Planet California


California is a world unto itself, defined by dramatic geography, the play of extreme natural forces and our imaginations. We call it ‘Planet California’.

There is the magic of Hollywood and Disneyland, but California is a combination of human and natural wonders. Here lions live next door to movie stars. In its forests grow the world’s tallest trees, its deserts can be the hottest place on earth, and in its ocean swims the largest animal that has ever lived.

In ‘Planet California’, we reveal California from an unfamiliar perspective – its wildlife and wild places.

‘Planet California’ is a series of three one-hours which combines natural history with science, to tell the story of wild California. From Northern California to Baja California, fires, earthquakes, droughts and El Niño continually confront this vast region. These clashes define the land and create a place apart, more bio-diverse than any in the Americas.

Mountain-sized waves and epic storms in the north Pacific open the story of California.

This is where the California Current is born. A swirling ocean stream that sweeps 2,500 kilometers along the length of California, it is the engine which drives all of California’s ecosystems on land and sea. And it is the vehicle which links the 3 episodes of our ‘Planet California’ series.

The current flows like a conveyor belt, delivering nutrients from rivers and the deep sea, as well prey to predators and a ride for migrators. Its influence reaches inland also, producing the forest mists and mountain snows which offer life-giving moisture to a dry interior.

‘Planet California’’s 3 episodes, “The North”, “The South” and “Baja California” follow the movement of the California Current from the North down to the tip of Baja California.

In northern California, the California Current delivers fog and fish to nourish forests of the world’s tallest trees. This region is home to elephant seals and the great white sharks that feed on them. Volcanic activity and active fumaroles hint at the powerful subterranean forces at work here, as do the fissures of the San Andreas earthquake fault.

The California Current continues its movement south, where it collides with other currents to create an ocean ecosystem as rich as a 3-dimensional Serengeti.

The clash of currents produces weather that sweeps inland across a vast landscape marked by extremes. From scorched desert to glacial peaks, from whales to woodpeckers, all are found here in one of the most bio-diverse regions on earth.

As the California Current continues its sweep south to the tip of Baja California, we reveal a seldom-explored region with a spine of mountains, encircled by desert and surrounded by water. Here the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez, an inland sea rich in marine life. In Baja, we place our hopes for survival of condors barely escaping extinction and cheer the endurance of coyotes, who thrive despite decades of assault.

Baja California gives us a glimpse back in time, to what the rest of wild California may have once looked like.

The California Current carries us on a 2,500-kilometer journey through California’s major eco-systems. Along the way, we are convinced that California is indeed a world apart, defined by iconic plants and animals, extremes of geography and the clashes with natural forces which give our series its name – ‘Planet California’.