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The titular “Human Swan” is Sacha Dench, an Australian conservationist living in the UK and best known for travelling huge distances by paramotor (engine-powered paraglider).
In 2016, Dench travelled 4,350 miles by paramotor, covering 11 countries while following the tundra swan (also known as a Bewick’s swan) as it migrated from the Russian Arctic to the UK. The trip helped her learn why the bird’s numbers were declining.
Before the trip, Dench was scared of flying, but tackled it in order to set up a film unit for the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.
During this trip, she set the world record for being the first woman to cross the Channel.
The nickname “The Human Swan” was coined during Dench’s 2018 Ted talk, during which Dench spoke about finding your passion in life.
The same year, she was awarded the Britannia Trophy for aviation, which had not previously been won by a woman since 1967.
In June, Dench announced that she would be travelling 3,000 miles from Glasgow ahead of the COP26 UN climate conference, in order to raise awareness of the climate crisis.
However, in the final stages of the trip in September, Dench and her cameraman Dan Burton collided near Lochinver in Sutherland.
Burton died in the accident, while Dench received serious injuries. Lumley’s documentary begins with a dedication to Burton.
Joanna Lumley and the Human Swan airs Monday 1 November at 9pm on ITV.