My new BBC series reveals the stunning marine life, mysterious wrecks and undersea adventures in Britain's seas!
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.
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.
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.
But it's not just about diving. Being underwater is a great setting in which to bring important stories to life.
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.
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.
You can read more from Paul about a dolphin autopsy he carried out on BBC News online.
Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.
Comment number 1.
Great to see your UK marine programme - I dive - and snorkel off the beach - in West Sussex and people are always surprised at the clips of the waters - they tend to imagine its a dirty wasteland down there and I think this leads to an uncaring attitude. Amazing shots and great idea for a series - brilliant! Keep up the pressure for the marine parks.
Comment number 2.
What a fabulous programme. I had no idea the UK shores were full of such interesting things - like huge sharks (although my husband did!!!) Presentation was brilliant - similar to Oceans I thought. Loved the bit about the container ships - again had no idea how complex that was. Brilliant show - cant wait for next weeks.
Love Edwina A.
Comment number 3.
A fantastic first episode, we can't wait to see the rest of them. You are exactly right about the ignorance about marine life in British waters. Most people who visit our diving club initially think there is nothing to see when diving in the UK. It is great to see their reaction and surprise when they do their first UK Sea dives, and talk about all the different fish and critters they've seen. Well done to you, your team and the BBC for making a programme that showcases our marine environment, because as the program pointed out, they are fragile and desperately need protection. The more media coverage the UK marine environment gets, the better in my opinon.
Comment number 4.
Great show, well done. Only problem is that us existing UK divers are going to have to share all these secrets now you've let the cat out of the bag. ...darn! No, plenty of room for all!
Comment number 5.
Great show. Just what we want to see from UK diving!
Comment number 6.
Fantastic, I love diving in the UK waters and it is great to see a program dedicated to the UK, Paul and his team Tooni and Frank have done a fantastic job along with the crew with producing this program and good to see some old faces from the Oceans program, excellent Baskin shark footage and the Crabs were massive well done Paul & Tooni for the footage Look forward to future episodes :-)
Comment number 7.
What a Stunning programme. Paul has come up with a film that portrays UK diving as it should be seen. For too long we have had to suffer programmes on diving, made by idiots whose sole intention was to scare the public into thinking that diving was dangerous. Every other diving programme maker should use this film as the benchmark in portraying the UK as it should be seen - The best diving in the world!
Look forward to seeing the rest of the Series - Well done Paul Rose...........
Comment number 8.
Congratulations to the whole team on an inspiring first episode. I am looking forward eagerly to next Sunday. In my opinion the UK offers an unrivalled variety of diving and a good infrastructure to help in enjoying the experience. I hope your programme helps promote a much wider awareness of the need to look after our seas amongst divers and the general population.
Comment number 9.
Loved the first episode, absolutely captivating. I've not dived for a long time and my last dive was near Oben and can remember thinking how awesome the experience was, so now can't wait to get back to it and hopefully it will inspire the children to try it too. Great show can't wait for next week.
Comment number 10.
fantastic first show paul, congratulations to you and the team. im sure the series will be a great success. well done
Comment number 11.
Many thanks for watching last night and for these comments :-) The Giants of the West was a perfect way to start the series; Snorkelling with the basking sharks and diving the Torrey Canyon were real personal highlights. I'll be active on this blog except for the next 9 days as I will be back in Greenland to lead another mountaineering expedition. It feels a bit odd to have to miss next week's episode! Thank you again for these comments - keep 'em coming! Paul Rose.
Comment number 12.
Great first show well done to you and the whole team, we saw some of the cutting room floor stuff when down at The Big Scuba Show but the real stuff blows that away.
Think this is a great way to introduce people to what riches we have on our own door step who needs to go off to Egypt when we have such diversity around our own shores.
Really looking forward to the next episodes, hope this can be the start of a cult series along the lines of Coast.
Well done BBC for committing to this series.... but lets have more of it :)
Comment number 13.
Hello - as a ten year old with a passion for aeroplanes, I remember seeing the bombing of the Torrey Canyon on the news in 1967. I'm fairly sure I remember the bombing was carried out by Buccaneer aircraft, which were operated only by the Royal Navy at the time, although the programme credited the bombing to the RAF. The Navy got rid of its Buccaneers to the RAF in the 70s when it got rid of the big aircraft carriers. I know this is a pedantic point but it is a strong childhood memory. Does anybody know if I am right?
Comment number 14.
Hello Nigel; Yes, it was Buccaneer aircraft and I think others too. I'm on a flight to Iceland at the moment. I'll check the other aircraft involved in the Torrey Canyon bombing when I return in nine days. Many thanks for your enquiry and for watching the show. Paul.
Comment number 15.
Good programme but our shores bathed by the North Atlantic Drift not the Gulf Stream. How can an obviously knowledgeable person such as Paul Rose get this basic fact incorrect?
Comment number 16.
Hello Paul, Just another fact that you got very wrong. It was not as you claim, thousands of bombs dropped on the Torrey Canyon, but just 42. I suggest that you change your researcher.
Comment number 17.
Excellent stuff. Really enjoyed both programmes so far. Nice to see the team behind the cameras as well, as normally on nature programmes you don't see much about the people behind it all, bar the main presenter.
Is there any chance of this coming out on Bluray? A DVD would be nice (missing next week as diving at St Abbs), but bluray would do all the excellent photography justice.
Comment number 18.
Hello Ben and Marty; Many thanks for watching the show and for your helpful comments. I'm fresh back from Greenland so I can at last reply;
Ben; Yes - you are right of course. I speak about the North Atlantic Drift in regard to diving and indeed am very aware of it when I sail. But I think we agreed saying Gulf Stream as it's the overall power of the Gulf Stream that drives the warm waters to the UK and of course the branch that hits us is the North Atlantic Drift. Your point is very well taken by me though - it's worth getting these things correct! Paul.
Marty; Yes - 42 bombs it was. I should have said "thousand of pounds of bombs" but must have got over-enthusiastic as it was a dive I had always wanted to make. I'm heading back out there again later this year. Many thanks for keeping me on the straight and narrow! Paul.
Comment number 19.
Super duper viewing... again - it's great for divers, those considering taking up diving or those just curious about "what's down there".
Comment number 20.
Paul - A truly inspirational program, presented by some truly inspirational people. A great way to spread the word about how amazing our island is, and the seas that surround us! Keep up the good work - really impressed !
Comment number 21.
Re 13. I was 10 too and remembered more than 1 plane, and, according to wikipedia: -
On 28 March 1967, the Fleet Air Arm sent Blackburn Buccaneer planes from the Naval Air Station at Lossiemouth to drop forty-two 1,000 lb bombs on the ship. Then, the Royal Air Force sent Hawker Hunter jets to drop cans of aviation fuel to make the oil blaze. However, exceptionally high tides put the fire out and it took further attacks by Sea Vixens from the Naval Air Station at Yeovilton and Buccaneers from the Naval Air Station at Brawdy, as well as more RAF Hunters with napalm to ignite the oil. Attempts to use foam booms to contain the oil were of limited success due to their fragility in high seas.
Comment number 22.
great news series paul..i live down in cornwall,,always good to see the baskers!!
Comment number 23.
Sunday was another great episode Paul, really enjoyed it. Scary to think how many unexploded bombs there are in our waters, it had my husband and I gripped! Can't wait for next Sunday. Going to watch Sunday's again tonight at 7pm :-) Brilliant, well done to you and all involved in the making!
Comment number 24.
I very much enjoyed Sunday 15th program especially the part on the Breda. As a youngster growing up in Oban in the 1950's I clearly remember the "goal post" masts sticking out of the sea. These were removed by the R.N. in the mid 1950's.
I first dived the Breda in the Spring of 1966 and I think we were the 1st sports divers on the wreck. This was before the prop. was removed and attempts being made to reach the engine by blasting. In these days the rear section of the ship was pretty much intact. Also the name "Breda" could be clearly read on the stern. Some vandal has since attempted to remove this. I still dive the Breda on a fairly regular basis and as you said in the programme the detrimental changes to the wreck are significant.
Comment number 25.
Fantastic Show and so good to see our own undersea world, i hope theres more to come in the future.
What is a pity though is the lack of interest with local media (including BBC local radio) to get involved, I've been trying all for two weeks to my own club mentioned in order to promote free try-dives, a great opportunity to get more people involved in our sport missed!!
Comment number 26.
Thank you all for watching and for these comments both here and to me directly.
Ref 25: Hello Kev; Great that you like the series - thank you. I can help with your local club. Just write to me via my website. On the Friday before transmission of episode one I did a morning of back to back BBC local radio stations but even then I only covered 12 areas. Send me that email and I'll help!
Comment number 27.
Thanks Paul for such an enlightening series, so far.
I'm a diver but one who doesn't get to go as often as I'd like to! What you've done very cleverly is expose the fact that UK waters should be treasured and not used as a dumping ground for all our filth. We are way ahead of many other parts of the world in this respect but there's still room for improvement.
You've also quite rightly pointed out that although Britains Secret Seas are a natural environment, The Modern World needs to be part of it e.g. the features on massive container ships and on the offshore wind turbines on the East Coast.
I loved the interaction with the seals in The Farne Islands, it reminded me of a happy day diving at Lundy Island with these beautiful, friendly wild creatures.
Comment number 28.
This series just gets better and better. The facts covered are amazing and so interesting. Who would have thought those ugly wind turbines are actually helping the sea life. Gripping tv - we love it.
Comment number 29.
Great episode again! Can't wait for the next, tempered with the disappointment that it's the last. There must be a huge potential for other UK diving programmes out there. ....
Comment number 30.
Loving the show. As a non diver, it really is bringing our seas to life for me. Learning something every week. Really looking forward to the seahorses next Sunday. Great family viewing
Comment number 31.
Well done Paul & Co .
Its about time someone thought outside the box, I've seen enough Clownfish and Manta rays on tv to last me a lifetime.
How can people appreciate the UK's marine life, if they are never shown it.
Good stuff .
Looking forward to Sunday.
Comment number 32.
I'm much enjoying the show and thought you might like to know that in Gloucester there is a refurbished lightship being used as a floating business, moored on the canal just outside Gloucester Docks:
I've got nothing to do with the lightship myself other than walking past it every day :)
Comment number 33.
Thoroughly enjoying this informative and inspiring programme. Please please make another series about our UK waters. As a new UK diver and keen marine conservationist I love to see what is going on in our waters and how we can help protect it. Great work Paul & team - please keep it up! Looking forward to tonight's episode and hoping there will soon be more :0)
Comment number 34.
Ref 32; Thanks Montaigne. I followed your link and Lightship Sula looks fabulous. I loved visiting the Sunk lightship on our East episode - I had always wanted to get onboard, so it was a high point for me! Thank you again. Paul.
Comment number 35.
This has been an exceptional series, and so refreshing to finally a programme on UK marine life as so many programme covering overseas yet until now nothing for UK marine life, enviroment and diving.... there are a number of very well received programnmes on UK wildlife/environment but we need more about our marine life, we're an island after all!!.. As a keen diver and underwater photographer this series has been first class with incredible underwater filming and respected, well informed and enthusiastic presenters....
There is still so much to inform and educate the public about out stunning marine life .. a second series please!!..
Well done to everyone involved..
Mike Burton Phillipson
Comment number 36.
Paul, I hope that the BBC give you chance to film more of Britain's Secret Seas! I'm really looking forward to tonight's programe but sad at the same time as it's the last one! It has been fantastic and we really could do with more educational programes like this ~ well done to you Paul and all involved! :-)
Comment number 37.
paul, first of all i have to say fantastic program and very informative, however i was shocked to learn of the damage buoys do to the sea bed (episode shown on 29/5/11), and i can not believe that this system of tethering buoys is still used.
But i would like to add that, i have an idea for a cheap and easy alternative to this method, which would stop this damage, while still allowing the use for both buoys and boats, if you/anyone is interested.
We need more programs of this nature!
Comment number 38.
Very good - as good as Coast. We need more please.
Comment number 39.
Excellent series. It's very easy to forget about the life under the sea. It's a case of out of sight, out of mind for a lot of people. In a way, it's much easier to be concerned with conservation on dry land, and that's why it is important that programs like this make us aware of what is going on in the oceans.
Comment number 40.
At last, someone shows the damage the moorings , anchors and scallop dredgers are doing to marine habitats instead of glossing over them , well done guys, your passion for diving and marine life is contagious, programmes like this can do more for marine conservation than all the glossy leaflets and stuffy meetings could ever do, lets hope the bureaucrats who run conservation in the UK stop drinking coffee and start protecting whats left .
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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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?
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 !
Comment number 51.
Another great series Paul and look forward to catching up with you at some point later in the year :)
Comment number 52.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.