Imagine being paid to travel around the world, to dive and film underwater. Definitely sounds like the dream job for many, I believe.
Jonathan Smith agreed that he is a very lucky man indeed, however, he is quick to afford that he regrets having to spend so much time away from home. “With all the adventures that I’m lucky enough to get around the world, my actual favourite thing is to be at home with my two little girls,” he confessed.
The producer of Blue Planet II transports viewers to the North and South Poles, showing us how marine animals behave. Narrated by Sir David Attenborough, the documentary has already garnered 10.6 million views. From studying how small changes in temperature can have major impacts to the Kobudai, to observing how female walruses find the right iceberg to rest their calves on – the team spared no efforts with tricks like the usage of low-light cameras and drones.
In fact, attaching a camera onto the back of a killer whale was just part of the job for them. The camera was equipped with sensors to record speed, temperature, salinity, duration and location. Describing it as a memorable moment, Smith shared, “The moment we started to look at that footage where you really truly moving as one with the whale, that was an extraordinary moment too.”
The wildlife series took the crew more than 6000 hours over four years in 39 different countries, so it’s no wonder Smith spends so much time away from home. Of course, that doesn’t deter him from striving to bring the oceans nearer to us. His motto, “Always believe”, is the answer to how he fights forward amidst challenges. “When you are being so ambitious to catch a particular behaviour or big event in the ocean, the challenge is patience. Always believe it’s going to happen, because it’s only if you stop believing that it will never happen,” he explained.
His inspiration for pursuing this field of study comes from living by the ocean from a young age. As he recalled his childhood memories of surfing with his friends along the coasts of Como, England, he described the underwater world as “very amazing and extraordinary”. Since then, studying marine biology seemed like the right thing to do. Now a natural history film producer with BBC, he aims to change the perception of people through Blue Planet II, in the hopes that they will realise how animals can actually affect the ecosystem significantly.
As the interview comes to a close, I asked Smith if he would allow his daughters to follow his footsteps, considering the dangerous nature of his job. Just like you would expect from a nurturing father, he shared, “What’s so amazing about having children of your own, is seeing their own individual personalities. And I can’t wait to see what it is that they are keen to do.”
New episodes of Blue Planet II are available every Tuesday at 8pm on BBC Earth (Starhub channel 407), and on BBC Player.