Return to the Amazon

Return to the Amazon

The Amazon: The most powerful of the world’s river systems, its rapid transformation will alter the global climate. Emptying into the great Atlantic Ocean, it flows through the world’s largest tropical rainforest, the vast, natural theater where evolution has gone wild, creating the greatest biodiversity of any area on the planet.

Twenty-five years ago, Jean-Michel Cousteau explored this fabled region with his father, the legendary Jacques Cousteau. Since then, an area the size of Texas has been deforested. With an intimate look at recent changes, Jean-Michel returns with a new expedition for the signature PBS environmental series, Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures. Combining science and discovery with expert story-telling and astonishing footage, the new season premiered nationally with Return to the Amazon, airing in two parts on April 2, 2008 at 8pm, and April 9, 2008 at 8pm (both 60 minutes), and is narrated by the acclaimed actor, Delroy Lindo.

Traveling down the Amazon River basin with Jean-Michel are his children Fabien and Celine and his crew of adventurous oceanauts. Over the course of ten months, through wet and dry seasons, in the water and on land, the team encounters debilitating challenges and uplifting discoveries throughout the multiple expeditions and forays into both wild and developed regions. All experienced ocean divers, they now have the unique experience of investigating the murky waters of the Amazon basin, where there are more species of fish than there are in the entire Atlantic Ocean! The team encounters many unusual, rare species and surprises, including swimming with an anaconda, the world’s largest – and perhaps most dangerous – snake; going nose-to-nose with the jacaré, the Amazon version of the crocodile; and playfully swimming with beautiful pink river dolphins.

Over 4,000 miles long, and without a single bridge crossing it, this is the world’s longest and widest river. Negotiating it is not easy. Covering an area larger than the continental United States, the team travels together on long river passages and also breaks into small, mobile groups, sending Fabien and Celine on trips to investigate more leads. From the Brazilian city of Manaus - a hub of commerce on the main Amazon tributary, the Rio Negro - to protected areas in the Amazon like Xixuaú and Mamirauá Sustainable Development Reserve, they investigate projects and places that are finding solutions to the destruction of the land and river. From the mouth of the Amazon at the Atlantic Ocean to a glacier in the Peruvian Andes, they explore incredible natural phenomena and the catastrophic consequences of climate change and deforestation.

Issues, challenges and problems that exist in the Amazon have a direct connection to the rest of the world, especially through global commerce. Expansive soy farms, lumber companies, commercial fishing, illegal animal trafficking, and more come under close scrutiny, but the Cousteau family and Ocean Adventures team uncover both inspiring and shocking stories throughout Brazil and Peru. They investigate the crucial role of native people in sustaining the natural rainforest and river system, and visit indigenous peoples in small, remote villages, as well as in large, protected reserves. New business models such as ecotourism, fish farms, organized fish monitoring by markets and fishermen, and developing and exporting sustainable rainforest products and medicines are all examples of potential solutions to global issues, as clear progress is made in the Amazon.

From this region of urgency and conflict, where human enterprise and expansion not only compromise the health and ecology of the river and rainforest basin, but truly inflict consequences on a global scale, come new beacons of hope and sustainability. The fight for the future of the Amazon and its people is underway, and Return to the Amazon presents solutions already in motion for keeping the forest alive and thriving.

Return to the Amazon is shot in high-definition and is narrated by Delroy Lindo, the Tony award-nominated actor whose films include “Malcolm X,” “Crooklyn,” “Get Shorty,” “Romeo Must Die” and “The Cider House Rules.” He most recently starred in the 2007 holiday hit, “This Christmas.”