Titanoboa: Monster Snake
120 mins - Smithsonian Channel
Producer / Director
Fifty eight million years ago the largest snake the world has ever known slithered through the swampy jungles of South America. Weighing more than a tonne and measuring 50 foot long it was capable of swallowing giant crocodiles for breakfast! We went to find its remains - buried at the bottom of an open-cast coal mine in modern day Colombia.
The coal seams of the Cerrejon mine encase a lost world of giants - massive fish, turtles and crocodiles that lived alongside Titanoboa. Many of these creatures the snake would have considered prey. But how were these creatures able to grow so big here? The answer reveals some surprising truths about the ancient climate of tropical regions that could change our understanding of how global warming will affect the modern world.
To tell the story we followed the efforts of an international team of scientists to uncover the mysteries of Cerrejon. We recreated the snake and its world in CGI - intercutting that with the modern day action in the field. As well as filming at the dig, no easy task since Cerrejon is still very much a working mine, we also went in search of Titanoboa's modern cousins. In the Venezuela's Llanos we waded through knee high swamps in search of Anaconda. The easiest way to find them being to step on them (gently) with your bare feet. We filmed and tagged 28 snakes. The very first ones were part of a huge mating ball - one female and five male anacondas. An extremely rare find and the first time it has been caught properly on film before.
Running alongside the documentary the Smithsonian Museum stage a major exhibition, including a life sized model of Titanoboa made for the film, at Grand Central Station in New York.