Awesome Animals, Unpredictable Humans

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by Gayle Young

Studies have shown that babies have an innate fear of falling, and will avoid crawling into a void or over the edge of a high perch. Seems logical, doesn’t it? Perhaps it’s an evolutionary adaption from our earliest ancestors.

But in the tallest building in America, you’re supposed to throw that primal fear out the window. Kind of, literally. The Willis Tower in Chicago (formerly known as the Sears Tower) has observation boxes jutting out of the 103rd floor that are made of glass from top to bottom. It feels like you’re stepping in space — with nothing between you and a painful plunge to certain death except a clear, breakable material that’s usually marked ‘fragile.’ For this episode, we follow a very sweet guy named Josh with a self-admitted fear of heights who takes the leap of faith and steps onto the glass observation deck in swaying winds.

Of course it’s safe — the incredibly thick glass is melded with the same material used to prevent windshields from cracking. However, you can’t say the same about sea kayaking in the Canada’s Bay of Fundy. It’s incredibly dangerous, even for professionals, and this episode features some top paddlers who tackle the bay’s famed tidal bores. Twice a day the river flowing into the bay clashes with the rising Atlantic Ocean — right in the spot that has the highest tides in the world. The clash creates huge standing waves and whirlpools that form without warning. One of the kayakers gets caught out when a giant whirlpool forms unexpectedly right beneath him and he gets sucked into the vortex. It’s some of the most exciting, action-packed video we’ve had on the show.

This episode is packed with some truly amazing segments. In one we profile artist Nathan Sawaya, who creates life size sculptures out of Legos™, the children’s play blocks. For this he gave up a career as a lawyer.

Video: Check out a sculptor who has built up his career block by block.

While in Japan, we found modern-day Samurai who recreate epic sword battles in amazing detail. It must be difficult to be a Samurai in the age of personal liability litigation. After all, when wielding massive swords it’s probably easier to kill someone than to not kill them.

Video: Meet the stars of Japan’s epic samurai films, and find out how they create swordplay that looks good enough to be true.

In other segments, we have a National Geographic grantee who licks salamanders and frogs to see if they’re toxic and a researcher who found the world’s tallest living thing — a massive redwood three times larger than the Statue of Liberty.

We’ve been having a lot of fun with this show, but especially with this episode. It has the perfect mix of awesome animals and unpredictable humans.

Nat Geo Amazing’s “Killer Swarms and Urban Penguins” premieres Friday July 9 at 7P et.