Why I want to share Britain's Secret Seas with you

Friday 6 May 2011, 11:06

Paul Rose Paul Rose Co-Presenter

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There's no denying it, most people really don't know how fabulous our seas are.

We tend to celebrate the coast and our great maritime history and yet we often overlook what's just under the surface in our coastal waters.

As a diver for over 40 years, you can imagine that Britain's Secret Seas feels like the ultimate way for me to share my love of British underwater adventures.

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My big hope was that we could make a great programme that revealed the true wonder of Britain's seas and make it look easy and attractive to explore.

I kept thinking about a family of non-divers watching, and hoping that our programme might inspire them to give it a try.

I would love to see that family experience basking sharks like we did.

We snorkelled with a shiver of about 12 huge basking sharks only 100 metres or so from the beach at Porthcurno in Cornwall.

They are shy of noise. Bubbles from scuba diving equipment or jumping in from the boat sends them away, so the snorkelling approach works well.

We found that if you just float motionless at the surface they come very close indeed.

It's exciting. Even though we know that basking sharks are not predatory there is something gripping about a 10-metre-long shark swimming towards you with that massive open mouth. How about that as part of a family day at the seaside?

There are four one-hour episodes from Britain's north, south, east and west, with each episode having a core theme.

My co-presenters Frank Pope, Tooni Mahto and I dived in whichever combination made the most sense for each particular story.

Frank was leading the history and ocean ecosystems stories, Tooni was leading the marine science, with me being the lead diver, presenter and expedition leader.

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But it's not just about diving. Being underwater is a great setting in which to bring important stories to life.

In this series, we talk about ecosystem's services by diving on the fluorescing sea squirts off the coast of St Abbs in Berwickshire that provide the protein for tracking cancer cells.

In the Wild North episode I report on some of our military activities by diving with the Royal Navy clearance divers to explode 1,000lb bombs.

And the Bustling South and the Giants Of The West episodes reveal exciting history and conservation stories when we dive some of our important shipwrecks.

Britain's Secret Seas is the realisation of a dream for me.

I remember the early 1960s when my life's heroes were in their prime - Hans Hass was using military diving gear to film his fabulous shark documentaries.

Jacques Cousteau had co-invented scuba diving, written The Silent World, and was exploring the world's seas on the ultimate diving expedition on Calypso.

And my big hero at the time, Mike Nelson, was up to his neck in Sea Hunt adventures.

Beautiful women were hiring Mike for diving lessons and at the end of each programme I would swear that he was talking directly to me with his words on diving safety.

I had just failed my 11-plus, hated school, loved the sea and knew nothing. Except that I wanted to be a diver.

Paul Rose is the co-presenter of Britain's Secret Seas.

Britain's Secret Seas is on BBC Two and BBC HD at 8pm on Sunday, 8 May.

You can read more from Paul about a dolphin autopsy he carried out on BBC News online.

For further programme times, please see the upcoming episodes page.

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Last night's programme was fantastic. As someone who works hard to try and get some of Dorset's fabulous marine life protected from damaging activities, whether it be recreational boating or scallop dredging, it was great to see our efforts being highlighted on national TV. Thanks to you and the team Paul and to all at the BBC for not shying away from some controversial issues, and telling it like it is. Well done!

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    Comment number 42.

    I have really enjoyed the whole series and just wish it could have been longer. But there's pleanty of water around the UK, so maybe enough material for another 4 shows? I hope so.

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    Comment number 43.

    What a fantastic show and a great set of presenters. Finally a tv show which appeals to british divers and the non-diving public, and a chance for divers to share our secret world with others. More of this show should be made, with upcoming legislation around our seas and a lot more sites to visit the BBC should continue to show case our seas. Also there are thousands of divers located all around the UK, an active community which will share it's knowledge with the BBC and help you make a successful series

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    Comment number 44.

    For those complaining about anchoring damage - remember that this program was made using boats that had to be anchored! Permanent moorings do not describe a 20m arc damaging the seabed. They are fixed and only move a little to allow for shock loading. Most private boats only anchor for a short while, a couple of hours for lunch etc. so don't make the big circle of damage described by the program.

    There is plenty of room for everyone - no need for blanket bans on boating. Look at popular anchorages. If they have wildlife that needs protecting put visitor moorings down. Popular dive sites - fit single chain moorings with 3 point anchoring. That way we can all enjoy the sea.

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    Comment number 45.

    The boats used to film this feature were not anchored, the hard boat moored , the rib was mobile.
    These are 20m arc's of bare sand under the moorings, the heavy chains destroy the eelgrass, and don't allow it to recover.
    There is a scientific paper to prove this.
    There can be up to 300 boats in the bay at any given time in the summer, most are anchored there for longer than a couple of hours, each anchor will tear a hole in the eelgrass mat, leaving a hole, that in turn will erode and get larger.
    We have always suggested the use of eelgrass friendly moorings onsite, this would allow boats to visit with minimum impact on the habitat.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Excellent series! Hopefully there will be a second one, programmes like this will help educate people that beneath our seas are some fantastic habitats and shipwrecks which are worth visiting and protecting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Thankyou and your team for a brilliant series we all enjoyed it very much.Hopefully you can do another series as there is many more places to visit around our coastline.
    Well done to all

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Great programme. If there's scope for more, without milking it just for the sake of it, I hope the BBC will fund it.

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    Comment number 49.


    This was a great showcase for diving in the uk. Maybe this could be like "Coast". It can go around the UK's shores many times and discover something new every time?


  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Really enjoyed the series, but there is so much more to see underwater around the British coast that 4 episodes are nowhere near enough!
    I've spent almost 25 years exploring underwater Britain and haven't seen a fraction of what there is to see, there is a lot more available to Britains Secret Seas, lets hope they push ahead with more episodes. Come on BBC there are a lot of diving fans out here !

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    Another great series Paul and look forward to catching up with you at some point later in the year :)


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    Comment number 52.

    Hi Paul,

    Great series, I can't believe how close you got to that conger, much braver than I am. Can I suggest the next expedition in the Channel Islands? Coming from Guernsey it was a shame our only mention was for having a quarry full of oil as we have some spectacular diving there.

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    Comment number 53.

    Thankyou, really enjoyed the programme but a couple of questions. Grey seal numbers as you say have increased dramatically in recent years. I certainly see them at sea everywhere I go. From your figure of 5kg of fish a day and 150,000 seals I calculated they eat over 270,000 metric tonnes of fish a year. You also reported that grey seals tend to eat the larger species now like cod and haddock. To what extent do you think will this have effected the cod stocks and could this be one of the reasons that cod stocks are not increasing again while the fishng effort for cod from east coast ports like Bridlington (as you reported) is almost non existent now. I am also intrigued by the cod worm. I used to catch cod when i was young and rarely found worms in them. Now the few cod i do catch usually have some worms and many are riddled with them. Is there a link to current seal numbers. Does this reduce the cods ability to breed successfully.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    In the first episode underwater we saw a large, bright blue fish. Was this a Grouper or something else? Does anyone know?

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Loved the episode about the southcoast as I am from dorset. I have often seen the marker bouy for the historic wreck from my boat but knew nothing about it. I was however, a bit dissappointed that Tooni referred to the scorpion fish under Brighton pier as a gurnard. A surprising mistake as the two species are nothing like each other.

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    Comment number 56.

    You and your team are truly brave hearts Paul. It’s a pleasure watching your show. I am not a diver but watching the exhilarating scenes of your show gives me hope of actually trying the sport some day in the future. I still have to come to grips with the thought of having a ten metre long shark floating beside me. However your work is impressive and it makes good tourist marketing for Britain’s seas. These are the shows that should be aired more often not only on BBC two but also on other channels. It would be nice if you seek to expand you viewership.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Let’s be practical! Britain’s underwater experience is not that great. What is so fun about finding some old rotten pieces of junk buried at the bottom of the sea? It’s all pointless. If I am going diving I would rather spend my time examining the beautiful coral reefs found in tropical waters. If you really want a diving experience then you need to visit the warm and inviting waters of the Caribbean. You are wasting precious air time with this nonsense. Paul, go and get a taste of the salty tropical waters. Your jaws will literally drop open to see the beauty under the Caribbean Sea.


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