As the BBC Earth podcast has ventured across the globe bringing us stories of natural and human experience, it’s unearthed some remarkable, moving moments that are guaranteed to bring a lump to your throat. Here are a few of our favourites…
ERIC AND THE BEES
The importance of nature’s healing qualities has been identified and encouraged in recent years. One man who fully appreciates this is former soldier Eric Grandon. After leaving the military, Eric suffered from terrible PTSD that left him unable to function and considering suicide frequently. But Eric was saved by being gifted two beehives. “Once I got into the hive for the first time, that’s when the magic happened,” he says. Working with the bees completely changed Eric’s mental state: “The outside world went away.” The cohesiveness of the beehive replicated the order of the military life Eric had lost. It’s fair to say that bees saved his life.
MIKE AND THE WHALES
Loneliness can be one of the most damaging and emotionally destructive experiences anyone can encounter. But one man has taken the solitude of one majestic creature and transformed it into a beacon of hope. Mike Ambs loves whales and is intrigued by their song. But one particular whale caught his interest – a lone blue whale who sings at a far lower frequency than any other, known as the 52-hertz whale. “It was a really unique calming sound. You feel it more than you can hear it.” But, as a consequence, this whale is never answered. But Mike thinks the perseverance of this whale is a parable for hope. He has shared the sounds of the whale which has helped people with insomnia to sleep and writers to overcome writers block.
THE DESMONDS AND THE CHIMPS
The mysteries of the blue whale may continue to elude us, but other creatures are far more familiar. Chimps live in family units and have incredibly strong bonds with their mothers. When these bonds are broken, baby chimps can suffer massive trauma. Jim and Jenny Desmond, experienced primate specialists, visited Liberia with plans to stay for a month but ended up opening a reserve for chimps orphaned by the illegal bush meat trade. “They sleep in the bed with us. They go with us everywhere.” The Desmonds care for these infant chimps, providing the 24-hour nurturing and care they need to survive and grow. “It’s pretty crazy, you have a chimp attached to you all the time. If not more than one.”
LAUREN AND THE LAKE
Nature also provides a great way to escape. Sometimes metaphorically in terms of ‘losing yourself’ for just a moment, sometimes more specifically. Florida native Lauren Gay found herself in a crumbling relationship and knew she had to act. She travelled solo to The Azores and discovered a green and glorious paradise. “I call it my natural church,” she says. Sitting by a beautiful lake with unusual blue and green waters formed by volcanic eruption, she realised this destruction wrought something beautiful and that the turbulence of her own relationship would eventually lead to something positive. Lauren now blogs and podcasts about her adventures in the wild.
SACHA AND THE SWANS
Every year, Bewick swans conduct a truly epic journey travelling from Russia to their winter home in the UK. But in recent years fewer and fewer have survived the journey. No one really knew why, but ecologist Sacha Dench decided to find out. And to do that, she realised she would have to fly with the birds as they made their way across Europe. There was just one problem. Sacha hated flying after taking a traumatic, turbulent flight. But the welfare of the birds overruled her phobia and she took to the air in a tiny paramotor, following the flight of the birds and raising awareness to those on the flightpath, suspected of hunting them. The plan appears to have worked as those once dedicated to hunting the swans are now protecting them. “They’ve started to care about the future of the Bewick swan.”
The BBC Earth Podcast returns this autumn with more stories of wildlife, habitats and human experience. Make sure you’re subscribed so you don’t miss the first episode.