Sir David Attenborough is the indisputable king of nature documentaries.
He’s best known for narrating “Planet Earth,” the BBC series, but over his 65-year career, the naturalist-turned-broadcaster has fundamentally changed the way humans see the natural world. He’s even had animals named after him.
Now, Attenborough, 89, wants to give viewers a deeper, more interactive look into an environment that is on the brink of extinction.
Attenborough’s “The Great Barrier Reef: An Interactive Journey” is an online expedition packed with virtual reality, interactive games, time lapses and short films that take you into one of the world’s most prized reefs, its habitants and its climate change-induced decay.
The multi-media website, which debuted in late December, has the same awe-inspiring visuals blended with fascinating and sobering facts typical of an Attenborough documentary — only this time, viewers can guide their own expedition through the world’s largest, most diverse stretch of coral reef. And they can do much more than just watch.
An interactive timeline, for example, lets viewers speed up time to see how acidification affects a sand dollar. Or you can see through the eyes of a mantis shrimp and its 16 light-detecting cells (humans have only three).
Another feature, as seen in the virtual reality video below, gives users a heartbreaking 360-degree look at how a particular coral reef bleached completely over the course of a single year.
Corals that experience mass bleaching like this can take decades to recover.
The website, which provides near-real time snapshots of global weather patterns, will be regularly updated by leading coral experts for the next five years, The Guardian reported.
“With this ability,” the website explains, “we can compare today’s conditions to those of the past and see high temperatures and severe weather events becoming the norm.”
The interactive website was made in conjunction with the new BBC documentary series, “The Great Barrier Reef with David Attenborough.”
During filming, Attenborough and his crew descended a record-breaking 1,000 feet to the ocean floor in a submarine. What they captured, while stunning, revealed the perilous future the Great Barrier Reef faces if climate change continues.
“It’s a very serious threat that the reef is facing,” Attenborough said, according to News Corp Australia. “The issue is, in fact, the changes of the ocean and the speed at which the planet is changing. … It’s real now, but it will be imminent unless we manage to control the warming of the planet within two degrees.”
Attenborough said he hopes his online expedition will raise awareness among a wider audience.
“New mediums, all used at once, give different platforms for kids who will never watch the TV series,” Attenborough told The Guardian.
“Technology enables you to go beyond the human faculties,” he added. “Nobody, nobody at all, has been able to have such insight as completely as we have today.”
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