Last Night’s TV – Lost Land of the Volcano

by Lynn Connolly

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

I love these types of shows where we get to see all manner of jungle critters from the safety of our couches without ever having to actually go near one. Which is rather much how I feel about the ‘stars’ of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.

And speaking of which, instead of the cleared-of-creepy-things set they use for that show, I reckon the celebs should be taken to Mount Bosavi where Lost Land of the Volcano was filmed. They’d really and truly experience the jungle then!

However, I digress. Last night’s show featured several of the kinds of folk I admire greatly for having the ‘nads to be the intrepid souls who do the close up and hands on work. And the team of such souls featured naturalist Steve Backshall, cameraman Gordon Buchanan and head scientist Dr George McGavin, all of whom did a brilliant job of bringing all that hitherto rarely – if ever – seen flora and fauna to our screens.

Dr. George McGavin holding scorpion under UV lightI liked George instantly; he’s one of those blokes who’s a social all-rounder. He’d clearly be at ease during a black tie dinner, a pie and mash night down the pub or talking to the WI about stick insects. Apropos of which, in the opening minutes of the show, we saw George going into raptures about a giant stick insect that one of the boatmen had found for him…

The thing was hideous to me but an object of incredible beauty to George. It was found in their jungle camp which, had I been one of the people who had to sleep there, would’ve made me go to Def Con Brown in case one should crawl into my sleeping bag.

On the upside though, we got to see Steve Backshall topless which, in a show full of nature’s gifts to us, put him right up there on the list of the most stunning.

Steve BackshallHowever, no sooner had the camera panned away from Steve sans shirt than Gordon, the wildlife cameraman, went off in search of rare birds and found the footprint of the avian equivalent of Bigfoot.

Seeing the fresh print in the mud, Gordon rhapsodised that the bird’s print was as large as his hand, and it was. It was rather a Jurassic Park moment and I wondered with some horror about the size of the owner of the print. Suffice to say, you wouldn’t want one of those pooping on your windscreen. If it did, it’d probably smash it.

Lots of equally huge critters were just waiting to be discovered and these included a beetle that ‘talks’ and a venomous catfish that looked just plain hideous and a possum that farted out an horrendous odour and badly needed a manicure. Then there was the discovery by Alanna Maltby of two enormous longhorn beetles which she left in a bag for George to find.

Alanna MaltbyLike a kid on Christmas Day, he opened the bag and yelled “Oh wow!” joyously when he discovered his present. He pulled forth the beetles – who were having a quick bonk; well, there’s not much else to do inside a bag I suppose – and they weren’t about to stop mid-coitus just because George wanted to examine them, so, they crawled along his face and he, wisely, kept rather still as they approached his ear.

But there were lots of prettier offerings too, one being the positively gorgeous Pygmy Parrot, which, as its name suggests, is a tiny bird with stunningly colourful plumage. As Gordon pointed out, these birds are “significantly smaller than many of the insects that live in this forest.” News which, again, would’ve had me on the first helicopter outta there yelling, “I’m a TV critic, get me out of here!”

But Gordon also spotted a beautiful marsupial called a Bosavi Silky Cuscus which looked very cuddly as it nestled in the branches of a tree.

Meanwhile, Steve and his team of cavers performed death defying feats of abseiling to reach a cave. Once inside, they found a crab that had evolved to its dark habitat and therefore, as Steve pointed out, “the eyes have faded away to almost nothing. They’re of no use whatsoever in a place like this.”

The show’s closing scenes included George totting up the new species discovered so far and meeting a never before seen gecko which team member Alan found and described as having an exterior that felt “like velvet.” But the last moments of the show were given over to Steve and his team of cavers who, miles into the mountain and battling the cave system’s rivers, were exhaustedly trying to find somewhere to sleep.

I can’t wait for next week’s episode, and especially the discovery of the Bosavi Woolly Rat, which is apparently as big as a domestic cat. So that’s something else I can watch in awe from behind my cushion then!

Gordon Buchanan with the new discovery of the Bosavi Woolly Rat. © Jonny Keeling.

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.