Big Blue Live

Take an interactive 360º dive with Steve Backshall being mobbed by sea lions!

Want to join Steve Backshall on his dive with the Californian sea lions? Of course you do. And now you can in this 360º video!

Steve takes you free diving with sea lions in this amazing 360º film. Special thanks to Steven Litvin, Cody Karutz and Jody Beers from Stanford University for allowing us to use their cameras to immerse us in this incredible world.

If you are on a mobile device this works best using the YouTube app where you can look around by moving your screen.

On a desktop you can navigate by using the arrows in the top left hand side of the video window. Enjoy.

Monterey Bay

Steve Backshall Big Blue Live

Originally appeared on The Huffington Post – 28/08/2015

The quicksilver ball quivered and seethed, mercury smoke flashing in the golden hour sunlight. I drew in breath and ducked below the surface, a few metres down hitting the icy layer of water driven up from the great depths. As I span onto my back I looked up to see the baitfish above me silhouetted against the sun, a living thing growing and receding before the dark torpedo shape of a predator. The large male California sealion darted amongst the fish trying to separate a loner, herding them like tiny silvery sheep. Out of the green a pod of clicking white-sided dolphins hove into view, bodies convulsing, vocalisations escalating in the excitement of the chase. I turn my camera skywards, battling the urge to breathe or surge for the surface hoping to capture this dazzling overwhelming spectacle, one you could spend a lifetime searching for. 

That magical place is one of the world’s greatest conservation success stories, and it’s where I’ll be spending my summer making Big Blue Live for BBC1.

It's a truth widely accepted in ecology that top of the line apex predators don't matter. That we're wasting our time putting effort into cuddly iconic carnivores, when the most important factors are always less charismatic but more abundant stuff like bugs and grubs. There is one place however where that has been proven manifestly untrue. That magical place is one of the world’s greatest conservation success stories, and it’s where I’ll be spending my summer making Big Blue Live for BBC1.

It's a torrid tale with bleak beginnings, but a truly happy ending. California's Monterey Bay has been an epicentre for fisheries for 240 years, and as such has had every single one of its marine inhabitants brutally and fatally over-exploited. One of the first to be exterminated was the sea otters. As a marine mammal that is not insulated by blubber like whales and seals, sea otters possess the densest fur on the planet, 100,000 hairs per square centimeter.

It's an essential adaptation in waters that are blessed by cold upwellings of nutrient-rich waters; the very basis of the flourishing food chain. Their fur coats however proved to be their downfall, as waves of both legal and illicit hunters ravaged these shores in search of the priceless pelts. In the late 1700s they were seen as the royal fur in China, and in the 1800s a single pelt could raise $100. Not surprisingly the last sea otter disappeared from Monterey before the end of that century. They were not the last to perish before human avarice. In 1854 a whale was worth two pounds of pure gold, and hence they too fell, first to spears then to the explosive harpoons of the industrial whalers...
Big Blue Live continues on BBC One on Sunday 30 August at 7pm.