Mission Galapagos

  • Four million years ago a furnace of molten rock erupted and created the Galápagos islands – a beautiful oceanic outpost 600 miles off mainland South America. It’s an unforgiving landscape – yet this unique chain of rocky islands is home to giant tortoises, equatorial penguins, pink iguanas, and dandelion trees. The islands also attract a wave of extraordinary ‘visitors’ every year, including albatross, whale-sharks and hammerhead sharks.

    Why do these ocean giants return to the Galápagos islands every year, and how exactly do they find it? Mission Galápagos uses a state-of-the-art research vessel – with floating labs, helicopters, and sonar scanners - to tackle some age-old riddles. Could a strong geomagnetic force-field be guiding the ocean giants towards the islands? And what can submersible cameras and 3D imaging tell us about the volcanoes and creatures that lie beneath?

    A team of expert presenters abseil into volcanoes, journey through mangroves to monitor baby sharks and free-dive off shore to tag mighty hammerheads and film baby sea lions at play. Scientists explore the extraordinary ways that local wildlife has adapted to island-life. From sunbathing penguins to iguanas that have learnt to swim, Mission Galápagos reveals just how far a species will stretch itself in order to survive.

    Liz Bonnin joins a scientific team aboard the research vessel the Alucia on an expedition across the
    Galapagos Island. The journey begins on the Galapagos' west side at the youngest and most
    volcanically active islands in the archipelago, Isabela and Fernandina, which are home to a richly
    diverse wildlife scene. Here, Liz and the team journey into the clouds above Wolf, the tallest volcano
    in the Galapagos, where they join a group of biologists hunting for the elusive pink iguana, which
    teeters on the edge of extinction. But how and why did it come to live on the top of a volcano? Back
    on the research vessel, Liz boards Alucia's Triton submersible to descend a kilometre into the ocean
    abyss in search of a new species hiding in the darkness. Liz also travels to one of the most remote
    locations in the Galapagos, Alcedo Volcano, in search of the largest population of giant tortoises.
    Plagued by drought in recent months, scientists are keen to find out how this prehistoric species has
    fared. Finally, Liz helps out with a groundbreaking science experiment to x-ray marine iguanas that
    have so far stunned the scientific community with a new mutation. As with all life on these remote
    islands, the key to survival is adaptation.

    On the second leg of this incredible mission, Liz Bonnin and a team of scientific experts set off
    beneath the waves to explore this spectacular archipelago. It is an exciting opportunity for the team to
    delve into a world that still largely remains a mystery to science. Venturing down in the Nadir, a
    specially equipped deep sea submersible, Liz goes in search of an elusive ocean giant, the mola, or
    sunfish, to understand more about its little-known behaviour in the deep. On the way back to the
    Alucia, Liz checks in on a playful sea lion population to see how they have been affected by a recent
    extreme weather event, El Nino. Back on board the Alucia, the team sets sail north for the most
    remote and inhospitable islands in the Galapagos - Wolf and Darwin. Here, Liz joins the team tagging
    and tracking hammerhead sharks that school at this location in huge numbers as they try to unlock
    the secrets of this stunning behaviour. But nothing can prepare the Alucia crew for the power of the
    ocean in this isolated marine wonderland.

    In the culmination of this 1,000km scientific expedition aboard the Alucia, Liz Bonnin and the team of
    scientific experts journey south to visit the oldest islands in the Galapagos to see first-hand the impact
    that humans have had on this pristine wilderness. Back on the larger island of Isabela, where her
    journey first began, Liz descends into a spectacular vertical lava cave. Deep inside, she discovers
    how this hidden world could even provide an answer to how it might be possible to inhabit other
    planets. On her last land-based stop, on Santa Cruz, Liz comes face to face with the effects of man
    as she explores the magical misty scalesia forests and meets scientists who are tracking the invasive
    species spreading throughout the islands. It is here that she also checks in on a giant tortoise
    population whose ancient migration pathways have come under threat from the largest human
    population on the archipelago, and meets a man on a mission to protect this iconic creature. Finally,
    Liz dives into the deep blue waters to witness the birth of a brand new island. Coming full circle, Liz
    and the team are able to reflect on the importance of their missions which will help to protect the
    Galapagos and its extraordinary wildlife in the future. In an ever-changing world, what we learn now
    from these incredible living natural wonders and what we can pass on to future generations has never
    been more important.