But finding the shoals over such a vast area is far from easy.
[dramatic music plays.]
Humpback whales join the hunt.
[dramatic music continues.]
They can pinpoint the anchovies from huge distances away.
How they do this is a mystery.
But the sea lions seem to know what the whales are up to and follow in their wake.
[tense music plays.]
Once they have zoned in on the fish the sea lions charge in rounding them up.
As the anchovies panic, they form an ever-tighter ball.
[dramatic music plays.]
A 5,000-gallon mouthful.
[dramatic music continues.]
It pays to work as a team.
[dramatic music continues.]
A pod of a thousand dolphins rush to join the bonanza.
[dramatic music continues.]
[dramatic music intensifies.]
Everyone will feast until the shoal is no more.
[waves splash.]
This extraordinary banquet is one of the great wonders of the natural world playing out within sight of the densely populated California coast.
[tranquil music plays.]
Monterey Bay's marine life has seen a remarkable recovery.
But it's a very small piece of a much bigger jigsaw.
[melancholy music plays.]
And around the world, ocean health is in steep decline.
Sea temperatures are rising, damaging entire ecosystems.
Fish stocks are plummeting, causing havoc up and down the food chain.
[melancholy music continues.]
And pollution is escalating, poisoning our seas.
To tackle these threats, we need to expand and connect our marine sanctuaries.
And by protecting the ocean's hot spots, we can generate impact far beyond the sanctuary's borders enriching the ocean beyond, and our own lives too.
The fate of the world's oceans affects every single one of us.
They are our life-support system.
Our health and theirs are bound together.
[tranquil music plays.]
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary gives us hope that although human activity has harmed the ocean, as long as we make the right choices from now on, we can heal it too.
[tranquil music plays.]

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