'I'm still pinching myself' - Kiwi plays leading role on Sir David Attenborough's epic new BBC series Blue Planet II

It's breath-taking, it's intense, it's moving and that's just the opening to the New Zealand segment of the BBC's Blue Planet II.

The chase scene featuring a pod of bottlenose dolphins and false killer whales was captured by Kiwi underwater cameraman Steve Hathaway.

"My big memory is just the noise. All these big clicks and sequels – just reverberates through your body. You've got nearly a thousand animals and all this noise is coming towards you," Steve told 1 NEWS NOW.

Three years ago the underwater diver was approached by the BBC to film a trial shoot for the network’s biggest marine documentary, Blue Planet II.

The task was to film false killer whales off the coast of New Zealand.

"We had a 10 day shoot and I thought over 10 days we would be lucky to find false killer whales.

"On the very first day of the shoot we got a phone call at 7.30 in the morning and a plane down in Tairua saying we found them. I was like 'what the heck?' and we went down there and had them five days in a row."

Impressed by the incredible footage, the BBC gave the green light and Steve was hired to film for the documentary.

Over 50 days Steve and his team captured the amazing footage which features in Blue Planet II.

"False killer whales are an oceanic animal and they travel huge distances every day. To find them is incredibly difficult because they’re nowhere near the coast.

"So we had planes up in the air most days and for the shoot itself we were on call for nearly 50 days – it was amazing; to get a small segment, to get that footage."

Blue Planet II’s debut in the UK saw over 10 million people tune in to watch.

Being a part of one of the biggest animal documentaries in the world was a career highlight for the cameraman from Snells Beach who gave up his construction business 10 years ago to follow his passion.

"I'm still pinching myself to be involved with Blue Planet II.

"Three years ago when I started filming for this and I had the camera on my knee and false killer whales coming towards me and I had the director of Open Ocean Blue Planet I on my boat and I was the cameraman.

"And then to hear and see this footage with Sir David Attenborough speaking over top of it, it's unbelievable. Pretty hard to improve on the CV with this one."

At the premiere of the show in Bristol last month, Steve got to meet the most iconic voice in television – Sir David Attenborough.

"Sir David Attenborough had come over and congratulated us. He said to all the team, 'you guys deserve all the credit and you’ve been out there doing it', he goes, 'I'm just the voice.' I'm like, 'you're more than just the voice!'"

"But he realises that there's teams that have spent years out in the field trying to get some of this footage."

Steve says he's full of pride that not only does he get to showcase his work to the world, he gets to also show the beauty of New Zealand and its wildlife to millions worldwide.

"It's the most special thing to have a New Zealand story in Blue Planet II. I think the underwater world of New Zealand is our greatest untold story.

"To have that showcased to hundreds of millions of people was just absolutely insane."

To find more out about Steve and his work you can check out his website, Young Ocean Explorers, which he started with his 16-year-old daughter. 

Tune in for Blue Planet II's New Zealand premiere on TVNZ’s 1 on Sunday at 7.30pm.

Underwater cameraman Steve Hathaway plays a leading role in Sir David Attenborough’s new BBC series. Source: 1 NEWS