Chichester film makers' shark and whale documentary set to air on ITV

A groundbreaking documentary showing the largest gathering of sharks ever captured in British waters is about to air.

Thursday, 24th March 2016, 11:04 am
Updated Thursday, 24th March 2016, 7:15 pm
Blue sharks are just one of 30 types of shark which live or visit our shores

It has been a labour of love for Chichester film company, Big Wave Productions, for more than two years and, now finished, it will appear on ITV on Easter Friday evening.

Britain’s Whales/Britain’s Sharks – a special two-part programme presented by Ben Fogle and Ellie Harrison – is set to show from 8-10pm.

At the climax, up to 200 sharks were filmed at the whale fall

Big Wave’s executive producer Sarah Cunliffe and producer Mark Woodward enthusiastically explain that with around 25 different kinds of whales and dolphins and more than 30 types of sharks either living or visiting our waters, they wanted to show just how rich the marine life is around us.

But much more than that, what they have achieved is something that had never been done before in filming – what is known as a ‘whale fall’ in British water.

“The death of a whale and what happens afterwards is a massive event and is incredibly important for the health of the ocean,” Sarah says.

“We got the idea while we were filming off the east coast of America at Cape Cod and we came across a whale fall, which brought together Blue Sharks and Great Whites and other marine life to all feed in what was an amazing spectacle.

Presenters on the ITV documentary, Ben Fogle and Ellie Harrison

“That was the trigger to thinking what would happen if there was a whale fall in British waters?

“It’s not just sharks that come to these shores but masses of other creatures like leatherback turtles, unusual jellyfish, and others that either live here or migrate here on the Gulf Stream.”

Setting up a whale fall, Mark tells me, was far from plain sailing. After pitching the film to ITV and getting the green light, there was a painfully long lull.

“We had to wait for the right sized whale to turn up, and we were told you can expect between eight and ten a year for what we needed, so we were thinking we’d get to pick and choose,” he said. “But for 18 months we had nothing.”

Sarah Cunliffe and Mark Woodward from Big Wave Productions in Chichester.ks16000530-2 SUS-160322-185814008

Finally the call did come in – a huge humpback had washed up, but in the far reaches of north east Scotland.

What the team then managed to capture was up to 200 sharks at a time gathering to feed from the whale, 50 miles out to sea from the coast of Cornwall.

Mark called the whole project ‘easily the most challenging documentary they’ve ever made’.

Big Wave Productions work closely with the Seachange Agency and the Shark Trust to raise awareness about over fishing sharks around the world, with numbers in decline.

The whale attracted sharks and other creatures when it was sunk

The two-part documentary Britain’s Whales/Britain’s Sharks, directed by Mike Cunliffe from Big Wave Productions, will show on ITV on Friday 25, from 8-8:30pm and 9-10:00pm.

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At the climax, up to 200 sharks were filmed at the whale fall

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Presenters on the ITV documentary, Ben Fogle and Ellie Harrison
Sarah Cunliffe and Mark Woodward from Big Wave Productions in Chichester.ks16000530-2 SUS-160322-185814008
The whale attracted sharks and other creatures when it was sunk