Jeremy Wade-s into dangerous waters

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published Oct 13, 2011

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Such is the popularity of River Monsters that, when screened on Animal Planet, it bagged the highest audience ratings. The third instal- ment, showing on Discovery Channel, is expected to reel in fishing enthusiasts once again.

Hosted by Jeremy Wade, a writer, biologist and extreme angler who has more than 25 years’ experience exploring the species of fish found in the world’s most remote rivers, the new season features the red bellied pacu, the New Zealand longfin eel, short-tailed river stingray, surubi catfish, dorado, redeye piranha, freshwater sawfish, bull shark, saltwater crocodile, electric eel, Japanese giant salamander and wolf fish.

On the danger element, Wade explains: “The thing about rivers is you can’t see what’s there. The water is quite muddy. Fear is part of our survival mechanism, so if you don’t know what’s there, then it concentrates your mind. I make a point of doing lots of research beforehand.”

In the new series, Wade says that while in Japan, the team also looked into a myth about a river creature.

“It’s quite fish-like, but it’s also got hands and what it does is grab unwary children and pull them underwater. There are various refinements – it sucks your soul out and things like this.

“I investigated to see whether it was something parents made up just to make children careful. As it turned out, we found a creature on which it’s likely the story is based. As for the Loch Ness Monster, I’m not sure about that,” he laughs.

Recalling some of his close calls on the show, Wade says: “The most recent example was while shooting season three. We were filming in Suriname in South America and there’d been a storm, so we were waiting for it to clear while we sat in an Amerindian village. When the storm moved away, we got in a dug-out canoe, went down the river to a rock in the middle and started to hunt for crabs to use for bait.

“Suddenly there was this almighty crashing sound and a flash of light. The rock had been hit by lightning. As we got back in the boat, we realised that our sound recordist had been hit.

“In 2002, I was filming in the Amazon and the aircraft that I was in crashed in the forest. There were five of us in the plane and we walked away unscathed, which was fairly miraculous.”

As he has had more than two decades of exploring river species, I asked Wade if he had come across a species that left him stumped.

“Most of what I’m after I’ve heard about it, but might not have seen it or a picture of it. In season three, that would be the sawfish – I read about these things in comic books when I was a kid. It is this sort of flattened thing with a pointed snout with teeth along the edge.”

On ensuring the longevity of the show, Wade says, “It does get harder. Season three is a little bit different – we’ve covered the obvious big, toothy fish and we’re getting more into the fish who choose more creative ways of being dangerous. There is one really heavyweight one – the stingray in Argentina. And I get a lot of interesting feedback from viewers.

“The state of the world’s rivers isn’t brilliant and there is also a finite number of large and/or dangerous fish. So we’ve got to be quite creative in our search for stories.”

At the end of the day, as long as Wade continues to net an audience the show will remain on air.

lRiver Monsters airs on Discovery Channel on Saturday at 6.10pm.

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