Rivers - Friend and Foe

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Episode 7 of 8

Duration: 1 hour

Rivers provide the essentials of life: fresh food and water. They often provide natural highways and enable us to live in just about every environment on Earth. But rivers can also flood, freeze or disappear altogether!

Human Planet joins Sam Niang, a Laotian fisherman, as he walks a high wire strung above the raging Mekong River rapids on an extraordinary commute to work.

There's also a look at the remarkable partnership between Samburu tribesmen and wild elephants in their search for water in the dried-out river beds of Northern Kenya.

Plus, a father who must take his two children on a six-day trek down a frozen river - the most dangerous school run on Earth, and the ice dam busters of Ottowa with their dynamite solution to a city centre hold-up.

  • Rivers episode facts

    • The River Nile in Africa is the longest river in the world at over 4,000 miles (6,400km) in length.

    • The Amazon is the largest in the world in terms of the amount of water that flows down it. It has the largest drainage basin in the world and is responsible for around 20% of the world’s total river flow. Researchers at Ohio State University have found that the sheer volume and weight of the Amazon flood creates a 7.5 cm dip in Earth’s crust every year.

    • Meghalaya in India is one of wettest places on Earth. In 1974 it had the highest recorded annual rainfall with over 24 metres of rainfall – that’s around the height of two double-decker buses.

  • Human Planet – Rivers – Samburu singing

     Human Planet – Rivers – Samburu singing

    Even during the long, hot Kenyan dry season when the rivers disappear, the Samburu sing as they go about their daily lives…

    Watch Rivers - Samburu singing
  • Ask Human Planet: Live Chat

    Ask Human Planet: Live Chat

    Relive the interactive chat with the makers of the series.

    Read the discussion
  • Mark Flowers, Producer/Director, Rivers and Cities

    Mark Flowers, Producer/Director, Rivers and Cities

    Mark grew up in what he thinks is the most wild and beautiful part of the world and when he was small he made a big wish: the place was Wensleydale, Yorkshire, and the wish was for ‘an adventure’. So far this adventure has taken Mark far from his beloved home to some of the most enlightening place around the world and helped instil in him a love of nature, landscape and human communities.

    From playing with dolphins in the Brazilian Amazon, to sweating under the 40C plus intense West African heat in a Mali mud festival, Mark has loved every minute of the challenges and excitement that Human Planet has brought and he can’t wait for the next adventure.

  • Ciaran Flannery, Assistant Producer, Rivers and Cities

    Ciaran Flannery, Assistant Producer, Rivers and Cities

    In 2007 Ciaran relocated from sunny California to Cardiff to start work on Human Planet.

    Over the past 20 years he has lived in places all over the world, from Aspen to Afghanistan. With a specialization in expeditions and hostile environments, it made perfect sense to place him on the Cities episode. His special talent for mudbogging (getting a 4x4 in and out of mud pits) also helped him out of a sticky situation whilst on location for Rivers on the Trans-Amazonian highway in Brazil!

  • Renée Godfrey, Researcher, Rivers and Cities

    Renée Godfrey, Researcher, Rivers and Cities

    Social Anthropologist Renée has spent the last seven or so years travelling to and living with some of the most remote tribal communities in the world. Her adventures on Human Planet have taken her to a variety of extreme environments – from being accepted as ‘one of the girls’ among the Matrilineal Khasi tribe in North East India, to walking in the footsteps of elephants and Samburu warriors in Kenya.

    Her passions for people, film making and travel are important to her, and in Human Planet she found a production that chimes perfectly with her spirit of adventure. Although, if she were completely honest, she is still hoping to get on a shoot that takes her to live with a ‘surfing tribe’ somewhere near Hawaii…obviously, she would have to take a surfboard as an important film making tool!


John Hurt
Mark Flowers


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