Artwork for the National Geographic Channel's Survivor's Guide to the Mayan Apocalypse.
Artwork for the National Geographic Channel's Survivor's Guide to the Mayan Apocalypse. Gerrit Fokkema - Fox International Channels PR

The end of the world on TV?

CHRISTMAS is just around the corner, but there's another day that is being anticipated for different reasons.

December 21 marks the end of the 13th Mayan calendar cycle, or k'atun, and some believe it's the day of the apocalypse.

In the lead-up to possible doomsday, the National Geographic Channel is airing a series of documentaries for its Survivor's Guide to the Mayan Apocalypse special.

Maya Underworld: The Real Doomsday - National Geographic Channel - Wednesday at 6.30pm Qld, 7.30pm NSW.

French journalist and filmmaker Diego Bunuel descends into the darkness of Mexico's water-filled sinkholes for the channel's Maya Underworld doco.

Best known for hosting Nat Geo's extreme travel series Don't Tell My Mother, Bunuel teams up with archaeologists who are exploring the Yucatan Peninsula's cenotes for clues about the collapse of this ancient civilisation more than 1000 years ago.

As well as being a source of fresh water, the cenotes were religiously significant sites to the Mayans where human sacrifices were carried out in times of drought and hardship.

While the descendants of the Mayans believe December 21, 2012 is simply the end of one calendar and the beginning of another, Bunuel believes there will always be folklore about the end of days.

"The end of the world prophesies are part of our experience as human beings," Bunuel said.

"As long as humans have been on Earth, there have been prophesies of the end of the world. It's an important event in the sense that it forces us to put things in perspective, to say to ourselves 'what have I done with my life, what have we done as a species'."

The team battled torrential rains and limited visibility during their expedition, as well as the logistics of filming underwater in a remote location.

"I'm a diver, but I've never done cave diving," he said.

"When you look into a pitch-black hole and they say 'okay, put on your gear and you're going to go down there' it's a bit of a challenge. What was crazy was the amount of technical expertise needed to go down in this cave.

"In order for us to tape the interviews underwater, we had to have full-face masks with a communications system and then we had lines that went up to the surface where the director was.

So there was me and Guillermo, the archaeologist, and two underwater camera people as well."

After the rainy conditions prevented them from exploring their first-choice cenote, they shifted the team to another sinkhole with better visibility.

"I go diving as an amateur. I usually go down to see some fish and look at some coral, but there the only thing to see and that is bones from people who were sacrificed or reburied 1000 years ago. It was quite an amazing experience," he said.

Survivor's Guide to the Mayan Apocalypse airs daily at 6.30pm Qld, 7.30pm NSW until December 21.

Other specials include 10 Ways to End the World, Omens of the Apocalypse and Evacuate Earth.


Do you think the world is going to end on December 21, 2012?

This poll ended on 22 December 2012.

Current Results





I'm not sure yet.


I haven't thought about it.


It doesn't matter to me!


This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.