Discovering the planet’s deepest realms

Lorna Cowan / 02 November 2017

Discover some of the planet's deepest darkest secrets on holidays inspired by episode two of BBC1's new nature documentary, Blue Planet II.



Next up is ‘The Deep’ (5.11.17), and in this second episode, viewers are taken on an epic journey into the unknown, a place that’s brutally cold and in complete darkness. 

The deeper you go, the more extreme conditions become. Yet it’s here where some scientists claim you’ll find more life than anywhere else on earth.

The Blue Planet II team spent over 1,000 hours in manned submarines while filming this new series, and more time on their first shoot than in the entire duration of the original Blue Planet, screened in 2001. The resulting footage in ‘The Deep’ really is out of this world.

Brace yourself for what could easily pass as a sci-fi adventure, where new alien-like species are discovered and their behaviours witnessed for the first time. 

Cameras even make it to the Mariana Trench, situated in the western Pacific Ocean. It’s the deepest place on earth, being almost 11 kilometres from the surface. 

However, the Blue Planet II team come face to face with a wealth of wonderful sea life surviving in the most remote of locations.

Alas, very few of us get the opportunity to travel deep below the world’s oceans. But we can enjoy them from above – either on a cruise or by spending time at a coastal resort.

Make 2018 extra special on a holiday of cruise with Saga. Find out more here.

Humboldt squid in the Pacific Ocean

Little is known about the Humboldt squid who are found deep in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America. 

However, the Blue Planet II team ventured below the waves with their cameras in tow and captured on film the sensational sight of hordes of savage squid hunting lanternfish.

Named after the Humboldt Current, a cold flow of water where they live, the Humboldt squid is also sometimes referred to as the jumbo flying squid or, as local fishermen call them, the ‘diablo rojo’ (translated as red devil). 

The squid can be a shade of red, but it’s able to change colour quickly and so often appears purple and can be white too.

These sea creatures, which reach five feet in length, also travel quickly around the water – up to a speed of 15 miles per hour. And if they’re hungry, any prey best watch out. 

There’s no escape as the Humboldt squid boast eight arms, and two long feeding tentacles covered in hundreds of tooth-lined suckers.

Astonishingly, there are luscious coral gardens flourishing in absolute darkness in the depths of the water, so the squid can take their pick from the hundreds of fish feeding there. 

Take note, they are cannibals!

The Humboldt Current flows along the coasts of Chile and Peru, two exciting destinations found on the itinerary of various Saga holidays. 

Santiago, Chile’s capital city, is full of magnificent examples of 19th-century neoclassical architecture, as well as buildings designed in art deco and neo-gothic styles. Further south, the beautiful turquoise-coloured Chilean Lakes sit amidst snow-capped volcanoes.

On board a cruise, the busy Chilean city of Punta Arenas, situated on the Magellan Straits where the Pacific Ocean meets the Atlantic, is the perfect port of call for museum and gallery lovers.

Would you prefer red or white? Find out more about Saga holiday to Chile Find out more here.

A methane volcano in the Gulf of Mexico

One of the most dramatic sequences of ‘The Deep’, the second episode of Blue Planet II, takes place some 650 metres under the water in the Gulf of Mexico.

Here the seabed appears barren and inert. But looks can be deceiving, and as viewers are soon made aware, something is bubbling away underneath the surface.

It’s not just a fish trying to camouflage itself in the gravel or an eel wriggling around. The small gurgles belong to something far more sinister – a methane volcano. 

Amazingly, the Blue Planet II team witness this violent eruption and soon find themselves surrounded by huge bubbles of methane. It transforms what they describe as being an ‘empty abyssal desert’ only minutes before.

Even more remarkably, at volcanic hotspots hidden from the sun, there is much sea life surviving beside toxic substances and billowing clouds of volcanic chemicals. 

It’s hard to believe extraordinary creatures exist in these harsh conditions, however as fascinating footage reveals, there’s another whole world thriving there.

Visitors to popular holiday destinations around the Gulf of Mexico will also be amazed at the stunning coastline, and ancient sights on land. On Saga’s Secrets of the Maya tour, highlights include a trip to Chichén Itzá, where you can discover more about Mayan art and architecture. 

Exploring El Castillo, a 24-metre high step pyramid and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, is a must-see too.

An excursion to the UNESCO-listed city of Campeche won’t fail to impress either. Then step back in time, over a thousand years, at Uxmal, considered to be one of the country’s most important late-Mayan sites. Those with an interest in astronomy will be fascinated by its layout.

Discover more about Mexico and take a look at Saga's brand new holidays to the Riviera Maya, available now! Find out more here.

Zombie worms in the Atlantic Ocean

The Azores, nine idyllic islands approximately 800 miles from mainland Portugal, are another location featured in this week’s second episode of Blue Planet II, and it’s where the filming team stumbled upon the most curious sea creatures.

The bluntnose sixgill shark, which are among the world’s largest sharks, sperm whale and spider crab call the deep Atlantic Ocean their home, as do scabbard fish. 

These predators live several thousand metres below the surface but are thought to swim vertically to depths of a few hundred metres at nightfall. 

Being black, the scabbard fish have the perfect disguise and are able to sneak up and pounce on unsuspecting prey.

Sharing the sea is the scarily-named zombie worm. However, this zombie doesn’t crave brains or flesh, his daily diet is bone.

Also known as the osedax worm or bone-eating worm, it does just that – though without a mouth, the zombie worm has a more complicated task ‘eating’ the dissolved bones of fish and whale carcasses.

Sperm whales, fin whales and humpback whales are just three of the enthralling cetaceans that guests look out for on Saga’s Whale Watching in the Azores escorted tour

With professional naturalist Diarmid Doody as your host, three half-day trips are spent at sea – make sure you pack your binoculars and camera. 

Lucky holidaymakers may witness dolphins putting on a majestic display and perhaps even the blue whale making their annual migratory journey north in spring.

If you also want to swim in natural pools, explore a volcanic cave or while away the hours wandering around a pretty cobbled-street port, then consider Saga’s Azores Island Hopping tour.

Discover more about Portugal and the beautiful islands of Madeira and the AzoresFind out more here.

Shrimp in the Pacific Ocean

The Galápagos Islands, situated 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, is awash with unusual wildlife, many of which are native to their shores. It should come as no surprise then that there is equally quirky life deep below the archipelago in the Pacific Ocean.

In this week’s Blue Planet II, viewers are treated to a love story, the tale of two young shrimps who find their forever home in a small glass sponge.

The Venus’ flower basket, as it’s called, is made of flexible silica. However, as the shrimp grow, they become trapped inside, so must stay with their companion for eternity.

The two spend their days cleaning the inside of the sponge and eating whatever bits of food manage to squeeze through. Offspring can escape through holes in the mesh but the adult shrimp are confined to this cage of crystal sponge, really ‘til death do us part’.

A break in the UNESCO-protected Galápagos Islands is a dream come true. And on board MV Galápagos Legend, a maximum of 100 cruise goers will enjoy a Saga holiday like no other. 

With four comfortable decks, guests can sunbathe, star gaze or simply lounge by the bar, taking time out to listen to lectures or, the most important aspect, go ashore.

And boy, what delights await when you set foot on the Galápagos. Santiago Island is home to marine iguanas and sea lions, while on the volcanic islet of Bartolome, Galápagos penguins greet you. 

North Seymour will thrill, as will the blue-footie boobies who live there, and on Santa Cruz, giant tortoises take centre stage.  

Embark on the trip of a lifetime on this thrilling tour and cruise adventure taking in two of the most famous 'must-visit' destinations in the world... Find out more here.

Fangtooth in the Atlantic Ocean

While filming ‘The Deep’ for Blue Planet II, the team bravely ventured to the Atlantic Ocean’s Midnight Zone, the name given to the deepest darkest regions of the ocean, found from about 2,000 metres down to the sea floor.

Given the name because it’s pitch black and feels like the middle of the night, the lack of light means few creatures can survive. However, the ones that do exist are quite remarkable.

Bioluminescent sea life lurk deep beneath the waves, as do one of the zone’s most voracious predators - the fangtooth. 

And while only six inches long, those large teeth have quite some bite, meaning that the fangtooth doesn’t worry about the size of its prey.

Safe and sound above the Atlantic Ocean, cruise ships sail from the UK to the rugged shores of Canada. Saga’s Nova Scotia and St Lawrence in the Fall cruise sets sail from Dover and crosses the Big Pond, via the Azores, to Halifax before continuing to Québec City and Montréal.

With representatives from ORCA visiting your ship, whale-spotting sessions are also on the agenda.

Want a big, bold adventure? Join us for an adventure across the pond… Find out more here.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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