It was a Wildlife Extravaganza! On the telly on Wednesday night. Nothing unusual about that, one might say, but Wednesday’s animaux offering was so richly studded with broadcasted bullshit and hyperbole that it is certainly worthy of a mention.
I know exactly how we came to watch River Monsters. I wanted to watch a film, he didn’t (in fact, this will be inscribed on both our gravestones) and after an angry flick-through the channels and a bit of huff-puffing from both us the spinning arrow landed on this programme. I admit I was initially intrigued. Despite it sounding like it was about fishing (Cue Robson Greene, elocutioned Teesside and pissed off South Africans), the word Monster pricked my interest with the hope that it could have some river-dwelling sharks in. I like shark stuff. The kids do too. We could potentially record it therefore and replay any cool shark attack scenes and gore before they go to school in the morning.
River Monsters is hosted by extreme angler Jeremy Wade -a rugged looking sea fella – who travels the world looking for fishy legends and sea creatures of particular gore and interest. This week we were in Alaska investigating the disappearance of several locals and fishermen around a river. Nobody knew what happened to them and Wade reckoned he could offer some enlightenment by proposing that fish in the river had killed these townsfolk.
Wade didn’t know which fish though – so the very basis of the programme was investigating the species of fish which lived in this cold river to see if any of them could be scapegoats for these missing folk. It’s worth mentioning at this point that these missing people may have just strayed from the beaten track and become lost in Alaska’s unforgiving forests and starved or perhaps fell in the water and drowned without being attacked by a fish. However, that makes for boring viewing so Wade and the fisherman of this Alaskan town looked for the finned guilty culprit in the river.
We started with salmon. Not as in a “starter of salmon” as we know it, but as in the first in the firing line for blame was a King Salmon. This is a large fish (about the size of a pre-schooler) which is extremely ugly and has a hardened beak like mouth. Although pretty unappealing to look at, it didn’t look very dangerous and Wade’s prying open of its mouth to reveal some fairly mediocre teeth almost produced a collective “uh” on the riverbank. This fish could not have attacked or eaten a person. This fact was fairly evident so Wade concluded – obviously with a lot of careful thought – that perhaps the Salmon had hit the human with its tail which had caused the human to fall in the river and drown. The locals look at him with sympathy and one of them snorted.
Next on the list was a Salmon Shark. Now this was a contender. It was the same as a Great White Shark, but slightly smaller. Fat, Grey and White, Pointy-nosed and big ole teeth. It looked awful. Google it, honest. This beast frequented this river often in the pursuit of big fish to eat. Wade and some crew took a fishing boat into the river to spot these sharks and before long (honest!) the boat was surrounded by black fins cutting through the water. “Has anyone been bitten by these sharks” asked Wade to a local. “Possibly”, the local replied reluctantly. No then.
In an attempt to verify the shark’s ferociousness and in a brave plea to make the programme more interesting, Jeremy Wade donned a wetsuit, a bucket of fish guts and jumped into the rover. It was getting interesting. He slapped a few sharks across the chops with a piece of herring to see if he could provoke the shark into an attack.
After an hour or two, it was clear that the shark (which was bigger than Wade himself), was not interested. River Monsters needed a monster.
They found one. The last suspect on the list. The potential murderer of several unassuming law abiding locals.
The Pacific Halibut. I was starting to lose interest at this point. The Pacific Halibut is huge – the size of a large living room rug – and is entirely flat with these wobbly eyes that seem to be looking in different directions. It either didn’t have a mouth or it was very small. Wade didn’t bother to try and convince viewers that this useless and cumbersome piece of Plaice ate anyone. He proposed that the size of it capsized a boat which killed the blokes.
River Monsters- worth watching. Just found out too that Jeremy was born and raised in Suffolk. Perhaps he is better off seeking the Alaskan killers here. A rabid Tench or a Chubb with a chip on its shoulder.
Next on the box was Fierce by Steve Backshall. We love Steve. I wiki-d him after the programme and saw that he is a super stealthy and fit bloke with a lot of sporting accreditations and martial art expertise. Like Steve Irwin but with an academic education. In this programme he was seeking fierce animals of the world – a job right up Backshall’s street.
A small and ratty member of the Crocodilian family, the Caiman was investigated first. This animal was not capable of ripping a grown adult to pieces and therefore dull so we will skirt over that one.
Although the Electric eel could not either, it was a brilliant FIERCE contender. Movie footage showing it electrocuting a crocodile who tried to eat it. Steve and a couple of Guyanese river dudes found one beneath their piece of cardboard (boat) during the programme and one of the brave (or better informed) fisherman swashed the water around with his hand in an attempt to bring the eel closer so Steve could, presumably, pick the bastard up.
The swishing around made the eel clear off anyway and Steve got to quiz the fisherman about his experience of the eel. “Have you been stung” he asked the bloke. “Yes”, said Paulo, not wanting to elaborate much more to this burly questioning prat from Britain. “What does it feel like, the electric shock” said Steve. “like an err, electric shock” said Paulo. ITV didn’t even bother censoring the eye rolls.
Next, they captured a big Croc. They taped his jaws together in a rather civil and fair restraining order to allow Backshaw to talk to it up close. Backshaw got the camera to zoom in to the beast’s eyes to show its third eyelid and we got to see the icy glare of the crocodile that would like rip Steve in half. At the end of their taunting, all in the name of research of course, they removed the croc’s jaw tape and the crocodile remained still, jaw wide open and started hissing. I’m no reptile expert, but I know this is hostile behaviour. Stupid Steve got up even closer to it with his gurning face – pointing to the big open jaw and then pointing back at the camera. They must have all survived. There is a second episode next week.