NATURE: Life In Death Valley
Airs Sunday, August 7, 2011 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV
Thursday, August 4, 2011
NATURE’s "Life in Death Valley" takes viewers into the simmering cauldron of one of the world’s most extreme environments.
From 93 million miles away, the sun fixes its heated gaze on the scorched desert expanse of Death Valley National Park — the hottest, driest place in North America. But this is no typical desert. Here, breathtaking mountains rise two miles above sprawling salt flats, and mighty sand dunes dance alongside deep craters. Nowhere else is a land so exquisite in its beauty yet brutal in its extremes.
In this ultimate testing ground, the rules are simple — adapt or perish. Fascinating desert dwellers have ingenious ways to outwit Mother Nature in their quest to survive. Tiny antelope squirrels lay with their bellies to the ground in order to purge their bodies of excess heat, while jackrabbits use their long ears to cool themselves.
Whereas the animals appear to do everything in their power to avoid the extreme conditions of Death Valley, many visitors are drawn to the park for the sheer challenge. Top athletes flirt with their own mortality in what has become known as the toughest footrace on the planet, the Badwater Ultramarathon. This 135-mile road race snakes through the valley during the cruel blaze of summer.
In Death Valley, things are never quite as they seem. Beneath its parched surface lies one of America’s largest aquifer systems. Rare access into this astonishing, water-laden underworld brings viewers into a secret realm. Here, a team of biologists works to protect the critically endangered Devil’s Hole pupfish, a species that has lived in this watery cavern since the last Ice Age.
Explore the mystique and the majesty of the largest park in the continental United States on "Life in Death Valley."
NATURE is on Facebook.