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The Most Dramatic Chase in Documentary History

Chase in Documentary History
The iguana, a mere hatchling, found itself surrounded by dozens of snakes. Video screenshot/BBC

Dubbed as the most dramatic chase in documentary history, the following scene was captured on a beach on Fernandina Island, one of the unspoiled volcanic Galápagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, by the production team of BBC’s Planet Earth II.

It features an iguana instinctively staying still at first, hoping to elude detection as a racer snake slithers up from behind.

When it becomes clear that the snake is going to strike, the iguana races off, but racer snakes pour out of cracks from the rocks along the beach, joining the chase.

The dramatic footage below, shot in 2016 and narrated by Sir David Attenborough, follows the chase.

“Difficult to watch” chase in documentary

Dr. Elizabeth White, a former research biologist and Planet Earth II producer said that it wasn’t easy for anyone on the crew to watch the scene portrayed in this clip—not to mention the other iguana and snake showdowns—unfold.

“The fact that he made it up the rock safe was absolutely amazing,” Dr. White says of the survivor. “We celebrated. Every time one got away we celebrated.”

“As a filmmaker, half of you wants the snakes to win,” she admits, “and another half of you is like, ‘I want this little one to get away!’ You kind of feel like you get to know an animal even if you are just watching it through binoculars for a few minutes. Those iguanas, they’re so young. They literally may have had just a few minutes experience of life, and they get caught, and that just seems brutal.”

The producer noted that the film crew didn’t expect to find so many snakes hunting a single iguana. It was just one of those times in wildlife filmmaking when a crew stumbles upon an extraordinary situation.

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