And you think life is tough. Four and a half billion years ago, the young Earth was a hellish place—a seething chaos of meteorite impacts, volcanoes belching noxious gases, and lightning flashing through a thin, torrid atmosphere. Then, in a process that has puzzled scientists for decades, life emerged. How did it happen? NOVA joins mineralogist Robert Hazen on the rocky trail to resolve this enduring mystery in “NOVA: Life’s Rocky Start.” The DVD will be available March 8.
As Hazen journeys around the globe—from an ancient Moroccan market to the Australian Outback—he advances a startling and counter-intuitive idea—that the rocks beneath our feet were not only essential to jump-starting life, but then, as microbes flourished and took over the biosphere, life helped give birth to hundreds of minerals we know and depend on today. This intriguing perspective of the co-evolution of Earth and life is reshaping the grand-narrative of our planet’s story. In this stunning adventure through billions of years of history, the story of life on Earth is revealed as fundamentally interwoven with the epic, unfolding story of Earth itself.
The there’s a very different side of history with PBS Distribution’s “NOVA: Secret Tunnel Warfare.” During World War I, the Allies and Germans repeatedly struggled to break the hideous stalemate of trench warfare. In the winter of 1916, Allied engineers devised a massive surprise attack on the German army. Their weapon of choice: 600 tons of explosives, hidden in secret tunnels driven under German lines. This riveting documentary will be available on DVD on March 22.
Building the tunnels was desperate work, with tunnelers at constant risk from flooding, cave-ins and enemy digging teams; German sappers would listen for telltale sounds and explode counter-mines, or sometimes break through into Allied tunnels and grapple in primitive, face-to-face combat in the dark. At 3:10 a.m. on June 7, 25 mines at Messines were simultaneously triggered in what was probably the single biggest non-nuclear explosion of all time, heard clearly in London 150 miles away. 10,000 German troops were killed instantly—but the stunning success was just the beginning of another wartime nightmare. Now, archaeologists are revealing the extraordinary scale and risks of the Allied tunneling operations in the biggest excavation ever undertaken on the Western Front.
NOVA follows bomb disposal experts as they clear topsoil packed with shrapnel and unexploded shells and probe one tunnel system connected to what is probably the world’s largest unexploded bomb—a mine consisting of 22 tons of explosives that was flooded by German engineers before the attack.