New Documentary Series, Islands of America24th August 2018
Martin Clunes embarks on an epic journey around the coast of America to discover what life is like on the surrounding islands for a new documentary series for ITV, Islands of America.
Following the successful series on the Islands of Britain and Islands of Australia, Martin has developed a fascination for the unique quality and appeal of island life, often in the most remote places on the planet.
Now he’s setting off on a 10,000 mile journey, from the west to the east, to explore the vast swathe of islands which are scattered beyond America’s shores. He’s travelling from the primeval landscapes of Hawaii and Alaska to the playgrounds of presidents along the eastern seaboard.
Martin says: “I wanted to look beyond corporate America and discover the other United States, out past the mainland margins, and what life is like on these unique and diverse islands.”
There are more than 18,000 islands with registered names, plus thousands more too small to be labelled. Each island has its own character and its own unique story to tell, and offers a new way of examining a country we imagine we know so well.
Martin has just begun filming the four part series with the first stop on his journey on the lush, tropical Hawaii. His investigations look beyond Hawaii’s image as a tourist paradise, crammed with sun-kissed beaches and world class surfing, and into the havoc wreaked by advancing lava fields and smoking craters.
He flies over the southernmost Big Island to see one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea. This is the biggest island anywhere in the US, and it’s expanding all the time as lava pours down to the sea and forms new coastline.
Martin meets the people who have been displaced relying on the charity of other islanders for bare essentials as their homes are destroyed by the unstoppable progress of the black wall of molten lava.
He sees how these violent destructive forces of nature have enriched the land with minerals, creating vivid green valleys and waterfalls.
The mountaintop extremes of this volcanic landscape offer ideal conditions for a scientific study. Martin visits HI-SEAS – Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation’- on a remote upper slope of the island’s volcanic centre where scientists have the opportunity of living and working in some of the conditions they would experience on the surface of Mars.
The island of Molokai is just a short hop from the bustle of the popular Waikiki Beach, yet it’s a world apart. At its eastern end is Halawa Valley, an isolated spot still sacred to traditional Hawaiians, whose Polynesian ancestors settled here 1,000 years ago.
This is one of the oldest continually inhabited human settlements in Hawaii.
Martin meets a man who’s family have never left this valley even after the Tsunami of 1935. He learns how they have farmed here for thousands of years and sees that they still practice the same techniques as they farm and fish to live in this lush and sacred historic landscape.
Leaving Hawaii Martin flies 2,000 miles north to the islands of Alaska, where the contrast couldn’t be more extreme, with tropical rain forests to snow-fringed glaciers; from crowded beaches to some of America’s most sparsely populated territories.
On the biggest of Alaska’s islands, Kodiak, Martin goes in search of the legendary Kodiak bear: the world’s biggest brown bear. Isolated from mainland bears since the last Ice Age 12,000 years ago, they’ve grown bigger even than the fearsome grizzly.
A Russian Orthodox priest takes Martin on a mini pilgrimage across the water from Kodiak Island to Spruce Island, which is one of the most popular destinations for Russian Orthodox pilgrims from all around the world. They go to the little church and monastery to venerate St Herman, who lived and died there in the early 1800s.
Martin is shown where St Herman lived in splendid isolation, and meets some of the monks and nuns who live and worship there now.
In the next three stages of the journey, Martin plans to travel south to the San Juan Islands, off Seattle and the Channel Islands, off Los Angeles. Then he will be crossing into the Gulf of Mexico and journeying along the shorelines of Louisiana, the Carolinas, New York State and Maine before completing his exploration of America’s Islands up near Canada’s Atlantic border.
At journey’s end, he reaches the playground of the eastern seaboard, Coney Island, home to the world’s most iconic amusement park.
The series producer is Ian Leese, who also directs episodes one and three. Tom McCarthy produces and directs episodes two and four. The executive producers are Bill Jones and Philippa Braithwaite.