Welcome to Earth (2021) s01e03 Episode Script

Mind of the Swarm

(thunder rumbling)
!!! Hope you enjoy the show !!!
♫ Soft Instrumental Music playing ♫
(growls softly)
(cloud rumbling)
(jeep engine whirring)
(crickets chirping)
GEORGE: Let's hope we don't see
what the lions do at night.
(Will laughing)
Let's hope we see lions
before they see us.
(Will laughing)
Hey, Rem. Can you cut the lights?
(crickets chirping)
Well, this is We got a pair
of night vision goggles,
and if you look out there,
and tell me what you see.
I need night vision goggles
to get the night vision goggles from you.
(both laugh)
Well, I can see they're wildebeest.
GEORGE: Well, that's a start.
Can you tell their shape?
Like the shape of the of the group?
WILL: I can't tell, really
They're like layered up,
so I can't really tell.
- GEORGE: Kind of stacked up?
- WILL: Yeah.
GEORGE: I don't know. Let's see what
I've got a another toy
I wanted to show you.
(birds chittering)
(wildebeest grumbles)
(foliage rustling)
I wonder if a lion could see
in this kind of darkness. I dunno.
WILL: Well, that's
We don't need to find out that. (chuckles)
GEORGE: No, no, I just die I'd
I'd die with the wildebeest.
- You can follow me?
- WILL: I can't see.
- GEORGE: Yeah, I got you, we're good.
- WILL: All right. Hold on.
WILL: My whole life,
I've wanted to see wildebeest.
I just didn't think it would be
in the dark with lions everywhere.
But George has a different way
of looking at everything.
(camera drone whirring)
♫ Dramatic Music playing ♫
GEORGE: Well, we're looking at these guys,
it's interesting, they're moving out.
WILL: Oh, wow, yeah.
GEORGE: But I don't think
they can see anything at night.
So they're falling in like that,
but they're not falling in based on sight?
GEORGE: That's right.
They're walking differently.
Almost kind of like
a loose defensive formation.
They're coming together
and working as a group.
- They're clearly following each other.
- GEORGE: That's right.
WILL: But if they don't see well,
and they're not making any noise,
how do they know where the others are?
Around thirty years ago, I picked up
a National Geographic Magazine
and saw this.
That image, one and a half million
wildebeests on the plains of Africa,
has stayed with me ever since.
The most dramatic migration on Earth.
And finally, I'm here to see it.
(yawns audibly)
GEORGE: Hey, Will.
Come up and take a look.
WILL: All right.
GEORGE: That's a lot of wildebeest, man.
(wildebeest bleating)
WILL: Seeing them up close, finally.
Man, they're kind of funny-looking.
GEORGE: Wildebeest
are not the most elegant animal.
Or the most intelligent.
WILL: George is straight-up
clowning wildebeest.
But, hey, if they don't get by
on their looks or their brains,
how do they survive out here in the wild?
Well, that's what George wants me to see.
The front runners chow down on the grass
ahead of the herd,
so they all have
to keep constantly moving.
And so do we.
So, George, what got you to to Africa?
I got kind of bored, I was a
kind of bored college student,
and I decided to get the hell out,
and I wanted
I went to Africa, I came hitchhiking here.
- I bought a one-way ticket to London
- Wow.
- and I hitchhiked down to Congo.
- Whoa.
And I found it was really fascinating
and there was so much more to learn.
- WILL: Yeah.
- And I still feel that way.
Once you get into dangerous things,
you just keep on learning more and more.
WILL: Yeah. Exactly.
What kind of image
are you hoping to capture?
Well, I'm trying to capture
the key moment in the migration
when the, um when the wildebeest
cross the river.
How often do you capture
exactly what you're looking for?
(both laugh)
That's kind of a depressing question.
GEORGE: I've been photographing wildlife
for over forty years.
As a photographer, you try to capture
these incisive moments in an animal,
where they reveal the true nature
of their species.
And the greatest, the biggie of all,
is the crossing of the wildebeest.
In your experience, Rem, how rare is it?
How easy will it be for you
to catch a crossing?
You have a big chance
of seeing a wildebeest, of course.
- WILL: Yeah.
- But it's seeing crossing,
that's very rare.
But I think you can consider it
a great failure
if you don't show me a a crossing.
- Of course.
- (laughs)
You know, wildebeest don't care
wildebeest don't care who you are,
or how long you've been waiting.
- I know, right. (laughs)
- They don't really care.
Hey, you guys, do you know what?
The wildebeest haven't seen
Men in Black, I guess. (chuckles)
(wildebeest bleating)
In fairness, they've got
more pressing things to think about.
But somehow, between them,
they manage to survive a 300-mile trek
past hungry lions, hyenas, and cheetahs.
What's their secret?
Perhaps the answer lies
in a completely different creature
over 3,000 miles away from here.
(birds chirping)
♫ Soft Vocal Music playing ♫
(thunder rumbles)
(bees buzzing)
WILL: But what can the
world's largest honeybee
tell us about wildebeest?
ALDO: Have you seen bees like this before?
CORY: I've never seen
anything like this before.
Your problem's gonna be how
to get in there and be able to then
- sort yourself out to be able to shoot.
- Not Okay, yeah.
- So I'm not spinning in space.
- Yeah.
(bees buzzing)
ALDO: Maybe we'll try
and climb up from the bottom
and then, from there,
try to get in position.
Well, I guess we should go try it.
(bees buzzing)
MALE VOICE: (speaking Nepali)
♫ Suspenseful Music playing ♫
MALE VOICE 1: (speaking Nepali)
CORY: There can be as many
as 100,000 bees on a single hive.
And they can be pretty damn hostile.
If they decide to swarm
when you're at the top of a rope,
there's literally nothing you can do.
(indistinct shouting)
(bees buzzing)
Aldo, I'm in position!
ALDO: (over radio)
Can you get quite close? Over.
CORY: I can touch it.
I can touch the outer part with my hand
and the inner part with my foot.
I'm gonna try to trigger 'em.
There's a sort of invisible barrier
around a hive.
It's about 20 inches away.
Cross that line,
and something astonishing happens.
♫ Whimsical Music playing ♫
Wow. Incredible.
It's a kind of defense strategy.
If the bees spot a predator
breaking through that perimeter,
they flip their bodies,
starting this massive chain reaction.
It's like they're somehow all connected,
and not just by touch,
but like they're thinking
as a single unit.
(bees buzzing)
WILL: On its own,
each bee doesn't amount to much.
But as a swarm,
they can create something big enough
or confusing enough
to deter almost any attacker.
(car engine whirring)
So the bees have their shimmer trick
to throw off predators.
But the wildebeest don't have that.
I don't think.
So how do they defend themselves?
Rem, there's a lion over there.
Can we stop for a minute?
Look out on the left.
WILL: Oh, yeah, I see her. I see her.
(wildebeest bleating)
WILL: She's gone again. I lost her.
GEORGE: Let's try changing
our perspective.
(camera drone whirring)
GEORGE: I've always loved getting up
and looking at things in a new way.
When I was a kid,
I was a real tree climber,
much to my mother's chagrin.
I loved climbing up
to the tallest branches
to get a view over my back yard.
And now my back yard's
become a lot bigger.
WILL: Any luck?
Can you see her?
Like a flash mob.
If it were humans down there,
that would be chaos.
I'd be tripping up
and bangin' off this dude,
and runnin' into that guy over there.
But the herd didn't miss a beat.
Just kept on keepin' on.
It looks difficult.
But it turns out, you just have to follow
three simple rules.
Rules that apply to all sorts of animals
that swarm.
Rule number one,
don't get too far away from your neighbor.
Rule number two,
don't get too close
to your neighbor either.
Rule number three,
if your neighbor turns, you turn.
And that's enough to turn
thousands of individuals
into something beautiful and complex.
(wings flapping)
Starlings can fly at 40 miles an hour.
So to keep together in formation,
they need the reactions of racing drivers.
Especially as the other "cars"
aren't just in front or behind,
they're above and below.
It's hard to get how special that is,
until you see it mapped out.
A hundred thousand birds racing around
a constantly changing track
without a single crash.
That's the way the wildebeest roll too,
with simple rules and not overthinking it.
They're not as fast or as pretty,
but as they search for fresh grass,
the wildebeest are just as coordinated.
Things get more complicated
when they reach the Mara River.
Keeping an eye on the guy
next to you isn't much use,
when you're facing strong currents
and giant crocs.
It's the single most dangerous part
of the whole 300-mile round trip.
(truck engine whirring)
Wait, we can get out here?
GEORGE: It's safe. Yeah, get out.
WILL: I'm gonna let you
get out first. (laughs)
GEORGE: "That looks good, you go first?"
(all chuckle)
WILL: What are we looking at?
Uh, basically, this is the main barrier
that the animals have to go over
to get up to the big grasslands
of the Mara,
where the really good vegetation
is for them at this time of year.
So, what what are all of these marks?
REMTULLA: Uh, those are
the crossing points, so we mark it.
Like, it's along the river,
so whenever they cross,
we just put the mark,
so we know like, crossing number two,
number three, number four.
GEORGE: They seem to have
a few favorite places.
But if they cross at regular spots,
why is it so hard to catch a crossing?
There's no way to know which one
they're going to choose.
Ah, okay.
Conglomeration of thousands of animals,
and they all might have crossed
at a different place the year before,
so they've gotta have
like a group decision,
- like a swarm decision,
- WILL: Wow.
about which way to go.
We can either hold and wait in one spot,
or we can get fidgety and patrol.
If there was a crossing happening,
we can go there,
but by the time we get there,
it might be over,
so it's like, do you
It's hard to know
whether you chase after crossings
or do you wait for a crossing
to come to you.
Got it.
So, how long will it take for me
to get comfortable
just letting a fly be on my face
without having to swat it?
'Cause you got two flies on your face
and you're just relaxed.
(all laugh)
- I'm like, man.
- I just get tired of swatting at them.
Oh, yeah? (laughs)
- Bush Really bush man. Yeah
- Oh, man
All right, so are we waiting
or are we chasing?
My instinct is to find
a really good place.
We got a lot of animals over there.
And if we're in wait, they'll come to us.
- WILL: All right.
- Yeah.
(truck engine revving)
So we sort of look where
they're moving to, right?
Yeah, they're coming to the river.
And see, the herd is down here.
WILL: Yeah.
- They're moving faster, yeah.
- GEORGE: Trying to run there
GEORGE: Are these guys about to cross?
I can't believe how lucky
we're about to get.
WILL: Never underestimate the power
of beginner's luck.
I mean, George has been trying
to get this shot for years,
and I'm here two minutes
and it's all happening.
I'm just saying.
(truck engine revving)
Go, George. This is your big moment.
(water splashing)
He's going on his own.
Oh, I can't watch this.
- (bleats)
- ♫ Music Ends Sharply ♫
Oh, man.
(wildebeest bleating)
Why did they let him go alone?
Looks like there's a fourth swarm rule.
Don't go where there's crocs.
(thunder rumbling)
If I saw one of my boys
get wacked by a crocodile,
I'd have second thoughts
about crossing that river too.
Looks like the momentum now
is moving away from this point.
Where it was moving
toward this point before,
now it feels like
it's kind of gently drifting away.
(thunder rumbling)
Clearly, one brave dude
jumping into the water
is not enough to make them all
start crossing.
So, what will it take?
To best explain that,
we need to go underwater.
(water lapping)
JILL: They are truly amazing.
The first time I ever saw them,
certainly something
that you'll never forget.
(water echoes)
♫ Tense Music playing ♫
(indistinct radio chatter)
WILL: Flashlight fish are weird.
They make their cheeks light up like,
"I'm here, follow me!"
But just like that poor wildebeest,
one fish signaling isn't enough
to make the others follow.
Neither is two or three.
But if enough of them flash
at the same time,
in the same direction
♫ Upbeat Music playing ♫
they all go.
It's not about one animal taking the lead.
It's about enough of them doing it.
Then the swarm behavior kicks in strong.
So this is a numbers game.
The place where the wildebeest
are most likely to cross
is the place where
the biggest numbers are gathering.
(plane engine whirring)
But how do you find that?
Well, with a plane with the doors off,
and a crazy co-pilot.
♫ Dramatic Music playing ♫
Here we go.
WILL: Oh, wow.
Come forward, you can see it better.
WILL: That's a huge line.
That's definitely
the most we've ever seen.
That's crazy. It does look like ants,
like how you see ants move.
- Yeah, like army ants.
- Army ants, yeah.
There's a few thousand there at least.
A convoy.
WILL: That one's even bigger.
You can definitely tell
where this bunch is heading.
Straight to the river.
GEORGE: We gotta get there
before they start crossing.
WILL: Roger that. Let's get down there.
(plane whirring loudly)
Let the games begin.
(truck engine whirring)
Look at that line, those lines.
WILL: Have we found
our crossing point, Rem?
So, I think we better hold here.
'Cause if we drive close, may scare them,
they may run away from the river.
So our presence would potentially
keep them from crossing?
True, yeah.
So, we'd better continue to wait.
WILL: So, now we just wait
for someone to call "action"?
Welcome to wildlife photography.
It's a lot of waiting.
(Will chuckles)
Eh, it's not different than acting either.
- (chuckles)
- You just kinda sit around and wait.
(Will humming)
- (birds chirping)
- (Will humming)
GEORGE & WILL: (singing) A-wimoweh,
A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh
A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh
A-wimoweh, a-wimoweh
In the jungle, the mighty jungle
The lion sleeps tonight
In the jungle, the mighty jungle
The lion sleeps tonight
I'm out of breath.
♫ "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" playing ♫
Weeheeheehee dee
heeheeheehee weeoh aweem away
Near the village, the quiet village
The lion sleeps tonight
Weeheeheehee dee heeheeheehee
Weeoh aweem away
I'm a real explorer
if I have a slouch hat?
- REMTULLA: Yeah, exactly.
- All right, so that so so
so it's like it's like,
that's the vibe?
Weeheeheehee dee heeheeheehee
Weeoh aweem away
- (wildebeest grumbling)
- (crickets chirping)
GEORGE: It looks good. You go first.
WILL: I'm not gonna go first.
You go first.
- GEORGE: No, you go first.
- REMTULLA: No, you go, you go.
- REMTULLA: No, you go, you go.
- WILL: I'm right behind you.
Just go ahead. I mean, you're already
standing there, just go ahead.
Yeah, I got your back, man.
(all laugh)
WILL: The single brain is saying,
"I don't want to get eaten."
But the swarm mind is saying,
"There's grass over there. Let's go."
It's a pressure cooker.
Maybe what they really need
is one last push.
♫ Dramatic Music playing ♫
There are tiny dots of slime mold
almost everywhere.
Most of the time,
slime mold just sits around,
eating bacteria
and making more slime mold.
But when these single-celled organisms
run out of food,
something weird happens.
Waves of restless energy
ripple through the swarm.
They join themselves together
into a new creature.
Many cells become one body.
And then when the pressure
finally gets too much, they move.
There's sacrifice involved.
The long, thin stems
are created by cells dying.
But they give the others
a chance to survive
by being carried away to pastures new
when something brushes against them.
Individually, these guys
are literally brainless,
but together, they're smart.
And wildebeest?
They're a bit like slime mold.
No offense.
Loads of individuals somehow
having to make a joint decision.
Thousands of brains
slowly crunching the data.
(crocodile hissing)
"Danger in front
"food running out behind."
Waves of nervous energy building
that finally pushes them to the edge.
- And an answer.
- (music gets quieter)
(music crescendos)
REMTULLA: They're going. Going.
- WILL: They're gone. They're gone.
- GEORGE: They're going.
Look at that.
Oh, man.
- All right, you got the
- REMTULLA: They're crossing.
- Get the bino
- WILL: Thank you, thank you.
(stampede running)
♫ Intense Dramatic Music playing ♫
That's spectacular.
(Will laughs)
That looks crazy.
- Wow. (laughs)
- GEORGE: Wow.
(wildebeests bleat)
WILL: I've had more than half my life
to get ready for this.
But nothing prepares you for the dust,
the noise, the sheer scale of it.
Hey, that Once you commit
GEORGE: No turning back.
All right, 30 years. That was
on my bucket list for like 30 years.
We just got it,
the migration of the wildebeest,
the crossing of the river.
We have done what we have come to done.
Thousands and thousands
of individual organisms
surviving by joining together.
The swarm drives them and protects them.
Not everyone can make it.
But most of them do.
Look at them go.
It's like they're tied together.
You can, like
You can feel the connection.
So it looks like, even from
What could be a quarter mile away,
that they know.
Like these all the way back here,
can sense what's happening up here.
For almost 30 years,
I've had an image in my mind.
The plains of Africa dense
with millions of wildebeest.
But in the end,
I saw something I wasn't expecting.
It's not millions of animals at all.
It's just one.
♫ Dramatic Music continues ♫
Like George said, shift your perspective,
switch your lens,
and you'll see the swarm everywhere.
Makes you wonder,
do they even know they're in a swarm?
Come to think of it, do we?
Damn. Now, that's a question.
♫ Upbeat Music playing ♫
Next, I'm on the trail
of a deadly predator.
- Whoa, there he is.
- Mm-hmm, you got one.
WILL: Aw, yeah.
Following my nose to solve
a desert island mystery.
Whoa, that is gorgeous.
And discover that smell
is not what it seems.
♫ Theme Music playing ♫
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