A journey down three of Earth's Greatest Rivers, the Nile, the Mississippi and the Amazon 

Mark Flowers of Earth’s Greatest Rivers promises to take viewers on a breathtaking journey down the rivers Nile, Amazon and Mississippi

Three rivers. One epic journey. That is what Mark Flowers, Series Producer of Earth’s Greatest Rivers promises. Narrated by Selma actor David Oyelowo, the three-part series takes viewers on a voyage down three of the world's largest rivers — the Amazon, the Nile and the Mississipi. “Start by looking at rivers from above and you will see each river like a giant liquid network of freshwater that gets transported from the source, right down to the mouth,” begins Flowers, who is a producer/director with BBC’s Natural History Unit. He adds, “We follow the natural history, geography, geology and the lives of the people along each river. The exciting thing is that by looking at them from above and incorporating so many different elements, the series gives you a brand new perspective on what the rivers are.”  

The main idea, according to UK-based Flowers, was to show people that rivers “aren’t just for standing on one side of the bank and looking across to the other side. They are like living arteries which carries our planet’s most precious resource — fresh water,” he insists. The Nile files. 

Ask him what were some interesting observations he made while filming, and he says, “You realise how connected humanity is to a river. The Nile has such a pivotal place in human history, the Mississippi unites and connects nearly two-thirds of America and the Amazon is the greatest river on Earth. They are more than just rivers, they are entities that have a huge place in our history, in our culture,”  he points out. He also recalls an interesting incident while filming in Africa. “Along the Nile, we were at a hunting lodge, where we found that animals had actually moved into the rooms of the building —  everything from lions, and leopards to porcupines — what was amazing is that all the animals lived in harmony whether they were predators or preys. It was an extraordinary thing to find and film,” says Flowers, who has, in the past, worked on docu-series’ like Human Planet (2011) and New Zealand: Earth’s Mystical Islands (2016).

Tech talk
Filming on previously unexplored locations in the Amazon was certainly not easy, but Flowers credits his team that put together some top-notch drones to gain access. “We used drones not just for aerial shots, but to also fix the position in the sky. We had a virtual filming platform, especially on the Amazon. We were able to get sweeping shots of the same area,  and were able to reveal to the audience the actual scale of an Amazon flood,” he says. The team also used plenty of underwater cameras, thanks to which they were able to film different species of fish. “A special fisheye lens enabled us to get really close and personal into a group of dolphin’s habituates which was brilliant. We used a lot of the time-lapse technology which meant that we could put cameras on a Mississippi barge,” he adds. 

<em>Mark Flowers</em>
Mark Flowers

Coyote ugly
However, shooting the series came with its own set of challenges — from floating papyrus beds to filming coyotes in freezing temperatures. Flowers explains further. “We were filming the papyrus beds at the head of the Nile, and what we did not anticipate was that the beds would break up and move around like a floating island. While it was beautiful to see, it was tough to film because the beds were constantly in motion, making filming at one spot, virtually impossible. In the Mississippi, meanwhile, it was freezing — I think it was around minus 30 degrees or so, and we were all bundled up in layers of clothes. The camera crew was very invested in filming a pack of coyotes in a volcanic river, that was just about freezing over. Something went wrong and soon a stampede ensued. Our crew (in all that heavy clothing) had to rush back to our cars so that we didn’t damage the equipment.” 
On a parting note, we ask him about climate change and its impact on water bodies — how countries are on the verge of a water crisis. “We all need to do is cherish freshwater and value it. We all need to really try and minimise pollution — chemical pollution and plastic pollution — because freshwater is fine as it is. The rivers seem to be giant, a huge entity but we need to also realise how fragile they are,” he says, before signing off.

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