Wildlife series. On a trip to Mexico, Steve Backshall takes to the water in search of a monster of the deep seas and searches for snakes in the desert.
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My name's Steve Backshall. Wow!
And this is my mission to find the Deadly 60.
That's not just animals that are deadly to me,
but animals that are deadly in their own world.
My crew and I are exploring the planet
and you're coming with me every step of the way.
For this brand new series, I've decided to come
to one of the deadliest deserts on the planet.
This is Mexico.
Specifically the Baja Peninsula.
There's more venomous and poisonous creatures here
than just about anywhere else I know.
In fact, this is a place that has to be taken really, really seriously.
This programme is a game of two halves
and two environments that couldn't be more different.
We'll be back in the dry desert later on,
but our first lethal creature is a monster of the deep seas.
To lure one up from the depths
I'm going to need a whole bunch of high-tech kit,
a boat and a bit of local help.
Over the last few years looking for deadly animals
there's been one that I've heard more crazy stories about
and has captured my imagination more than any other
and that's why we're here in the Sea of Cortez.
These guys are fishermen looking for the exact animal
that we're trying to find.
The call it Diablo Rojo which is the red devil
and they tell stories of them ripping fishermen from their boats
and tearing them to shreds.
I don't know about any of that, but what I do know for sure
is that this is one of the most dangerous animals we're going to see
and it's called the Humboldt squid.
The dark depths of the Sea of Cortez are teeming with Humboldt squid,
but catching one requires serious effort.
They're fearsomely strong and can be as long as a car.
These fishermen usually catch the squid for food,
but tonight, we just want to come face to...tentacle with one.
So what's happening now is these guys are putting lines
way, way deep down. During the day these squid are about 200m plus
under water, but now it's dusk time, the sun is going down
and they'll be coming closer and closer to the surface to feed.
So they're going to trawl around, see if they can pull something in.
And when they do, we'll see our first squid.
'I have so much respect for these fishermen,
'dragging up squid with just a line,
'a lure and a whole lot of sweat.'
We've got something big coming in.
I'm so excited!
MAN SPEAKS SPANISH
How much line has he put in here?!
I see it! I see something! I can see a light shape coming towards us.
Here it comes.
Oh, no, look at that!
Yes! Yes! Wow!
Look at the colours pulsing down the body.
I can't believe it!
There's the beak he's pointing out to us there.
That's the danger end.
I can't believe he's letting his fingers get that close to it.
Look at that! It's like a giant parrot's beak.
And it can cut straight through flesh and even bone.
It would easily take off one of my fingers. Right,
look down the length of all of these tentacles.
Each one has sucker cups running all the way down the length of it
and every one of those sucker cups is ringed with razor-sharp teeth.
Look at that!
They're like the teeth of a piranha.
They'll slice straight through flesh and they use those to catch a hold
of slippery sardines and small fish
that they're going to be eating and draw them in. I don't believe it.
Our next step has to be get in the water
and get close to them in their own environment.
'Even a small squid like this,
'with those sucker teeth and that ferocious beak,
'could do me some serious damage.
'Imagine what a squadron of fully grown ones could do.
'For protection, safety diver Scott, cameraman Simon and I
'have to wear chainmail suits like medieval knights...
'going scuba diving.
'Another danger is being dragged down into the deep ocean
'by several squid at once, so we'll be attached to the boat
'by steel safety cables.
'And we're also going to be in radio contact with the surface...'
That's fantastic, mate. Over.
'..so they'll know if we have a problem.
'We don't need to dive deep. At night there's a good chance
'the big squid will come up to the surface to feed.'
You OK, Steve?
Yeah, I'm fine, I'm fine.
'Squadrons of as many as 1,200 squid
'patrol the darkness looking for prey.
'They'll tear apart anything they can overpower,
'including unwary scuba divers.
'And from the darkness, Scott spots a squid just below the boat
'and it's a good size.'
Look at that!
'At first, he didn't seem that pleased to see us.'
Look at all the ink it's squirting into the water!
That's the method the squid uses to get away from its predators,
because no predator is going to know where it is
behind that smokescreen.
Look at it now, covering the camera!
OK, I'm going to, very gently, just try and take control of the head.
Oh, I've got it!
I've got my first Humboldt squid underwater!
Now you can see why they call it the Red Devil or the Red Demon.
The water is just full of ink!
Oh, crikey! He just made a lunge for the camera lens there.
That is amazing.
'I'm handling this squid very carefully, and for good reason.
'As well as their hooked beak and serrated suckers,
'they're incredibly strong.
'They can move in any direction in an instant,
'by either flapping their fins or using a water jet called a siphon.'
Look there, it's got its tentacles around my arm
and I can feel the gripping of those teeth.
Actually, you can feel it even through the chainmail suit.
And here, that's where that snapping beak is.
I want to take great care not to get my fingers close to it,
because I think I'd lose them.
Well, I know I'd lose them.
That's the really ferocious bit of the Humboldt squid.
Ooh, look at the colour change there!
It's bright red. Look at the pulsing there.
'Even though this squid seems calm,
'you can never be too careful with a fierce predator like this.
'Good job safety diver Scott was on hand.'
It's actually... Argh!
Oh, dear, me! This... Argh!
The strength of the beak -
it just actually bit me right through the chainmail suit.
It really pinched my arm.
You can see how easy it would be
for a creature like this to power itself away, using that siphon.
But also, to create that smokescreen
that is going to make it almost impossible
for another predator that uses sight to hunt by
to find the Humboldt squid.
That really is one of the weirdest,
most beautiful, creatures I've ever seen.
I'm just going to release it now.
Amazing. Absolutely amazing.
That really is a sea monster,
if ever I saw one.
I've never seen such a remarkable creature
underwater in my entire life.
Ha! I don't think anyone's going to doubt that the Humboldt squid
has got to go in the Deadly 60.
Jet-propelled through the water,
with a scalpel-sharp beak
and over 16,000 sucker cup teeth,
the Humboldt squid is one of the most genuinely scary killers
on the Deadly 60.
'So, back to the desert -
'a hot, dry place where you can go days without finding water.
For the next few days, we're going to be staying
at this wonderful, deserted, run-down cattle ranch.
It's an amazing little oasis in the middle of nowhere
and there's incredible wildlife right here.
Let me show you around.
Do you mind?
Thank you(!) Right, come this way.
That's my bed down there, under the stars.
In here, where the other guys are sleeping,
some of them in hammocks, look.
Some people working hard. There's James.
That's Nick the soundman's bed.
And check this out.
We've got our own mango tree. Nick, can you get your boom pole in?
Look at that Perfectly ripe mangoes.
That one's not ripe, at all!
Totally fresh, ripe mangoes.
I think this used to be some of the stables
and now...it's our kit room.
-There's Emma working...
-..and all our boxes of stuff here.
At night, this place is absolutely full of snakes and scorpions.
I love this place!
'Our next target may be the most gruesome, savage critter
'we've seen yet. And this is just the sign I'm looking for.'
I just noticed something this morning, while I was having my bath,
something interesting, just over here.
It's a tarantula burrow, but there's a twist.
It's not a giant spider we're looking for, for the list.
It's something that eats them alive!
Let's meet our spider first.
Now, this won't do her any harm...
..but it might get us a good look at her.
There she is.
I'm just using my knife here to block off the entrance
to the burrow, so she can't get back in again.
I just want to do this easily.
I don't want to damage her burrow
and certainly not damage her.
Let's see if we can get her in the hand.
Although their venom is not very strong,
they can give you a very nasty, unpleasant, painful bite.
And that is because of those fangs. I don't know if you can see those.
If I just hold her up to you...
I know, for a lot of people,
a spider like this is their worst nightmare,
but round here, there's an animal that is the absolute sworn enemy
of the tarantula.
And that's what I'm really hoping to find, for my Deadly 60 list.
'What kind of creature would have the guts to take on a giant spider?
'Well, it's a monster insect -
'the largest wasp in the world.'
'In the dense trees,
'we heard the animal before we saw it.'
Oh, there's one, look.
Yeah, it's coming this way, Steve.
'This fast-flying, buzzing bundle of deadliness
'is out hunting spiders.
'It's called a tarantula hawk wasp.'
Here it comes, here it comes.
What he's doing at the moment is just circling around this area
trying to find his food.
'It's in search of a tarantula, just like the one we've just found.'
Has he found one?
We could be about to see one of the most incredible spectacles
in the animal kingdom.
I can't quite believe this is happening,
but that hole there...
..is the hole of a tarantula.
When the wasp locates a spider,
it will out manoeuvre it, like a kung-fu master,
and deliver a single paralysing sting.
The spider's still alive, but completely defenceless.
This is only half the story.
The paralysed spider is dragged by the wasp to a safe burrow,
where it will lay an egg, which will hatch into a maggot,
which will slowly devour the spider while it is still alive.
-It's coming out, it's coming out, it's coming out.
Right. I've got to be ever so careful how I do this,
because the tarantula hawk wasp
has a sting that's reputed to be
the most painful
of any invertebrate.
Ooh! And he's off! No, come back!
'Ah. Yeah, that wasn't a great time
'to break my net.'
Got it! Got it, got it, got it, got it, got it!
Oh, no! He went in the hole!
Oh, no, I can't believe it! That's so frustrating!
You come back here now!
I had him
and I've got a great big hole in my net.
And he just flew straight out through it.
-He's coming this way, Steve.
Got her. Got her. Right.
Now, this time, you are not getting away.
I've got to be ever so careful. I don't want to damage her,
but also, her sting is absolutely paralysing.
There she is.
..is the tarantula hawk wasp, or pepsis wasp.
And she is...
..one of the most incredible predators
found anywhere in the world.
Look at the size of her sting.
(Right. There we go.)
Look at that.
Glorious, glorious colour -
very vibrant metallic blue,
with bright orange wings,
but don't let her beauty fool you.
This is one the most grotesque killers
in the whole of the animal kingdom.
This creature here has a strength way beyond her size
and a sting that, well,
if I was to get stung by this,
I would be able to think about nothing else for at least 24 hours.
It's way up there with being the most painful sting
of any insect on the planet.
But she is incredible.
Look at the mandibles. Look at the size
of these jaws here.
So, I don't think there is any doubt
that the tarantula hawk wasp has got to go on the Deadly 60.
I'm just hoping that, when we let her go,
she doesn't try and take it all out on me.
The biggest wasp in the world.
Takes on giant tarantula spiders.
And is armed with a vicious sting.
The tarantula hawk wasp is on the Deadly 60.
'That's two deadly critters down
'and living nightmares are coming out of the woodwork.'
From a distance, this probably looks just like an earthworm.
Victor, our snake guy,
actually found this burrowing not so far away from here.
It's not until you look up close that you realise quite how weird
this is. They call them mole lizards and if you look closely,
you'll see it, kind of, almost burrowing forward, like a mole,
using those two front legs.
It's not actually a lizard at all, though.
It is a reptile,
but they are completely distinct from the other snakes and lizards.
They are in a group all to themselves and they feed on
invertebrates, insects and things
they find when burrowing beneath the soil.
And you have to say,
they are one of the oddest creatures on the planet.
'Many animals are forced into hiding by the heat of the day,
'so by searching at night,
'we are going to find a whole load of different creatures.'
Look at that.
'Straight away, we run into an old favourite -
Oh, there's another one. And another one!
There's about four in one little tiny area here. Look at this.
I have never seen so many scorpions in my entire life.
I have got here this special torch, which can help me to see scorpions,
so I'm going to try...two minutes?
And see how many scorpions I can find.
If everyone else knocks off their lights...
let's see what we can get.
-And you're off.
There's one. Down there.
On the ground.
Three seconds, one scorpion.
There's a bit of a tail, up there.
These palm trees... Loads of places for them to hide.
Absolutely perfect for scorpions.
There's another one there, look.
Johnny, can you see that one?
Little flat one, up there.
Under there, look.
Ooh, there's one, look. Johnny?
That's a lot of scorpions.
And that's time up.
-What did you think about that?
-A lot of scorpions.
-A lot of scorpions.
Are we sleeping here tonight?
I think the lesson is, make sure you look before you lie down.
-Can I have that torch now, please?!
-Cheers, I'll just keep hold of it.
-Can we all have one of those?
'After a good night's sleep, we get an early wake-up call
'from a friendly cow.'
'At least, I hope she's friendly.
'It will take more than that to get my lazy crew out of bed!'
Very good job.
'No better way to start the day than a quick splash in the stream.'
# How do you wanna get out of bed this morning...? #
'we're not alone.'
Dave, look, a snake's come past.
Wow! What an amazing start!
Just woken up, taking a bath, and already got our first snake.
'It's called a Cape water snake.'
Quite aggressive, not surprisingly, because I've just picked him up.
But, erm, he's not venomous,
so I'm not too bothered.
He doesn't like the microphone on top of the camera.
He obviously thinks it's something threatening
and he keeps having a bit of a lunge at it, like that, look.
I think your microphone's dead, Johnny. He-he-he!
Right. Let's put him back.
'We'd barely started and we were already tripping over snakes.
'This place is Serpent Central!'
-OK, turn back, crew.
-Ow! Got bit.
'First up, a coachwhip in the kit room...'
Oh, sorry, Johnny!
'..not as pleased to see me as I was to see him.'
Ooh, he's very... Ow!
'They're not venomous, but have certainly got a fiery temper.'
'Second, another coachwhip.
'And this one a real whopper.'
I've never seen one anything like this size.
'We were falling over snakes, without leaving camp,
'so what might we find if we actually started looking for them?
'Well, I've got one kind of snake in mind.'
Hey, yeah, you beauty!
Don't go anywhere.
I didn't want to say anything, cos I didn't want to tempt fate,
but this was exactly the animal I've come here hoping to find.
Got it. Got it. Yeah.
This is the snake
of the Baja Peninsula.
It's a red diamond rattlesnake.
If I lay it down,
you can see the distinctive diamond-shaped pattern
running all the way down its back.
The colouration on that can be a really vibrant red,
which is where it gets its name from.
The rattle's not used at all in actually catching its prey.
The whole purpose of it is getting rid of animals
that are big and might threaten it,
but are far too big for it to try and eat.
Rattlesnakes are in a group of snakes called the pit vipers,
and if you look very closely at his head, you'll see,
in between the nostril and the eye
a tiny pit which can sense heat
in the moving muscles of the things it feeds on.
It's actually quite a lazy snake.
I mean, the way it was sitting when we found it is how it will spend
its entire day and sometimes two or three days at a time
until a warm-blooded animal like a small mouse walks past.
And then, the movement is like lightning.
It's less of a bite, really, and more of stab.
The teeth plunge into the prey
more like an assassin with a very sharp dagger
and then it retreats and waits for the animal to die.
'Despite being the world's noisiest snakes,
'rattlesnakes are still, like most snakes, incredibly hard to find.
'They'll lie low if a human approaches,
'so you can spend weeks searching and not find a single one.'
If you were a mouse,
you wouldn't last seconds with the red diamond rattlesnake.
He's definitely going on ...
'Hold your horses, Backshall! We're not done yet.
'After that, it was a regular rattlesnake round-up.'
They're everywhere! I don't believe it!
Wow, that is a very heavy-bodied snake.
'First was another, bigger red diamond rattler 100m away.'
Look how thick and heavy the body is.
Look at that. That's a big, venomous snake.
'Two rattlesnakes in ten minutes! Surely it couldn't get any better?
'Well, as the light began to fade, something really special happened -
'a Baja rattler. This is the only place in the world they're found.'
Ooh! There's a completely different species of rattlesnake
just over here.
Right. Stay there.
It's OK. It's OK, it's all right.
-Listen to that!
This one's a lot more active.
This place is absolutely crawling with rattlesnakes.
I don't believe it! Come round, guys.
'And then, to top off the best snake-hunting day I've ever had,
'a speckled rattlesnake.' Look at that tail going!
'That's three kinds in one day - a hat-trick,
'or to coin another footballing phrase, back of the net.'
And there it is.
Well, this has been one of the best snake-catching days of my life,
and there's no way I can leave here
without putting all of the rattlesnakes of the Baja Peninsula
onto my Deadly 60.
Right, off you go, fella.
'With the ability to see its prey in complete darkness...
'..its strike is done in half a second,
'and with venom that can kill its prey in 20 seconds...
'Baja's rattlesnakes are all on the Deadly 60.'
'Join me next time, as I continue my search for the Deadly 60.'
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Steve travels to the deadliest desert on the planet, the Baja peninsula in Mexico, where he goes searching for a gruesome savage killer in the form of a tarantula hawk wasp. This predator lays an egg in its tarantula prey, which hatches into a maggot, which then eats the spider from the inside - while it's still alive! It is the biggest wasp in the world and has a paralysing sting which makes even Steve nervous - that doesn't stop him handling it though.
The desert of Baja, Mexico, is serpent central and Steve has the time of his life catching snakes. These include a cape water snake, and a coachwhip snake that catches Steve unaware and lands a cheeky bite on his hand. He then embarks on a regular rattlesnake round-up, clocking up encounters with the venomous red diamond and Baja rattlesnakes before an encounter with a speckled rattlesnake tops off the best snake-hunting day Steve has ever had in his life.
Steve also takes to water in the Sea of Cortez in search of a monster of the deep seas. Known locally as the Red Devil, legend talks of its ability to snatch fishermen from their boats before tearing them to shreds - it is the Humboldt squid. Snatching fishermen is probably a little far-fetched, but Steve takes no chances and wears chain mail to protect him from the squid's razor-sharp beak and its 16 thousand sucker cup teeth.
Incidental finds which don't make it onto Steve's list are a mole lizard which looks like one of the oddest creatures on the planet and a torchlit walk in the local vicinity which reveals he and his crew are literally surround by scorpions.