If you are a parent who had children in the early 2000’s or are a person with keen interest in the ecology, zoology, and/or oceanography, chances are you have heard of Steve Backshall. A man with an already storied career at the tender age of 50. A man who has trekked across scorching deserts, ascended sheer cliff faces, trudged through treacherous rainforests, and has even completed a special forces selection course! A man who has come face to face with some of planet Earths most dangerous and deadly animal and insect species and hasn’t broken a sweat. All to educate and entertain young, inquisitive minds.

Steve started his television career in the late 1990’s when he sold a pilot episode of a series he’d had an idea for to National Geographic, who then employed him as ‘Adventurer in Residence’. He remained there for five years as a producer, and presenter.

Steve moved to the BBC in 2003, working on their popular ‘The Really Wild Show’ until the show was axed in 2006. He then moved to the BBC’s Natural History Unit. It wasn’t until 2008, however, that the show that would really boost his popularity and make him a household name would air. That show was ‘Deadly 60’ wherein he would search for predators that were “not just deadly to me, but deadly in their own world”. The series became so popular, it was eventually transmitted on Nat Geo Wild, Animal Planet, and BBC to 157 countries worldwide. He has participated in many excellent documentaries with well-established names and has travelled to every corner of the world in pursuit of knowledge and education. His work has earned him 2 Bafta awards, and appointment as MBE for services to charity and wildlife conservation.

It is only natural that he would want to bring his knowledge and enthusiasm to live audiences and has had successful tours in the past where he travels the country to share his experiences with packed theatres and halls of ravenous enthusiasts. His latest tour, ‘Steve Backshall’s Oceans’ is currently touring. It is on this tour that he needed to take all that training and experience he had gathered in order to survive one of his most grueling tasks to date… an evening in Blackburn, Lancashire!

Luckily, this time he wasn’t alone.

Aqua Explorer

Aware of the tour Steve was currently undertaking, Aqualease Director, Dan Green, reached out to Steve to share what Aqualease does best and to ask whether or not there was anyway that they could assist with his Blackburn show at King George’s Hall. Steve was receptive and enthusiastic and did invite us to attend with our popular Aqua explorer marine rangers, rockpools, and the array of creatures that live in them.

Dan Green and his team devised an event that could be an alternative to expensive school excursions to the coast that often were not logistically possible, or prohibitively expensive. They built mobile rockpools that were populated with a variety of different live creatures that can be found around British coastlines, and developed with their team, a presentation style that incorporated elements from the UK curriculum and gave children an opportunity to safely get hands-on with live creatures and learn about how they move, live, and eat. In groups of 5 or 6, children approached and were introduced to the creatures, and encouraged to touch, and handle them while asking questions. Since their introduction in 2016, Aqualease’s Aqua Explorer rockpool experience days have been wildly popular among schools looking to bring the British shoreline to urban settings . We also assist in education around ecological preservation, respecting the planets oceans, and highlighting problems such as micro-plastics that affect the oceans.

It has proven exceptionally popular with schools re-booking the event year on year, with more and more joining up each term. It is now so popular that around science week, and world oceans day, the marine rangers can be doing an event every day, and schools that are looking for an alternative to an external school trip are finding Aqua explorer as a fun and engaging option. Children (we are told) are often discussing the event for days, and weeks after the visit, and go home to enthusiastically discuss their experience with parents. Those interested in the event are encouraged to enquire and book far in advance to secure the dates they want.

Wednesday, 8th November 2023 – King George’s Hall, Blackburn

Aqualease offered a partnership for the Blackburn leg of Steve’s Oceans tour, which was scheduled to take place in Aqualease’s hometown. Lee and James, two of Aqualease’s most experienced marine rangers, took two of the company’s rockpools down to the venue, set them up, and were joined shortly after by Dan and Rob. They took the opportunity to get some photos and talk to Steve about the Aqua Explorer experience.

Steve graciously worked Aqualease into his show, directing audience members to come and ask questions during the interval, and after the show. Many of which did and enjoyed seeing the creatures up close. The show, injected with his enthusiasm, was a fun, engaging look at his exploits in the oceans, an informative presentation on some of the denizens that dwell in the deeps. It wasn’t all talk. He broke up the show with video footage of his journeys, and had some fantastic life-sized props on stage with him. An orca, great-white shark, and a giant squid all took centre stage to represent the scale of some of these creatures. In addition, he had a set of megalodon jaws to demonstrate how large those lost monsters were! Jaws had nothing on one of those, I can tell you! Further, he demonstrated the bite of a cookie cutter shark, so named as it’s bite cuts out a “plug” of flesh from its prey, akin to how one cuts a round portion from dough with a cookie cutter. He demonstrated how venoms and neurotoxins found in nature affect the prey they are administered to. A fascinating demonstration which garnered ‘woops’ and cheers from the younger viewers.  Two hours was not long enough, everyone wanted more!

It seems that Steve was very enthusiastic about us being there as an enhancement to his show, even including us on his own social media posts. You can see our rockpools in action at the event here.

The conversation around climate change, and pollution of waterways and oceans continues to grow and evolve, and we at Aqualease do our part as best we can in perpetuating the important messages to the next generations; Custodians of the future to highlight to them the importance of acting now to protect the amazing wildlife in the world.

Perhaps this could be the start of a great partnership in educating about shorelines and spreading awareness around conservation. We loved being there with you, Steve, and we are ready and waiting for the next tour, if you will have us.

By Alan Bretherton