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Adventurer braves the wilds in Discovery's 'Fearless Planet'
published: Saturday | November 17, 2007

Will Gadd appears in 'Fearless Planet', Sunday night at 10 on Discovery Channel.

The man in a kayak heads down a glacier to prove a point. One would think this is a bar bet gone too far.

Rather, it's extreme athlete Will Gadd of Discovery Channel's Fearless Planet, launching tomorrow.

"I am not sure it was the best decision I have ever done," Gadd says of kayaking down melting ice. "I was following the glacier from the top down to the sea. You could have walked down the glacier, but that would have been far less interesting."

Gadd attempts to illustrate how some of nature's more stunning marvels evolved. The connection between natural forces and the creation of mountains is not made clear by an adventurer paragliding and kayaking. Rather, the narration and computer-generated imaging do that trick.

The six-week show is paired with the station's most acclaimed series, Planet Earth. Two episodes of the award-winning Planet Earth will be re-aired each Sunday through December 16, with the first, Pole to Pole, airing tomorrow and December 16.

Planet Earth is arguably the best nature documentary ever and has captured the world's attention. Five years in the making, it revealed secrets of nature and animals in their habitats. It may be logical to pair the two series, as they are both about Earth, though viewers should not expect to be as blown away by Fearless Planet.

Companion pieces

"I don't think there is supposed to be an overly burdened link between the two," says Alan Eyres, executive producer of Fearless Planet. "They are companion pieces in the loosest sense. What you get to do is enjoy the epic beauty of the natural world in one, and in the other to understand the violent nature, the brutal strength of the forces of nature."

Brutal force is what created the wonders of Earth. It's understandable, that, as people walk in the shadow of a mountain, they assume it always was there. But as Gadd makes it to the apex of an icy mountain in Alaska and finds evidence of mollusks, one has to rethink that even mountains are forever.

Using computer-generated images, the series shows how volcanoes erupted and eventually formed mountains, how there were seas where now deserts stretch and ultimately, how what is on Earth now was not always, nor will always be.

"The thing that shocked me is simply the amount that the Earth has transformed," Eyres says. "In the Sahara film, for example, that the Sahara is a desert and had been one for a matter of time. About 10,000 years ago, it was a lush paradise, with people living on the banks of the river, and you can still see the cave paintings. At one point, it was literally under water, and at another point, it was attached to South America. It's like going back in time and seeing transformation in front of your eyes."

The first show is on Hawaii, where Gadd dives deep and swims into what he first says is a cave but turns out to be a lava tube, through which lava oozed, eventually creating land masses.

Earth's 14 climate zones

Gadd was struck by the diversity of Hawaii. "You go through 11 of the Earth's 14 climate zones in one day," he says. "When you start looking at these places geologically, it's all pretty transient. They are formed from a hot spot under the Earth's crust. Already there's a new Hawaiian island (in the making). It will be the next Hawaiian island in about another 100,000 years from now."

Next week, the series travels to the country's other remote state, Alaska, where Gadd paraglides over what appears to be an endless snow and ice scape.

"Alaska is one of those places that doesn't often make the map," Gadd says. "It is up there somewhere. When you get up there, you see just how big and wild and totally unlike the rest of the United States it is."

The fluidity of nature is what series producer, Will Aslett, hopes viewers take from the series.

"You look at a landscape like Alaska and you think it has always been there, timeless," Aslett says. "What if we could show you that it hasn't been that? The world is in constant motion and is just moving in a time frame that is possible for people to understand. That's where TV can make a difference and show you geological time and what those landscapes might have been and will become very hard to see geology in motion."

In addition to Hawaii and Alaska, the series visits the Sahara, the Great Barrier Reef and the Grand Canyon. For the December 16 finale, it gives an overview of Earth's creation.

As Aslett works in his London studio to cull one-hour segments from each 50 hours of tape, he says: "I hope that people, when they walk outside the door, will look at the landscape in a completely different way. Yes, this Earth is constantly changing. It is phenomenally dynamic. I hope they go, 'I wonder where I live; I wonder what that was.' There is something fantastic in being able to turn around and go, 'You know this road? This used to be a desert, and it was twice the size of the Sahara!' Then maybe you get people to go, 'How does that work?' "

- Jacqueline Cutler, Zap2it

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