Great Yarmouth’s Ben Garrod to appear in documentary with Sir David Attenborough
- Credit: Robin Cox
Working with a broadcasting giant on the bones of the world's biggest ever dinosaur is a dream come true for Great Yarmouth-born biologist Ben Garrod.
The 34-year-old is appearing in an hour-long documentary with Sir David Attenborough bringing to life the story of a 101 million-year-old monster unearthed in Argentina.
The one-off programme to be shown on BBC1 later this month involved two visits to the South American fossil-hunting hub and sees Garrod helping to excavate the creature - a new species of titanosaur, thought to be the largest animal to have ever walked the Earth.
However, as a child growing up in the Elephant and Castle pub in Yarmouth the idea of even laying eyes on Attenborough was unthinkable, and when he was first offered the job he thought it was a hoax.
'I got a phone call about 18 months ago when I was at Paddington Station when a producer asked if I wanted to work on a one-off special for BBC1,' he said. 'That was exciting enough. Then when he said it was about dinosaurs I thought things could really not get any better. When he went on to say it was with David Attenborough I thought 'this is amazing' but genuinely did not believe it was real.'
The programme sees Garrod in a 'go-between' role translating difficult scientific data into digestible information for both the audience and Attenborough, and follows the success of his previous BBC4 series The Science of Bones, which he devised and presented.
His contribution to the two-year project involved flying out to Argentina in February and October last year to work with the team charged with digging up the find and helping to make sense of what the dinosaur bones were saying.
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The animal itself was of the big-bodied, long-necked type, usually seen loping about in the background in the Jurassic Park movies, he said, it's discovery by a shepherd making headlines around the world.
But the scale of it was awe-inspiring with everyone on set constantly amazed at its incredible size, Attenborough only just coming up to its ankle.
Among the more than 200 bones belonging to seven individuals found at the site was a thigh bone measuring eight foot long.
Experts have calculated the huge herbivore would have weighed around 70 tonnes, twice as much as Dippy - the skeleton that greets visitors to London's Natural History Museum.
A replica model made by the team was too big for the museum it was built for and had to be housed in purpose built hangar.
'The whole thing is just almost too big to believe. It is like a monster from a film rather than a real animal that walked around,' Garrod said.
He added that working with Attenborough in his 90th year was 'lovely' and that the much-loved naturalist was brimming with passion and energy.
'On a professional level it was great to work with him. The first time you hear him do a piece to camera it gives you a real feeling. I vividly remember watching him on TV as a child. As a boy from Yarmouth it would not even have entered my mind that I would ever meet him or even see him.
'When I was working with Jane Goodall I thought I had hit my pinnacle, I felt I had done everything I had wanted already. The only thing that could be better was working with David Attenborough.'
Attenborough and the Giant Dinosaur is on BBC One, on Sunday January 24 at 6.30pm.