Four million years ago a furnace of molten rock erupted and created the Galápagos islands – a beautiful oceanic outpost 600 miles off mainland South America. It’s an unforgiving landscape – yet this unique chain of rocky islands is home to giant tortoises, equatorial penguins, pink iguanas, and dandelion trees. The islands also attract a wave of extraordinary ‘visitors’ every year, including albatross, whale-sharks and hammerhead sharks.
Why do these ocean giants return to the Galápagos islands every year, and how exactly do they find it? Mission Galápagos uses a state-of-the-art research vessel – with floating labs, helicopters, and sonar scanners - to tackle some age-old riddles. Could a strong geomagnetic force-field be guiding the ocean giants towards the islands? And what can submersible cameras and 3D imaging tell us about the volcanoes and creatures that lie beneath?
A team of expert presenters abseil into volcanoes, journey through mangroves to monitor baby sharks and free-dive off shore to tag mighty hammerheads and film baby sea lions at play. Scientists explore the extraordinary ways that local wildlife has adapted to island-life. From sunbathing penguins to iguanas that have learnt to swim, Mission Galápagos reveals just how far a species will stretch itself in order to survive.
EPISODE 1 - CAULDRON OF LIFE
Liz Bonnin joins a scientific team aboard the research vessel the Alucia on an expedition across the
Galapagos Island. The journey begins on the Galapagos' west side at the youngest and most
volcanically active islands in the archipelago, Isabela and Fernandina, which are home to a richly
diverse wildlife scene. Here, Liz and the team journey into the clouds above Wolf, the tallest volcano
in the Galapagos, where they join a group of biologists hunting for the elusive pink iguana, which
teeters on the edge of extinction. But how and why did it come to live on the top of a volcano? Back
on the research vessel, Liz boards Alucia's Triton submersible to descend a kilometre into the ocean
abyss in search of a new species hiding in the darkness. Liz also travels to one of the most remote
locations in the Galapagos, Alcedo Volcano, in search of the largest population of giant tortoises.
Plagued by drought in recent months, scientists are keen to find out how this prehistoric species has
fared. Finally, Liz helps out with a groundbreaking science experiment to x-ray marine iguanas that
have so far stunned the scientific community with a new mutation. As with all life on these remote
islands, the key to survival is adaptation.
EPISODE 2 - SECRETS OF THE DEEP
On the second leg of this incredible mission, Liz Bonnin and a team of scientific experts set off
beneath the waves to explore this spectacular archipelago. It is an exciting opportunity for the team to
delve into a world that still largely remains a mystery to science. Venturing down in the Nadir, a
specially equipped deep sea submersible, Liz goes in search of an elusive ocean giant, the mola, or
sunfish, to understand more about its little-known behaviour in the deep. On the way back to the
Alucia, Liz checks in on a playful sea lion population to see how they have been affected by a recent
extreme weather event, El Nino. Back on board the Alucia, the team sets sail north for the most
remote and inhospitable islands in the Galapagos - Wolf and Darwin. Here, Liz joins the team tagging
and tracking hammerhead sharks that school at this location in huge numbers as they try to unlock
the secrets of this stunning behaviour. But nothing can prepare the Alucia crew for the power of the
ocean in this isolated marine wonderland.
EPISODE 3 - FUTURE FRONTIERS
In the culmination of this 1,000km scientific expedition aboard the Alucia, Liz Bonnin and the team of
scientific experts journey south to visit the oldest islands in the Galapagos to see first-hand the impact
that humans have had on this pristine wilderness. Back on the larger island of Isabela, where her
journey first began, Liz descends into a spectacular vertical lava cave. Deep inside, she discovers
how this hidden world could even provide an answer to how it might be possible to inhabit other
planets. On her last land-based stop, on Santa Cruz, Liz comes face to face with the effects of man
as she explores the magical misty scalesia forests and meets scientists who are tracking the invasive
species spreading throughout the islands. It is here that she also checks in on a giant tortoise
population whose ancient migration pathways have come under threat from the largest human
population on the archipelago, and meets a man on a mission to protect this iconic creature. Finally,
Liz dives into the deep blue waters to witness the birth of a brand new island. Coming full circle, Liz
and the team are able to reflect on the importance of their missions which will help to protect the
Galapagos and its extraordinary wildlife in the future. In an ever-changing world, what we learn now
from these incredible living natural wonders and what we can pass on to future generations has never
been more important.