February 9, 2010

When Edge West Productions was first asked to produce a film about the Nasca Lines I had mixed feelings. National Geographic had high expectations for the film and I was really excited by the challenge but I was only too aware that I knew little about the Lines. All I could recall was that, etched into the desert sands of southern Peru, like some kind of weird crop-circles, are hundreds of ‘geoglyphs’, or geometric patterns including animal and human shapes. Only discovered in the 30’s with the introduction of airplanes the Nasca Lines become one of the great human mysteries of the modern era.

The Premiere of ‘Nasca Lines The Buried Secrets’ airs on National Geographic Channel at 10pm on Sunday 21st February.
More Showing Dates:
Feb 21st, 2010, 10 PM (ET/PCT)
Sunday Feb. 21 10pm
Thursday Feb. 25 7pm
Thursday Feb. 25 10pm
Sunday Feb. 28 12pm
Thursday Mar. 4 3pm

alien-landing-stripsI was aware of science fiction writer; Erich Von Daniken’s theory that the Lines were the work of aliens but I’d dismissed the theory as fantasy. Other than that I knew nothing about them. The project suddenly seemed a daunting task, especially as we only had six weeks to prepare for the shoot in Peru. Before I make any film I try to immerse myself in as much of the research as I can absorb. But with the Nasca Lines that’s easier said than done. So little is known about them that information is hard to come by. I decided the first thing was to talk with the experts and so I jumped on a flight to Zurich, Switzerland.

IMG_0006.jpgFor the last fifteen years Professor Markus Reindel and his team have been working on mapping and decoding these mysterious geoglyphs. It has been a mammoth task for them as they have recognized around 20,000 lines in the region. Some of these geoglyphs are geometric shapes the size of ten football fields; others are beautiful images of birds and fish. Over the years Reindel’s team has built the most complete picture of the Nasca Lines ever produced. They have also mapped the lines in 3D using hi-tech photogrammetry methods, which combines thousands of photographs with GPS coordinates to create a computer-animated model.

The resulting 3D ‘map’ they showed me was still in a primitive form but even though the images were grainy black and white it was truly astounding. As I flew through a vast desert region for the first time it gave me a real sense of how the Nasca Lines existed in the arid landscape. Until then I, like many others, had assumed that the Lines could only be viewed from the air. Not true! It was clear from the images that the Lines could be seen from high vantage points on surrounding mountains

… an incredible story about a remarkable culture, and for the first time we understand why they most likely built the extraordinary Nasca Lines.

Markus Reindel and his team were convinced that it proved that humans built the Lines. Excavation of the Lines has determined that a desert dwelling people called the Nasca built the Lines 2000 years ago. These hardy people had lived in this region for nearly 8 centuries before drought had finally driven them out. Suddenly, I was hooked by the story. Who were these people who had built these incredible geoglyphs and for what purpose?IMG_0009.jpg

The journey to make this film started right then, in a hi-tech lab in a Zurich University. I was totally absorbed by this complex and fascinating puzzle. It took us five months to complete the film and it was perhaps one of the most intense projects of my life. The tight schedule, the unrelenting desert climate and the quest for scant information were certainly a challenge. But I think the film manages to uncover an incredible story about a remarkable culture, and for the first time we understand why they most likely built the extraordinary Nasca Lines.

Check out the new web page dedicated to the Nasca Lines on National Geographic Television: Nasca Lines on National Geographic Television

Phil Day is the Producer, Director and Writer for Edge West Productions