I will readily admit that I have a profound addiction to nature documentaries, especially those produced by the supernaturally good team over at BBC Nature. Animals in their natural habitats are sick, and some of the most mindblowing cinematography in the world is facilitated by the absolute wizards they’ve got running shoots for these docos.
So naturally I was thrilled to tune in to Our Planet, the Netflix series hosted by David Attenborough, very much in the mode of the BBC docos I love so much. (As far as I’m concerned, Attenborough should be kidnapped by the UK government and forced to record as many nature doco voiceovers as he can before he carks it.)
Now, Our Earth – which was produced in conjunction with the World Wildlife Foundation – is significantly more activist in character than the other Attenborough ventures, focusing pretty heavily on the impacts of industrialisation and climate change on the natural environment and, by extension, the animal kingdom.
All well and necessary. But what I did not expect to see is footage of a shitload of walruses plummeting off a cliff to their deaths in goddamn slow motion.
Here’s an excerpt from the ep in question. Obviously reasonably graphic.
#walrus rely on Arctic sea ice, but now that it has retreated so far, some walrus have to climb rocks mountains which they are not made for….the outcome is tragic 😞 @ourplanet by @Sir_Attenboroug on @netflix pic.twitter.com/CrILsKu3e7
— Kate Sprogis (@KateSprogis) April 5, 2019
According to Our Planet, this is happening thanks to the retreat of sea ice around the Russian Arctic, where the scene in question was filmed. Hundreds of thousands of big blubbery walruses coalesce on one stretch of coastline, where once upon a time they would have had a bunch of sea ice to hang out on. That ice is in decline thanks to our warming oceans, so many of the walruses – in pursuit of some space to lie down – end up scaling precarious cliffs, which they then fall off thanks to their poor vision.
Why we had to see it in dramatic slow-mo with a swelling orchestral score is another question entirely. But now it’s etched into my retinas forever! Thank you David!
And it’s basically the one scene everyone is talking about on social media.
— Gerald J. Huggins II, M.A. (@Coach_HugginsJr) April 5, 2019
No walruses nooooooooo just shimmy down the way you came omg noooooo.
— Jonathan Van Ness (@jvn) April 7, 2019
I can’t believe @ourplanet made me watch a bunch of walruses fall to their deaths in dramatic slow-mo
— Henry the Dog (@DogHerny) April 8, 2019
The walruses in our planet 😭 pic.twitter.com/oEjtEeQE4c
— Nik Kilmer (@Klaus_Kilmdoog) April 6, 2019
The behind-the-scenes ep included with Our Planet shows the team discussing the walrus shoot, describing it as the “toughest” scene in the four-year production of the series.
Well, we’ve all seen it now. As a salve, there’s a great scene with a blue whale and her baby later on, which is peaceful and nice and does not feature the whale plummeting from a great height to its death.