It’s those currents that provide the focus of this series, which follows the East Australian Current – made famous in the Pixar film Finding Nemo – from its beginnings in the tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef to its cold end, 3000 kilometres later, in the Southern Ocean off Tasmania.
Finding Nemo is a recurring theme throughout episode one, which follows a clown fish as it hatches off the Great Barrier Reef and then tries to make its way south. The episode then goes on to tick off a greatest hits of Australian treasures – whales, crocodiles, turtles and Dusseldorp – but it’s the scientists and researchers who are the real stars. Their passion is infectious – all it took for one researcher to dedicate his life to plankton was to look at a drop of water under a microscope – and their ability to communicate complex concepts is impressive. I do wish there was more of it.
And that’s the trick with these nature documentaries. How do you make each one different and engaging enough that viewers are not immediately glassing over at the hypnotic sound of whales singing?
Australia’s Ocean Odyssey‘ssolution is to give the stories the Disney-lite treatment. A hatchling turtle’s precarious journey from sand to sea is given the D-Day effect, as Dusseldorp tracks her journey – it’s most likely a girl turtle, as warming sands have made for an overwhelmingly female population – past “killer crabs” and a “seagull squadron”. I get that every nature documentary is trying to differentiate itself from David Attenborough, but it just felt a little too cutesy, much like the jaunty piano that accompanied the clown fish.
We are living in a time when science and facts are being disrespected and disregarded by many, so it would have been good to give the scientists a larger platform. As it stands, we only hear renowned marine biologist Dr Sylvia Earle, who has spent 60 years studying the ocean, talking for a few minutes at the end, while a clutch of other scientists and naturalists are scattered about. Their voices are heard, but equal time is given to hypnotic shots of plankton and I could have done with more of the former and less of the latter.
Australia’s Ocean Odyssey is on ABC, Tuesday, 8.30pm