Human Journey

Untamed Americas: Sneak Peek

A new series Untamed Americas, narrated by Josh Brolin, will be airing on the National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo Wild this June. The series takes on the tremendous task of documenting the highly unpredictable, deadly, and sometimes stinky, animals from the wildest frontiers of North America, Central America, and South America.

Although it’s described as: “Your backyard as you’ve never seen it before,” the series isn’t going into your immediate backyard, where most families would be thrilled at the site of a wild bunny or raccoon. Instead, we’re taken on a spectacular tour of the backyards of the Americas: the mountains, deserts, coasts and forests. Here wolves, bears, and cougars won’t be hopping away in fear at the sound of your footsteps.

New Animal Footage

After two years, 20 countries, 43 locations, 600 shooting days and 600,000 miles of travel, National Geographic caught several animals in situations that had never been filmed before. Scenes such as the Humboldt penguins laying eggs in the arid coasts of Chile and Peru, a bat with the longest tongue of any mammal in the world, and an elusive jaguar before it makes a meal of a caiman crocodile are just some highlights that can’t be missed.

Also, footage of wild mustangs in the Great Basin Desert quickly transforms from romantic grazing to a battle for survival. Here, this poor older horse is challenged to prove his worth and fought off from returning to the herd:

Even male bighorn sheep must battle each other to decide who will father next spring’s lambs. They taunt each other by sticking out their tongues, but unlike humans, can withstand a crazy head butting session that lasts for hours:

Behind the Scenes

Filming and photographing these animals up close takes a unique set of individuals ready for surprises and uncomfortable situations. Producer, Karen Bass, recalls getting the memorable footage of the sea lions, birds and penguins on desert coast of Peru.

“Our mission, to film one of the biggest wildlife spectacles in the Americas, a colony of thousands of birds and penguins, as well as hundreds of sea lions along the desert coast of Peru. The good news … it was a good season for the food offshore and the animals had showed up to breed. Something you cannot take for granted these days. The bad news … is getting to them.

So as not to disturb the nesting birds, we had to shuffle inch by inch in a wooden box—a moving blind with little feet sticking out from the bottom. We could just see where we going through a narrow slit, and apart from the weight of the box, the worst part was the smell. With each step the aroma of ammonia got stronger as we squelched our way through the piles of bird poop. For all of our high-tech gear, you can’t replace good old-fashioned methods. At the end of the day you’ve still got to be in right place at the right time. Finally, when we reached the edge of the 100-foot cliff, we knew we had arrived. The view was worth it — hundreds of noisy sea lions and thousands of birds, including penguins, were our reward for our sweaty, smelly, uncomfortable desert trek.”

See a clip of Karen’s footage:

Even seasoned cameraman John Benam was caught off guard by a bison in Custer Park, South Dakota:

“The American bison is an immense creature. Filming large animals that might decide they don’t like me and charge is just a reality when making wildlife films. After all, they have as much right to this spot of grassland as I do. This is my place of work, and so approaching them, or allowing them to approach me, is sort of like an awkward office moment. Curiosity brings them close, but at some stage that distance becomes a weird thing.

As a cameraman, I’m getting great stuff. Big close-ups, snorting noses, beautiful afternoon sunlight bouncing off eyeballs and hooves … then I take my own eye off of the camera viewfinder and discover that in my visual distraction, this 1,000-pound animal now stands 10 feet from me. Luckily, I’m standing against a large SUV, and I’ve already planned out where (underneath) I will bail when it decides to charge. I stand quietly, judging its body language. Oddly, he stands there for a LONG time. I take a deep breath and my fear turns to great joy as I realize how lucky I am. I’m having a watercooler moment with this massive beast…. Nice to meet you … how ‘bout this weather?”

Look for more footage and stories on:
National Geographic’s Untamed Americas
Narrated By Academy Award-nominated Actor Josh Brolin
Simulcast Event Premieres June 10–11 on National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo WILD and Nat Geo Mundo in the U.S.; Globally This Summer

Amy Bucci is a web producer for National Geographic. Her projects mainly cover National Geographic explorers, grantees and initiatives.

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