Forrest Galante is diving down into the "Bermuda Triangle of Africa" as he searches for a trio of creatures lost to science in Extinct or Alive: Land of the Lost Sharks, airing Tuesday, Aug. 11 on Discovery Channel as part of Shark Week 2020. Ahead of the premiere, the wildlife biologist and adventurer opened up to PopCulture about his ambitious trek to one of the most dangerous and difficult regions of South Africa.
Heading to a remote reason of the South African coast, Galante, shark expert Dave Ebert and their crew set off in search of the flapnose houndshark, whitetip weasel shark and ornate sleeper ray. The houndshark has historically been the most elusive of the trio, not being spotted for almost 120 years before the voyage, while the weasel shark had been missing from human sightings since 1984. Additionally, the ray had not been spotted since 2007. Searching for one lost species is difficult enough, but Galante said he decided to go for the trifecta after doing more research into the dive area. "The more we dug in, the more we realized the area was so biologically unexplored, almost anything could happen," he said.
Part of the reason these creatures are so difficult to track down is just how rare they are, but another is likely due to the incredibly rough conditions, which actually necessitated Galante to undergo surgery after he tore his groin trying to hold the boats together in the choppy waves. "The conditions kind of took me off my feet," he told PopCulture, noting that it took a week alone to get the boats out to where they needed to be.
Locating these lost species isn't just a personal challenge for a man who jokingly calls himself the "hide and seek champion of the world." He explained, "Anytime we discover a new species, that has huge unknown implications for science. ...We have no idea what's around the corner to say, cure coronavirus or cure cancer or something." Even if the discovery doesn't lead to some kind of scientific breakthrough, Galante said it is like "finding a piece of the puzzle" for a healthy ecosystem.
Going on another adventure for Shark Week is always an honor, Galante added, as he has fond memories watching the banner week even as a kid. "It's helped inspire me and my caring and passion for wildlife," he said. "It’s expanding peoples caring and knowledge of these incredible animals that deserve to be here, taking away that Jaws stigma." Don't miss Galante's groundbreaking scientific adventure on Extinct or Alive: Land of the Lost Sharks, airing Tuesday, August 11 at 8 p.m. ET on Discovery Channel. For more on Discovery's Shark Week programming, click here.