Dugongs are one of the most reclusive and poorly-known marine mammals, with just a few true habitats remaining. One of these is Australia's Shark Bay. Dr. Mike Heithaus will travel to this amazing, colourful wilderness, hundreds of miles from civilization. There he will join PhD student Aaron Wiring for some fast-paced action as they deploy Crittercam on dugongs. Using Crittercam, a camera that rides on the animal's back, Mike and Aaron intend to unlock some of the dugong's secrets. While dugong - and manatee -- populations around the world are in perilous decline, the dugongs of this part of Western Australia are thriving. Is it what they're doing when we can't see them underwater? Is it a strategy to avoid shark attack? Is it food choice, or something special in this habitat? Answering any of these questions could help save this endangered species in other habitats around the world.


  • Crittercam Chronicles: Humpback Whales
    Dr. Fred Sharpe has been studying a unique group of humpback whales in the breathtaking fjords of Southeast Alaska for over 15 years. These remarkable whales have developed an ingenious way of capturing prey: they work together to trap schools of herring in a ring of bubbles, then lunge through this “bubble net” and gorge themselves on the helpless fish. Over the years, Fred has learned a great deal about this society of cooperative whales. But, until now, no one knew just how these enormous creatures coordinate the precise choreography of their unusual dance. Is there a ringleader? Are the eerie whale songs actually complex commands, or just a way to scare herring into their bubble trap?

    Fred has teamed up with National Geographic’s Remote Imaging team, including series host Dr. Mike Heithaus, to deploy CRITTERCAM on bubble-net feeding whales and learn more about their hunting tactics, social behavior, and vocalizations. Continued analysis of the CRITTERCAM data and images are revealing astonishing insights into the behavioral ecology of the humpback whale.

    As the humpbacks move beneath the waves, we’ll have front-row seats at their unearthly dance recital – as CRITTERCAM helps Fred’s work with these lords of the bubble-rings.
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Nurse Sharks
    Generally good-tempered animals, nurse sharks can nonetheless be unbelievably aggressive when mating. The males bury their teeth firmly into the females’ fins, leaving telling scars, while females twist and roll violently to test the male’s vigor. Dr. Jeff Carrier and Wes Pratt take a close look at the behavioral biology of nurse sharks, and invite their colleague, Dr. Mike Heithaus, to join them. Jeff and Wes have been studying the mating behavior of wild sharks for longer than anyone on the planet. Yet lots of intriguing questions remain. One immediate question is simple: what are the males doing between trips to their main mating grounds? Mike has brought CRITTERCAM along to help them find out.

    Nurse sharks are homebodies, almost never venturing more than 50 miles from where they were born. This fact has enabled Jeff and Wes to study a single group of these sharks on a remote island southwest of the Florida Keys for nine years. They are able to document growth rate, genetic relations, and the mating practices of literally hundreds of individuals. They watch the yearly struggle of young males moving up the social ladder, and females returning to mate every other year, then disappear for a six-month pregnancy.

    Jeff, Wes, and Mike make their way to the mating grounds of these enthusiastic lovers, and then dive among them to collect detailed data on female mating preferences and males’ desperate struggle to reproduce. Wes and Jeff have been phenomenally successful at unraveling the behavior of nurse sharks in shallow water areas, but they still know practically nothing about the habitat these sharks use most – the deeper waters just outside of the documented mating area. To complete this picture, they’ll need acoustic tags, CRITTERCAM, and a big helping of pure nerve.
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Monk Seals
    A true "living fossil," the Hawaiian monk seal is the oldest living member of its order of pinnipeds. It has remained virtually unchanged for over 15 million years. But today, this ancient species is in serious jeopardy. Frank Parrish and his team at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), Honolulu Laboratory, have invited Dr. Mike Heithaus to help on an ongoing quest to understand what is killing these extraordinary creatures. Their objective: to learn enough about the species to keep it from disappearing.

    Today, there are fewer than 1500 living Hawaiian monk seals. The species teeters on the brink of extinction, and no one fully understands why. Despite having spent millions of dollars grappling with this issue, scientists and resource managers have yet to fathom why this population has plummeted over the last century. Disease, overfishing of their habitat, and pollution are suspects. But these threats have theoretically been eliminated – why isn't the monk seal population recovering?

    For the past five years, CRITTERCAM has been a key instrument employed in the race to solve this frustrating mystery. Uniquely capable of defining the seals' critical habitat, discoveries made with CRITTERCAM deployments have contributed to a major rethinking of monk seal conservation efforts. When the monk seal was officially declared an endangered species in 1976, their near-island ocean habitat was designated a protected area. However, when the population showed little improvement as a result of this action, NMFS’ Frank Parrish began his CRITTERCAM investigation. What he discovered shocked scientists and explained, at least in part, why the problem was not alleviated: the seals were, in reality, foraging and feeding in waters far outside the boundaries of the protected areas, where commercial fishing or other outside factors could still impact their prey population.
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Emperor Penguins
    Drs. Jerry Kooyman and Paul Ponganis embark on a spectacular Antarctic adventure of science and survival. Using CRITTERCAM, they'll hitch a ride with the majestic emperor – what Jerry calls “the closest thing to an alien an earthly vertebrate can be” – and go places only penguins have gone before.

    In the vast frozen desert of Antarctica, Paul's "Penguin Ranch" is an oasis of science and cutting-edge research. Here, Paul will deploy CRITTERCAM on an emperor penguin he calls “Rodney,” and try to shed much-needed light on underwater penguin behavior. What do they eat? How do they find their food? Why do they dive for extended periods of time – often longer than 15 minutes? For the first time ever, Rodney and other charismatic emperors will take us on a whirlwind tour of their secret world under the ice.

    Then, a few hundred miles from Penguin Ranch, Jerry revisits some old friends. Jerry has been monitoring the Cape Washington emperor penguin colony in person and via satellite for several years, but this year, he’s not sure what he’ll find. Colossal icebergs have broken away from the Antarctic ice shelf, and could be severely disrupting this ancient sea-based ecosystem. Jerry takes a penguin census, witnesses spectacular leopard seal predation of emperor penguins, and gets an intimate view of emperor penguin parents and their adorable chicks.

    Then Paul and Jerry trek to one of the most treacherous places on Earth, Cape Crozier, Antarctica, to investigate threats to the emperor population there. They find that berg B-15, a monolith slab of ice the size of Cyprus, has caused major problems for the penguins.

    By plane, by snowmobile, by ski, and on foot, Paul and Jerry risk life and limb to reveal the truth about emperor penguins.
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Leatherback Turtles
    The legendary leatherback, the largest of the world's sea turtles, is a massive ocean traveler, unchanged for 65 million years. More than a decade's hard work has gone into establishing protection for the leatherback nesting beach at Playa Grande, one of only a handfull on the west coast of the Americas. Working with the Costa Rican government and the local community, Dr. Rich Reina and his colleagues have created a place of conservation and appreciation of the leatherback turtle, the Leatherback Turtle National Park. But despite the efforts at Playa Grande and other nesting beaches, leatherback sea turtles in the Pacific Ocean are facing a serious threat of extinction. The number of females nesting at Playa Grande has dropped from 1100 in 1987 to 117 in 1999. Other leatherback nesting beaches on the Pacific Coast of the Americas have been decimated as badly – or worse. Despite the successful efforts of dedicated people at nesting beaches, the numbers continue to drop. Rich can only conclude that the sea holds dangers that were previously unrecognized.

    With a body about the size of a double bed and weighing as much as 2000 pounds, you'd think it would be hard to miss them. But the leatherback is also the most mysterious of the sea turtles. Unlike other sea turtle species that largely spend their lives in coastal waters where they can be seen and studied, the leatherbacks spend most of their life out in the open ocean, migrating over thousands of miles. Once a leatherback hatchling scrambles down the beach and into the surf, it will live most of its life out of sight of humans. If she survives long enough, a female will make brief visits to shore every two to three years to lay her eggs in the warm tropical sand. Males never emerge from the ocean again.

    The research team at Playa Grande works hard to learn as much as possible during the fleeting opportunities on shore, but the life of leatherbacks offshore remains largely a closed book. Mike Heithaus heads to Costa Rica to lend the capabilities of CRITTERCAM to the efforts to uncover the secret life of the leatherback. CRITTERCAM provides us with an amazing glimpse into the undersea life of the leatherback turtle. Along with insights into habitat and energetics, the footage reveals startling activity never suspected. Male leatherbacks wait just offshore from the mating beaches. This runs contrary to all the commonly held theories about leatherback mating behavior and identifies these coastal – and currently unprotected – waters as the stage for a crucial phase of leatherback reproduction.
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Pilot Whales
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Blue Whales
    Join Dr. Mike Heithaus as he sets out 30 miles offshore in a small boat hoping to meet the largest, loudest and possibly most mysterious sea creature, the blue whale.
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Lions
    Examine the tactics used by a pride of South African lions as they hunt three distinct prey animals in the Singita Game Reserve – The Zebra, Impala, & ultimately the tallest land animal, the Giraffe.
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Large Sharks
    Sharks may be famous for their reputation as villains of the sea, but there are still many things about them that we do not understand. Shark expert Dr. Mike Heithaus uses the CRITTERCAM, an underwater research tool, to answer questions about the foraging techniques, social behavior and migratory patterns of three of the superstar species: hammerhead, tiger and bull sharks. Did evolution produce the hammerhead's bizarre hammer? Why do tiger sharks seem to eat anything that moves-and even some things that don't? How do bull sharks-"the pit bulls of the sea"-thrive in both fresh and saltwater? Join Mike as he travels to the Florida Keys in pursuit of these predators.
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Leopard Seals
    Leopard seals, more reminiscent of sea monsters than of their endearing seal cousins, lurk unseen beneath the Antarctic ice. These half-ton eating machines reign unchallenged in Antarctica, as penguins, seals, and even humans try to keep their distance. These 12-foot giants are known to silently stalk their prey alone beneath the ice, violently bashing through the frozen surface to capture their bounty. But there have been reports of mysterious leopard seal singing. Are they calling to one another? Leopard seal expert Dr. Tracey Rogers wants to find out. With the help of CRITTERCAM, an underwater research tool, Tracey hopes to learn more about one of Earth's most formidable animals in one of its most hostile environments.
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Dugongs
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Gray Seals
    Shrouded in ghostly mist, Sable Island-the "Graveyard of the Atlantic"-is a treacherous sand bar upon which more than 350 ships have run aground. It is also the home to two seal species-a thriving gray seal population and a declining harbor seal population. To discover why one species flourishes while the other struggles, host Dr. Mike Heithaus joins Drs. Don Bowen, Daryl Boness, and Sara Iverson, to investigate. They'll use cutting edge technology, including CRITTERCAM to open a window on the virtually unknown lives of seals at sea. How do they mate? How do they hunt? Do they compete for food? Can CRITTERCAM help unlock the secrets of Sable Island's seals?
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Green and Loggerhead Turtles
    Sea turtles provide one of the world's amazing spectacles when they come ashore to lay their eggs, but in reality, most of their lives are spent at sea. What do turtles do beneath the waves - in places we can't see? Shark Bay, Western Australia is the perfect place to find out. Along the remote coast of Western Australia, Shark Bay is home to one of the richest feeding grounds for turtles in the world . . . and is also home to huge numbers of its predator - the tiger shark. Dr. Mike Heithaus has been working in Shark Bay for 10 years, and he returns to the bay to investigate a turtle mystery. The Bay's two turtle species - loggerhead and green turtles -- are about the same size, and live in the same habitats. Yet while one species is a common item on the tiger shark's menu -- the other is rarely taken. Why do these two turtles have such different fates? National Geographic's Crittercam, a high-tech video tool , hopes to find out. Mike is in for some serious action while trying to attach Crittercam to loggerhead and greens. But before you can deploy a camera on a turtle, you have to catch it - and that's no easy task! It's an all-out rodeo trying to wrangle a 300-lb turtle from the depths of Shark Bay. It's going to take precision, high-speed driving -- and Mike's willingness to throw himself off a speeding boat -- to grapple with these huge and ancient reptiles. AWAITING RESEARCH.
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Loggerhead turtles
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Grey Seals
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Green & Loggerhead Turtles
  • Crittercam Chronicles: Lions