Steve Backshall

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Steve Backshall
SteveBackshall with rattlesnake.jpg
Steve Backshall handling snake in Florida.
Born Stephen James Backshall
(1973-04-21) 21 April 1973 (age 42)
Bagshot, Surrey, England
Alma mater University of Exeter,
Open University
Occupation Naturalist, writer, public speaker, television presenter
Television Deadly 60
Awards BAFTA Awards
2011 Children's Television Presenter
2011 Factual Series Deadly 60
Steve Backshall with Great white shark.

Stephen James "Steve" Backshall (born 21 April 1973) is a BAFTA-winning English naturalist, writer and television presenter, best known for BBC TV's Deadly 60. His other BBC work includes being part of the expedition teams in Lost Land of the Tiger, Lost Land of the Volcano and Lost Land of the Jaguar, and he has worked for the National Geographic Channel and the Discovery Channel. He has published three novels for children and several non-fiction works.

Steve Backshall with sperm whale

Early life[edit]

Backshall's parents worked for British Airways, and he was brought up on a smallholding in Bagshot surrounded by rescue animals.[1][2]

He backpacked solo around Asia, India and Africa. He studied English and Theatre Studies at the University of Exeter followed by biology at the Open University.[citation needed]

He studied martial arts in Japan for a year, gaining a black belt in judo and a brown belt in karate.[citation needed]

Career[edit]

Rough Guides[edit]

Backshall's first job after returning from Japan was as an author on the Rough Guides to Indonesia and South East Asia.

Television[edit]

National Geographic TV[edit]

In 1997 Backshall attempted to walk solo across the western half of New Guinea, then known as Irian Jaya; he was in the rainforest for three months, but was ultimately unsuccessful. He then had an idea for a series, bought a video camera, and went to the jungles of Colombia, where he made a pilot which he sold to the National Geographic Channel, which employed him in 1998 as its 'Adventurer in Residence' and he spent five years as a producer and presenter.[citation needed]

For National Geographic International, Backshall presented the expedition series Game For It and the environmental series EarthPulse. For Bootcamp, he completed the Israeli special forces selection course, running 60 miles overnight to gain their red beret.

BBC TV[edit]

In 2003 he moved to the BBC's The Really Wild Show.[3][4] In his first series he travelled up Australia's east coast from Tasmania to Cape Tribulation. In the next series, he travelled around Central America, the Galapagos, and then Southern Africa for the last ever series in 2006.[clarification needed] He competed with fellow naturalist Nick Baker in a series of wildlife challenges, with long-standing host Michaela Strachan.[clarification needed] After four years The Really Wild Show was axed so he joined the BBC Natural History Unit's expedition team.

In Expedition Borneo, BBC 2006,[clarification needed] the team went in search of new species. He was the first person to explore the caves below a mighty sinkhole in the Mulu mountains of Borneo, and also to make the first ascent of the North Face of Mount Kuli.[5]

He co-presented Springwatch Trackers (BBC Two) with Kirsten O'Brien which was broadcast live from the Springwatch farm in Devon between 28 May and 15 June 2007. Teams of boys and girls were set a series of Tracker challenges.

In 2008 Deadly 60 was commissioned, followed by the Live n Deadly offshoot, the aim of which was to inspire children to get outside and interested in wildlife and adventure; his live wildlife question and answer appearances attracted up to 14,000 people per event.[citation needed] In the "Deadly" programmes he searched for predators that were "Not just deadly to me, but deadly in their own world". He dived outside of the cage with great white, bull, great hammerhead, mako and tiger sharks, caught king cobras, black mambas and lanceheads, had a redback spider crawl across his hand and was bitten by a caiman whilst searching for anaconda in an Argentinian swamp.[6] The programmes were transmitted on Nat Geo Wild, Animal Planet and BBC to 157 countries worldwide. The fourth season of the series, Deadly Pole to Pole was filmed in 2013–2014 from the Arctic circle to Antarctica, journeying south through the Americas. The scenarios included being hunted by a polar bear whilst kayaking in Svalbard, filming feeding sharks and eagles using timeslice technology,[clarification needed] exploring flooded caves and the insides of a glacier, and catching dozens of species of snake and crocodile. He was bitten by a shark but was saved by a chain-mail shark suit. The finale was diving underneath Antarctic icebergs alongside predatory leopard seal.[7]

In Lost Land of the Jaguar, BBC One 2008, he was part of the first expedition to successfully climb Mount Upuigma.[8] On the summit they discovered an endemic species of frog and mouse, and also footprints of an unidentified mammal.

He filmed Extreme Caving, BBC One 2008, with Kate Humble, Secret Wilderness Japan, BBC Two 2008, and also presented Nature Reports for the BBC's The One Show.[9]

In Lost Land of the Volcano, BBC One 2009, he led the first western expedition into the crater of the extinct volcano, Mount Bosavi, in Papua New Guinea,[citation needed] where they discovered new species of cuscus,[citation needed] frogs[citation needed] and a giant rat, one of the biggest on earth.[10] They also uncovered miles of passages in the Mageni cave system in New Britain.[citation needed]

In Lost Land of the Tiger, BBC One 2010, the expedition team travelled to Bhutan and confirmed the occurrence of Bengal tigers above the tree-line in the Himalayas, higher than had been filmed before.[11][12] They also made the first ever descent of the grade V white-water river the Drangme Chu.[citation needed]

In Supergiants, BBC One 2013, he sought to explain why species grow very large. It included diving with Nile crocodiles in Botswana, sperm whales in the Caribbean, and avoiding 2-ton elephant seals in California.[13]

In 2013 he voiced Nature's Microworlds on BBC Four.

Backshall was a contestant on the twelfth series of Strictly Come Dancing from September 2014 on BBC One. He was partnered with former champion Ola Jordan. The couple left the series in week nine after dancing a jive to "Little Bitty Pretty One" by Frankie Lymon.

Discovery TV[edit]

In Venom Hunter, Discovery Channel TV, 2008, he travelled South America aiming to find out as much as possible about venom, including taking part in the bullet ant ritual where he was stung hundreds of times by the world's most painful stinging insect.[14]

In Swimming with Monsters, Discovery TV 2013, he swam with large animals, including anaconda, hippopotamus, Humboldt Squid, and great white sharks without the safety of a cage.[citation needed]

Sky TV[edit]

In 2006 he filmed Inside the King Cobra for Sky One.

Writing[edit]

Backshall began working as a writer for publisher Rough Guides, and is an author on their Indonesia guide.[15] He continues to contribute to British newspapers.

Wildlife writing[edit]

  • Venom: Poisonous Creatures in the Natural World, 2007, is a scientific analysis of venoms and poisons with an in-depth look at animals that use natural toxins.[16]
  • Deadly 60 is the book of series one, and is a diary style breakdown of each animal and how they were found and filmed.[17]
  • Wildlife Adventurer's Guide was published in 2009. It is aimed at young naturalists, and provides a guide to having adventures in the UK.[18]
  • Looking for Adventure, 2011, describes his expeditions in New Guinea; his childhood and how he got into television.
  • Predators is an illustrated guide to predatory animals.[19]
  • Deadly Diaries is a diary-style book of Series 3 of Deadly 60, released in 2012.
  • Deadly Detectives is a 'how to' book, teaching the skills of tracking animals by their signs, scat and prints.[20]

Fiction[edit]

Backshall stated "I was a big reader when I was a kid ... Fiction was a massive, massive part of my formative years, far more so than television ever was, and I always hoped that my future would lie with writing. When I was given the opportunity I absolutely leapt at it. It's an idea that I've had in mind for a long time, of these two youngsters on the run who become almost wildlife vigilantes, and it's one that I've had tremendous fun writing." [21]

In May 2012 he published the first of a series of fiction novels entitled The Falcon Chronicles.

  • Tiger Wars, 2012, is about the adventures of a young boy and girl on the run from a shadowy gang of assassins, set against the background of the war on tiger poaching. In 2013 it reached the selection longlist for the Branford Boase Award for debut novels for children.[22]
  • Ghosts of the Forest, 2013, is set in the forests of Borneo and Indochina, with the same main characters battling illegal loggers.
  • The Wilds of the Wolf, 2014,[23] features the same main characters travelling to the Yamal peninsula in Siberia, tracking wolves in the snow, and battling against the big oil and gas companies that are destroying the fragile Arctic environment.[21]

Backshall stated, "First and foremost I hope that the reader will be entertained," but added "I hope that some of the readers – and if it's a very small percentage that's fine – will come away and want to learn more and will want to go out and find out for themselves what they can do."[citation needed]

Backshall on the first ascent of Upuigma

Rock climbing and other sports[edit]

Backshall is a rock climber and mountaineer, does adventure races, fell runs and endurance sports.

In 2014, he summitted the highly technical granite Mount Asgard in Arctic Baffin Island, in one single 27 hour summit push. Ice and alpine climbing are described as being among his great passions, and he has climbed such peaks as Cho Oyu, the sixth highest mountain in the world at 8201m, and Cholatse in the Himalayan Khumbu. He qualified as an advanced Himalayan Expedition leader from India's Nehru Institute of Mountaineering. He led the first ascent of Upuigma-tepui in Venezuela, and also the first ascent of the North face of Mount Kuli in Borneo.

In 2005 he ran the Marathon des Sables 243 km across the Sahara desert[24] to raise money for the Wolftrust[25]

Backshall has a black belt in judo, attained after a year living in Japan studying the martial art.[26]

He is an experienced BCU four star sea and whitewater kayaker, and has completed the 125 mile, 24 hour, canoe race from Devizes to Westminster on the river Thames.[27] He has competed in numerous triathlons, adventure races and fell running events. His best finishes include winning the 'Extreme' and 'Last Man Standing' events at UK Tough Guy, finishing 9th overall at Tough Guy and 4th in the Welsh 1000m peak marathon.[28]

In July 2008, while attempting to climb a wet cliff face in the Wye Valley in the Forest of Dean, he fell 10 metres (33 ft) onto rocks. The impact sent his heel bone through the bottom of his foot, dislocated his ankle, and fractured two vertebrae in his back. He required twelve operations and several years of rehab to get back to fitness. [29]

Awards[edit]

In 2011, Backshall won two BAFTAs; best Children's Television Presenter, and Best Factual series.[30]

In 2009 and 2013, he was nominated for a BAFTA for Best Children's Television Presenter. Deadly 60 was nominated for Best Children's series. Lost Land of the Jaguar was nominated for Best Factual series.[31]

Expedition Borneo was nominated for an Emmy in the US.

Lost Land of the Volcano won the 2012 Wildscreen award for best popular broadcast. [32]

Blue Peter awarded him a Gold Badge, their highest honour. [33]

In 2012 he was awarded an honorary PhD from the University of Exeter.[34]

Charities[edit]

Backshall with hippopotamus in South Africa

Chronology[edit]

1998 - 2003

  • Earthpulse - National Geographic Channel
  • Game For It - National Geographic Channel
  • The Toughest Race - National Geographic Channel
  • Tracking the Canyon - National Geographic Channel
  • Boot Camp - National Geographic Channel
  • SOS: Save Our Seas - National Geographic Channel
  • The Holiday Programme - National Geographic Channel
  • Dive the World - National Geographic Channel
  • Primary Geography - National Geographic Channel
  • Adventure Diaries India - National Geographic Channel
  • Adventure Diaries - National Geographic Channel
  • The Train to Nowhere - National Geographic Channel
  • A Walk in the Desert - National Geographic Channel

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

  • Springwatch Trackers, BBC Two
  • Inside Out
  • Nature of Britain
  • Expedition Borneo
  • The Really Wild Show
  • Inside - King Cobra

2008

  • Lost Land of the Jaguar
  • The One Show - Natural
  • Britain’s Lost World
  • Outdoor Britain Extreme Caving
  • Spring Watch Trackers
  • Secret Wilderness Japan
  • Expedition Alaska
  • Venom Hunter
  • Inside Out

2009

  • Deadly 60
  • Lost Land of the Volcano

2010

  • Deadly 60 II
  • Natural Born Hunters
  • Lost Land of the Tiger
  • Live And Deadly

2011

  • Deadly 60 III
  • Live And Deadly

2012

  • Deadly Pole to Pole

2013

  • Deadly Pole to Pole
  • Super Giant Animals
  • Swimming with Monsters

2014

  • Deadly on a Mission :Pole to Pole
  • Personal Expedition :Mount Asgard
  • Strictly Come Dancing

References[edit]

  1. ^ Corner, Lena (7 September 2014). "TV wildlife presenter Steve Backshall is about to face his biggest fear ... Strictly Come Dancing". www.independent.co.uk. Retrieved 5 October 2014. 
  2. ^ McGrath, Nick (26 May 2012). "Steve Backshall: The wild man from Surrey". www.guardian.co.uk. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 
  3. ^ "Swimming With Monsters Steve Backshall Biography". 
  4. ^ Steve Backshall.com Personal profile
  5. ^ "BBC expedition stories". 
  6. ^ Davies, Ella (11 November 2010). "BBC – Earth News – Caiman attacks wildlife presenter filming in Argentina". BBC News. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  7. ^ "Deadly Pole to Pole". BBC. 
  8. ^ "Conquering a virgin", The Times, 11 November 2007
  9. ^ Jo Sarsby Management: Steve Backshall
  10. ^ Walker, Matt (6 September 2009). "Giant rat found in 'lost volcano'". 
  11. ^ Walker, Matt (20 September 2010). "BBC – Earth News – Lost tiger population discovered in Bhutan mountains". BBC News. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  12. ^ https://theconversation.com/tall-tales-misrepresent-the-real-story-behind-bhutans-high-altitude-tigers-8963
  13. ^ "Supergiant Animals". BBC. 
  14. ^ "Bullet ant ritual - awesome!". YouTube. 
  15. ^ Rough-Guide Indonesia
  16. ^ New Holland Publishers. ISBN 978-1-84537-734-2
  17. ^ Backshall's Deadly 60
  18. ^ New Holland Publishers Wildlife Adventure's Guide
  19. ^ "Orion Children's Books to publish action-packed Steve Backshall books". Orion Books. 15 February 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ a b Stapley, Jon (17 July 2013). "Steve Backshall: 'The big predators would run down Usain Bolt without even thinking about it. Your only chance is to stand your ground'". www.theguardian.com. 
  22. ^ Allen, Katie (16 January 2013). "Mayo and Backshall on Branford Boase longlist". www.thebookseller.com. 
  23. ^ [2]
  24. ^ "Marathon des Sables Introduction". Saharamarathon.co.uk. 16 April 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  25. ^ Wolftrust
  26. ^ MySpace.com: Backshall
  27. ^ Electricwebsites – Essex, UK – 0203 0159099. "Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Marathon". Dwrace.org.uk. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  28. ^ [3][dead link]
  29. ^ "Daily Mail Backshall Breaks 25ft Fall". Mail Online. 
  30. ^ "2011 British Academy Children's Awards Winners – Children's – Awards – The BAFTA site". Bafta.org. 24 November 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2012. 
  31. ^ BAFTA Nominations
  32. ^ "Calendar - Watershed". 
  33. ^ [4]
  34. ^ Debbie Robinson. "Steve Backshall - Honorary Graduates - University of Exeter". 
  35. ^ "About Us / The Trust's Presidents". www.ypte.org.uk. Retrieved 3 October 2014. 

External links[edit]