Diving With The Dinosaur Fish

Deep-sea documentaries often turn out to be disappointing TV spectacles, a mixture of silt, flashing lights and, occasionally, something slippery finning into the shadows. This, though, is pin-sharp, an expertly shot portrait of the weird twilight habitat found 120m beneath the South African waves.

The footage is gorgeous; the science is even more intriguing. A team of extreme divers is searching for an ancient creature called a coelacanth (pronounced “see-low-canth”), said to be the missing link in the chain of evolution that led from the sea to dry land, fish to mammals and, 380 million years later, us.

There’s something charmingly benign about this creature that time forgot, with its lips gnarled like a disgruntled sea captain and its stubby fins – the precursor to limbs – rowing aimlessly through the water. The story of the `living fossil’ of 1938, when the impossible occurred off the South African coast and a fish believed to have been extinct since the dinosaur age was found.

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