Ever since she was a child, Sarika Cullis-Suzuki has been fascinated by what goes on under the tides. The daughter of famed Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, she loved exploring tidal pools near the family cabin on Quadra Island in British Columbia. It’s a world where, she says, “I learned to snorkel before I could swim.”
Now a marine biologist and climate change activist, she returns there for “Kingdom of the Tides,” an exhilarating new documentary premiering on CBC’s The Nature of Things this Friday, Feb. 7. It will also stream on CBC Gem.
Written and directed by Christine Nielsen and narrated by Cullis-Suzuki, the hour-long nature special covers a lot of ground both on land and under the sea. “Kingdom of the Tides” explores sea life on Canada’s vast West and East coasts, including regions so pounded by the waves that it seems impossible for any plant life to cling to even the craggiest surface.
Take sea stars. These colourful, neon purple and green creatures are shown to be ferocious carnivores, cracking open muscles with their tiny, powerful white “fingers” and then vacuuming up the meat within with their sticky, projectile stomachs. When they’re not stealing food, they’re spewing cascades of eggs and sperm into the restless waters. Forget swimming in B.C.’s inter-tidal area in the spring; It’s like sticking your toe into the grotto at the Playboy mansion in the ‘70s!
Director of photography Stefan Randstrom gets right down into the seaweed with his cameras. Waves of shimmering herring are shown swimming past sea walls covered in small, acorn barnacles. Overhead shots reveal acres of mud as low tides expose the “all you can eat buffet of mud shrimp” found at the Bay of Fundy on Canada’s East Coast.
We learn that an adult barnacle has both male and female parts and can reproduce with any member of their species. They also have a longer penis to body size ratio than any other animal in the world. So next time somebody calls you “ol’ barnacle penis,” take that as a compliment!
An even stranger critter is the aquatic snail, an algae eating machine that has rows of tiny but glistening metal teeth. Remember Jaws from the Roger Moore James Bond movies? Like that but much, much shorter.
Then there are the beautiful but deadly sea anemone that sting potential dinners with their poisoned-tipped tentacles. These green giants are not so jolly, hovering up sea urchins and spitting out their spines. It’s like watching Mitch McConnell strong arm Republican senators heading into the impeachment vote.
All joking aside, “Kingdom of the Tides” is a fascinating look at the fierce, brutal but also beautiful world of marine life on both coasts of Canada. As making this documentary did for Cullis-Suzuki, watching will give viewers new respect for the creatures of the sea.