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Narrated by Stacy Keach

The oceans cover 70 percent of the planet and contain 90 percent of life on earth, yet they remain the most treacherous and alien part of our environment. They are a realm of dynamic extremes: breathtaking beauty can quickly devolve into awe-inspiring violence. Vast, chaotic storms can unleash almost inconceivable power. In four riveting hours, SAVAGE SEAS gives viewers a new perspective on the oceans: their immense power and their inner workings. Harrowing first-person accounts, up-to-date science, and unparalleled undersea footage will probe watery phenomena that hold both terror and allure. SAVAGE SEAS goes beyond the sensational to offer rich scientific insight. Cameras follow technical experts as they investigate why oceanic events happen. Meet communities that depend on the sea and people who live in amazing circumstances, such as commercial fishermen who have one of the riskiest jobs on earth. The series goes on to look to the future, and to undersea mysteries we have only begun to unravel.

A tidal bore
From Hawaii's unsurpassed surf to South Africa's ferocious coastline, the opening program, "Killer Waves," takes viewers across the world to explore the treacherous boundary between oceans and land. In the shark-infested waters off the coast of Maui, windsurfers risk their lives to ride the world's largest breakers -- immense walls of water that fall with a thunderous crash heard miles away. On the aptly named Cape Disappointment off the Pacific coast, ships can be literally torn apart by the surf. There, young U.S. Coast Guard students are put to the test in the deadly waves and spray. In China, the Black Dragon is a terrifying tidal bore that roars upriver at heights of up to 20 feet. We meet villagers in small fishing boats who challenge it head on every day, and are lucky to be alive. Then we're on board the cruise ship Oceanos as it rapidly sinks in the tumultuous water off the Wild Coast of South Africa. The ship's entertainers realize that many of the crew have abandoned ship, so they take over the entire rescue; their efforts are captured on tape. The video puts us on deck as time runs out, half the ship is already underwater, and passengers are lifted into helicopters two by two, uncertain if everyone will be evacuated in time.

Penlee lifeboat
In winter, the hazard of the cold is added to the danger of the waves. "Rescue," the second hour, graphically illustrates how deadly the coldest waters can be. Off the inhospitable Alaskan coast, crab fishermen suffer from the highest fatality rate of any profession in the U.S. Few will forget dramatic footage of a helicopter rescue on the Bering Sea. As an ice pack traps and slowly crushes a fishing vessel, huge rollers heave over the ship's deck. A wave sweeps two men overboard into a frozen slurry of ice and salt water -- both are rescued just before freezing to death. Passengers from the Estonia ferry that foundered in the Baltic in 1991 recall huddling in a life raft as fellow passengers became disoriented, began hallucinating, and succumbed to hypothermia. And the tragic story of the loss of a Penlee lifeboat off the coastline of the British Isles -- and the deaths of those aboard the ship that the lifeboat men had gone to rescue -- illustrates just how merciless the wintry seas can be.

Shark and swimmer
The sea's innermost depths are shrouded in mystery, a dangerous and alien place where humans fear to go. "The Deep," hour three, takes a fascinating journey into this world of silence, darkness, and pressure. Free divers attempt to defy the sea, plunging into the black depths with only their lungs filled with air, and many are pulled from the water unconscious. Professional deep sea divers recount what it's like to spend weeks at a time in a totally alien environment. We also encounter the killer sharks who reign supreme over this unfamiliar world -- and the people who have suffered their vicious attacks. One of South Africa's leading surfers tells of a great white shark that bit through his surfboard, and almost through his leg. A Florida-based lifeguard is haunted by a shark attack that occurred during her first pregnancy. And men who were aboard the USS Indianapolis remember a horrifying shark attack in 1945. After being torpedoed by a Japanese submarine, approximately 900 survivors floated in the water while their blood drew sharks. For five excruciating days, sharks stalked and attacked. When rescuers finally arrived, only 317 men were left alive.

The icebreaking ship Sir William Alexander
From Bangladesh to California, from Peru to the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, it is the great oceans that dominate our weather and keep our climate in balance. The final hour, "Killer Storms," explores the terrible price to be paid for this equilibrium: the most destructive weather in the world. In Miami, newscasters watch, horrified, as a tornadic waterspout goes through buildings as if they weren't there. The mysterious El Niño turns lives upside down in Southern California with torrential storms and mudslides. In heart-wrenching footage, a frantic woman searches for the baby who has just been swept out of her arms when a deluge of mud engulfed their home. Cyclones smash into the coast of Bangladesh, and a whole population is haunted by the tragic night in 1970 when the raging sea swallowed half a million people. And scientists look to the ice that sank the Titanic to understand the mysterious way the seas keep the Ice Age at bay -- for the moment.

An incredibly powerful series that will have viewers thankful for the ground beneath their feet, SAVAGE SEAS is television for anyone who has ever been drawn to the stunning beauty -- or questioned the deadly intensity -- of the world's oceans.

Presented on PBS by Thirteen/WNET in New York, SAVAGE SEAS is co-produced by Thirteen/WNET and Granada Television. The series is made possible by PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

About the Series | Savage Sites | Facts From the Sea | Ask the Expert | Books & Videos | Credits

ANIMATIONS: Wave Machine | Deep Sea Simulator | Trieste | Satellite Viewer

Crow's Nest | Captain's Bridge | Deep Sea | Weather Factory

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