Saturday, November 14, 2009

National Geographic's Exedition Week 2009

Starting tomorrow, National Geographic embarks upon a week of adventure. It's Nat Geo's Second Annual Expedition Week, seven nights of journeys to places as diverse as Mars and the deep ocean. Every night at 9PM, Nat Geo takes us on a different expedition sure to fascinate and amaze. I was lucky enough to preview this entire series, and I have to say, it's a pretty great week that's full of science as well as adventure. Be sure to tune in for any that pique your interest! Here's the lineup for the week:

The week starts with Sunday's Search For The Amazon Head Shrinkers. The documentary follows author and explorer Piers Gibbon as he follows the footsteps of Edmundo Bielawski, whose film from the 1960s supposedly revealed the actual head shrinking process as practiced by the Shuar people. The goal was to rediscover where the original scene was filmed and to learn more about the Shuar and their customs. While this show has been hyped quite a bit by Nat Geo, and this has called into question its taste in dealing with these native people, the special doesn't cross the line and remains sensitive to the unique culture of the Shuar. It's definitely worth watching, so long as you're not too squeamish!

Monday night we climb aboard Expedition Great White with Dr. Michael Domeier, a leading shark biologist with the Marine Conservation Science Institute, as he and his team seek to tag great whites with revolutionary new technology that will reveal the most sensitive information about white sharks to date. But attaching a tag to a 16 ft animal isn't a cake walk, and the show definitely delivers with non-stop action and breathtaking images of these majestic animals. While this tagging method has been criticized, I think anyone who watches the show will see that they are not out there fishing for great whites for fun - this is science, and its mind blowing.

Tuesday and Wednesday, the undersea adventure continues with Hunt for the Samurai Subs and Deep Secrets: The Ballard Gallipoli Expedition. On Tuesday, deep submergence vehicle pilots Terry Kerby and Max Cremer dive to depths of nearly 3,000 feet to hunt for some of World War II's largest and fastest submarines sunk by the US to hide their secrets from the Soviets. Then on Wednesday, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Dr. Bob Ballard dives to the ocean depths to explore six of the warships that sank during the Battle at Gallipoli, one of the bloodiest and most controversial campaigns of World War I that cost hundreds of thousands of soldiers their lives. Both specials explore the deep for sunken ships, bringing the past from World War I and II to life, and are definitely worth checking out if you're a history buff or enjoy watching ROVs explore the depths.

On Thursday, Nat Geo leaves Earth behind with Mars: Making the New Earth. What would it take to turn Mars, a barren, frozen wasteland, into a lush planet? The short answer is a lot, but not as much as you might think. The process of making a planet habitable by people is called terraforming, and scientists are already exploring the possibility of terraforming Mars. In this special, you get to see what scientists are learning about Mars and Earth, and how we might go about turning this freeze-dried planet into a place where we can live in the distant future.

On Friday, Nat Geo rewinds and begins a journey deep into the past with The First Jesus. Four years before the birth of Jesus, a different Messiah was beheaded and crucified by the Romans and said to have resurrected, according to a three-foot tall stone tablet from the first century B.C. His name was Simon, and at the time he was called the King of the Jews. This special travels to Israel to have a Deep Sea Scroll expert review the content of this unique and mysterious artifact while explorers travel from Jerusalem to Jericho to investigate archeological ruins that could help determine whether Simon really existed. Move over J.C. - there's a new Messiah in town! A must-see for those who like specials that seek to discover the historical realities of religious and mythic figures.

Finally, Nat Geo takes us travel even further back in time to the Cretaceous in When Crocs Ate Dinosaurs. Crocodiles are often heralded as living fossils, but they've changed quite a bit from their ancestors that dominated the prehistoric landscape. This special unearths the bizarre and gigantic crocodiles that were the ancestors of our modern animals. Far from being living fossils, modern crocodiles and alligators are but miniature versions of the frightening creatures that once hunted both on land and in the water at a time when mammals were still an evolutionary experiment and the ancestors of modern birds dominated the landscape. Ancient crocs make even the largest of the Amazon's most feared hunters look meek in comparison! This was by far my favorite of the week's expeditions, and a total blast to watch. Nat Geo definitely saved the best for last!

From prehistoric monsters to sci-fi futuristic scenarios, this year's Expedition Week is jam-packed with hard-core science, fantastic special effects, and amazing real images of explorers doing what they do best. I personally loved the set, so if any of what I just talked about sounds interesting, be sure to check out Nat Geo's Expedition Week, on every night this week at 9PM on The National Geographic Channel.