Last Night’s TV – Lost Land of the Volcano

by Lynn Connolly

Mount Bosavi, mainland of New Guinea - Lost Land of the Volcano

We were back in the jungle last night for the second episode of this fascinating show, and within minutes, George had some new skills to add to his CV which might appear something like this…

‘I work well within a team and have demonstrated my ability to hold a crocodile’s mouth closed with one hand while gripping the venomous spikes of a catfish with another.’

The camp’s catch-it-and-cook-it kitchen staff had accidentally snared the croc in their fishing net, along with an equally unwelcome catch in the form of a singularly scary and ugly catfish. See, this is the trouble with going to places where Sainsbury’s don’t deliver…

However, no sooner was that drama over than yet more new species were being discovered and they included caterpillars which were the size of, and looked like, snakes. There’s no question that they were pretty – I’d quite like a dress in the same colours – but I wouldn’t want to encounter one crawling around in my garden. Not even a little bit.

And while George was giving thought how best to contain and observe the new caterpillar, Gordon was out and about lurking up on critters with his camera. The first one he encountered was a fruit dove who was happily perched on her eggs, but what he really wanted to see was a Bird of Paradise, and he really, really wanted to witness it mating, as do we all at some point in the day of course.

Meanwhile, bird expert Jack had found a stunningly beautiful Bird of Paradise and back at camp, he was attempting to take a blood sample from it, and he did it with astoundingly little difficulty. I’m kind of hoping that when he’s done in the jungle, he’ll nip over here and show my GP’s nurse how it’s done without turning someone’s arm into a purple pin cushion.

Steve was still in the massive cave system and still finding all manner of weird and wonderful – though awfully ugly – creepy crawlies who’ve all, to a man, evolved with the equipment needed to live a life in the dark and dank underbelly of the mountain. However, it wasn’t all work and no play and when it was time to eat, there was a veritable banquet of cheese and crackers or baked beans, cold, from the tin. Gagging at the prospect of cold beans, Steve wisely partook of the French cavers’ cheese instead.

Later, when Steve et al had finally found a place to rest their weary heads for the night, I was gagging as he held a big crab up to the camera and showed that it was covered in spooky looking white parasites which bore a slight resemblance to maggots but seemed to ooze out of the crab and assume a shape when on the surface. Shape shifting infestations are now officially added to my list of things I’d avoid ever encountering.

Up on the surface, George, Gordon and the camp medic, Jane, were in boats and going hell for leather along a river while overhead, bats the size of small dogs with wings flew around in their hundreds. I’ve always had a thing about bats getting in my hair so I’d have been huddled under a coat somewhere quaking, but luckily for us, the team have more bottle than me and began their scientific observations of the bats.

Gordon joyously evangelised about the beauty of the flying foxes while discussing their size by holding his arms wide apart and using the technical terminology to describe their wingspan…

“Ooh, they must have a wingspan of, about that!” he exclaimed, hands far apart in the one-that-got-away style. But for Gordon, little gets away when he’s intent on filming it, and to that end, he enlisted the help of a tribe to track down his bonking Birds of Paradise. Apropos of the tribe, they’re clearly a fearless people for perched on the shoulders of one young man was a toddler who was happily clutching a rather enormous knife precariously close to his ride’s ear. Nobody seemed bothered by it though so maybe knife play replaces Lego or something in those parts.

However, no sooner was my amusement/bemusement at the knife wielding toddler passing, far more serious issues were raised. George sympathised with the tribe’s elders about the fact that they don’t want to decimate the rain forest but are forced to sell the trees in order to get basic healthcare and education for their children.

Malaria is a huge problem for them and we watched as camp medic Jane tested a baby for malaria and found he had one of the worst strains. She started him off on medication but there’s no guarantee he’ll live. I so hope that we find out in future episodes what became of that child.

I’ve just realised that this is turning into a blow by blow account of last night’s episode, and therefore could end up the size of a small novel, so, reluctantly, I’ll stop describing every fascinating detail and try to sum up; Steve wasn’t feeling well at all and had a fever, but happily, he and the team discovered a brand new passage, never touched by man, which made them all very excited, understandably enough. I noticed too that when he’s wet and yelling, Steve bears more than a passing resemblance to Gordon Ramsay.

Gordon – cameraman, not chef – found a river that bubbled up from underground and he also got to watch his male displaying Bird of Paradise pulling birds, literally. I’m not personally convinced the males had the best foreplay techniques though, because even though their colourful display was magnificent, and sure to turn the head of any young lady, it did involve quite a bit of slapping around beakwise as the male fairly battered the head of the female.

Still, whatever does if for ya and it clearly worked because he got to mate with not just the original female but also another who’d happened upon this bird equivalent of a singles bar. It took all of about three seconds with each female then he was off, probably for a cigarette and a boast down the pub.

As the show drew to a close, George promised to name a new species of moth after his wife and Steve made the first advance on the crater of Mount Bosavi. He can advance on my crater any old time.

I could watch this show for hour upon hour. Granted, most of it would be from behind a cushion while alternately emitting sounds like “ooo” and “urgh”, but nonetheless, it’s truly enthralling stuff.

If you missed last night’s show, you can catch up with it on iPlayer here.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.