City Under the Sea

Cities beneath the sea; are they complex urban societies that parallel our own? In this underwater documentary we travel to the Poor Knights Marine Reserve off New Zealand’s Bay of Islands to observe the four seasons of fish society at close quarters.

Produced by NHNZ

Viewed casually, an undersea reef appears to have masses of fish all milling about aimlessly. An alien visitor to a human city might make the same observation about humans.

But just like a human city, fish society is organised and structured. This film is an entertaining, informative, and beautifully illustrated guide for the armchair visitors to one particular “City under the Sea.”

By exploring the reefs around New Zealand’s spectacular Poor Knights Islands, Wade and Jan Doak help viewers get to know one of the world’s richest and most complex realms – where reef fish interact not only with their own species but with many other species as well.

Reefs are multi-level colonies where opportunities for life abound, and fish are the reefs most mobile and adaptable citizens.

Just as humans’ cities have areas for housing, business and commuting so do the cities under the sea. Just as we follow many occupations in our cities, so do the fish in theirs – even to having day shifts and night shifts. And in similar ways to us, fish lead their private lives – with equally zealous competition for prime real estate, with courtship and mating rituals as strange as our own, and with similar responsibilities of raising young.

This is an intimate view of the patterns of life within fish society by day and by night, and season by season throughout one whole year.

City Under the Sea is a companion to Masters of Inner Space, which revealed the wonders of fish design. Both films are visually stunning and full of fascination. Together they are an exciting introduction to Wade Doak’s world of fishes.

Episodes From This Series

Wanted Alive

26 minutes / 1992

Colony Z

24 minutes / 1986

The Black Stilt – A Bird Surrounded by Change

48 minutes / 1984

The Black Robin – The Chatham Island Story

48 minutes / 1990

Lost World of the Poor Knights

48 minutes / 1992

Castles of the Underworld

46 minutes / 1992

Wild Horse, Wild Country

51 minutes / 1995

City Under the Sea

47 minutes / 1992

Bandits of the Beech Forest

52 minutes / 1996

Battle for Breaksea

26 minutes / 1989

Snares Gift from the Sea

24 minutes / 1984

Up With the Birds

24 minutes / 1982

Same Time Same Place

24 monutes / 1982

Swan Lake

24 minutes / 1985

Kakapo – Night Parrot

24 minutes / 1982

Sealion summer

24 minutes / 1982

Possum a New Zealand Nightmare

26 minutes / 1990


23 minutes / 1990


26 minutes / 1989

Invaders in Paradise

51 minutes / 1999

The Mangroves

24 minutes / 1984

Islands of strange noises

30 minutes / 1980

Island Eaten by Rats

24 minutes / 1984

Tale of the Crayfish

48 minutes / 1987

Land of the Kiwi

48 minutes / 1987

Gull City

23 minutes / 1990