Barrier Reef - May, 2000
From Fiji, Michele and I traveled to Cairns Australia
where we met our film crew to begin our first filming
expedition for Coral Reef Adventure. We had
chartered the 72 foot dive vessel Tusa for two weeks
of filming on the Great Barrier Reef. When we arrived,
Brad Ohlund and John Anderson from MacGillivray Freeman
Films were already on board preparing the 70mm large-format
camera system for travel at sea. Mark Thurlow, Mark
Conlin, and Lance Milbrand(70mm large-format film camera
veterans from our 1999 IMAX® production, Island
of the Sharks) were also on board unpacking and stowing
During the night, Tusa made the crossing to Lizard Island
traveling at nineteen knots. Considering the twenty-five
knot winds, this high-speed crossing was surprisingly
comfortable. Captain Mark Addington says that at nineteen
knots, the Tusa just skips over the top of the waves.
I think Mark's theory is sound, but "skips"
is probably not the most accurate verb. Still, I was
expecting a much more uncomfortable crossing.
The next morning, we moved Tusa to the
famous Cod Hole near the outer edge of the Barrier Reef.
It had been over twenty years since I last dived at
the Cod Hole yet I found it surprisingly unchanged.
The coral was in great shape and the Potato Cod were
still there. There are very few dive sites you can return
to after two decades and find them unspoiled.
Our guide and on-camera host was biologist Tracey Medway.
We spent most of our two weeks filming Michele and Tracey
as they explored the Cod Hole and studied Potato Cod
behavior. Much of our time was spent capturing cleaning
behavior as various wrasse species picked parasites
from potato cod skin. We also filmed agonistic displays
between rival potato cods as they competed for territory;
a behavior I had not seen before. The huge fish change
color and push each other around with open mouths. Their
enormous lips were used like the rubber bumpers on carnival
bumper cars. In one of our best scenes, two large cod
are doing battle with Michele and Tracey looking on
in the background. Top
The second expedition for the MacGillivray Freeman film
"Coral Reef Adventure" took place during the
month of November aboard the M\V Undersea Hunter. Working
with Rob Barrel and Cat Holloway of Nai'a Cruises, we
explored and filmed the coral reefs of Fiji. The highlight
of this trip was two trimix rebreather dives made during
the last week of the expedition. On the first dive,
Bob Cranston, Mark Thurlow, and I descend to 325 feet
to test rebreather instrumentation and deep dive protocols.
On the second dive we took the camera underwater housing
to 255 feet where we filmed a spectacular soft coral
Logistics for the underwater 70mm large-format filming
are being provided by two superb liveaboard dive companies.
Nai'a Cruises has interfaced with the Fijian government
and local shipping companies to receive over sixty cases
of film equipment, weighing in at more than 2 tons,
that was sent from the States a week ago. In addition,
over one thousand pounds of film was imported. That's
a lot of film even for an IMAX® theatre production.
Each roll of film weighs ten pounds and we imported
over one hundred rolls. Rob Barrel and Cat Holloway
from Nai'a will be acting as our Fijian wildlife guides
for the first three film expeditions, and will also
appear in the film.
Our filming platform is the M/V Undersea Hunter, which
has come to Fiji all the way from Costa Rica. Undersea
Hunter was our film platform during the making of our
last IMAX® theatre film, Island of the Sharks. Loading
our tons of film production equipment on board the Undersea
Hunter produced a strong sense of deja vu for me. It
has been two years since we were on board working on
Sharks at Cocos Island. Moving back into cabin number
three and stowing all our film gear in familiar places
was like coming home.
November 5, 2000
We've been diving Cat Holloway's favorite spot for three
days now. The site is called Cat's Meow. I can't imagine
where that name came from. We've had a typically slow
start. The scope of the project overwhelmed me as I
made my first dive and was reminded just how much work
we have to do. Our movie light system burned out the
first time we switched it on, destroying a third of
the number of movie lamps we have on board. Somehow
bringing enough extra lamps slipped by our pre-production
planning. Amazingly, we made a call to the MFF office
by satellite phone to order more lamps and now as I
sit here two days later, I can see Nai'a approaching
from the south and I've been informed the lamps are
on board. Amazing! Top
November 8, 2000
coral reef surrounding Wakaya is essentially dead. Something
terrible happened here. The die-off occurred before
the La Nina set in, so elevated water temperatures don't
explain the destruction. There are almost no living
hard corals on the reef. Rob and Cat say that this reef
was alive and vibrant only two years ago. It just reminds
me how fragile coral reef habitat is. If something we
can't even identify can kill an entire reef, then it
becomes easy to imagine how global warming could destroy
all coral reefs within our lifetime. A very frightening
November 24, 2000
spent six nights diving at Namena and one at Cat's Meow
waiting for the annual coral spawning. Every night we
put dive teams on the reef from just after sunset until
midnight. On one of these nights Cat thought she saw
a single coral polyp spawn. She later admitted that
the coral polyp might have simply had a bad case of
indigestion. Anyway, that was it. Either the coral didn't
spawn in Fiji this year, or somehow the predictions
for the timing of the event were wrong. Cat and Rob
suspect that the reef may have been so traumatized by
last summer's bleaching event that no energy was left
for spawning. I'm very disappointed. I know Greg MacGillivray
was very hopeful that we would get spawning.
Three days ago we moved back to Cat's Meow and the good
news is that Rob immediately found a trident's trumpet
snail. These guys are really rare these days, since
they are prized by shell collectors and often harvested
from the reef by native divers (as evidenced by the
shells we later saw for sale in the hotel lobby back
on Fiji's mainland). Cat and Rob only see four or five
a year diving here full time. The greater news is that
the snail was hungry. We all watched in amazement as
the predator attacked and devoured an enormous crown
of thorns starfish. The 70mm large-format camera worked
flawlessly and I think we captured the action successfully
on film. It's rare that I look at a shot and say to
myself with confidence, "That shot will be in the
film." The trident sequence is one of those.
As I write this, we are in route to Gau Island. We will
spend half a day there filming cabbage corals. The rest
of the day will be spent preparing our equipment for
two 300-foot plus trimix dives we plan to make during
our last two days at sea. Our rebreathers will be modified
with the addition of adding a third gas tank filled
with a helium/oxygen mix. We will also prepare a series
of open circuit bailout bottles that we will stash on
the reef at various depths on the way down. In addition
to modifying our diving gear, we will add a gas injection
system to the camera housing which will pressurize the
housing during descent thus allowing us to take the
camera to over 300 feet. This system includes attaching
two 30-cubic-foot bottles to the bottom of the housing.
Today we plan to get the system assembled and then take
it for a short dive to balance the buoyancy.
There are numerous unknowns in taking the 70mm system
to over 300 feet by pressurizing the gas inside. Will
the camera run in an extreme high-density gas environment?
Will decompression during ascent cause bubble formation
in the batteries, or even in the film emulsion itself?
Will the high partial pressure of oxygen precipitate
an oxygen fire when the camera is switched on? We have
researched these questions as much as possible without
actually testing the system under pressure. Only a test
will prove the idea's feasibility.
Our plan is to make one dive to 325 feet the day after
tomorrow without the camera to test our diving gear
and deep dive protocols. The next day we will take the
housing down to 350 feet and shoot one roll of film.
These will be among the most complicated dives I've
ever made. The film is going to be called "Coral
Reef Adventure." Well, here we go. This is
the real thing. Stay tuned. Top
November 25, 2000
Today Brad, Rob, Cat and Michele met with the village
elders on Gau in preparation for organizing a sevu sevu
for January, when the MacGillivray above water film
crew will be with us. Unfortunately a local tragedy
impacted our plans. Upon landing on the island we learned
that two local divers had been lost while attempting
to recover an anchor at 180 feet yesterday. The local
Village Chief asked Michele for our help, and I soon
found myself suited up in the skiff for a deep body
recovery. Apparently, the Fijian Navy had been on the
site and had attempted a dive, but the bodies were too
deep for them too reach.
When we got to the site, we learned that the bodies
were last seen well below 300 feet. The Navy captain
asked us not to risk our lives in an attempt to dive
that deep. Although we wanted to help, I admit to being
glad to be let off the hook.
Fijian divers are lost on a regular basis here. There
is a big market for sea cucumbers harvested by divers.
It is illegal for divers to use compressed air for sea
cucumber fishing. But the money is so good that locals
often ignore the laws. Unfortunately, these guys often
dive to over 150 feet with no training. Many have been
bent or killed. The divers who attempted to raise the
anchor were sea cucumber divers who had essentially
no training. When the Fijian District Chief heard about
the loss of life and illegal diving activity that led
to it, he was furious. He reprimanded the survivors,
telling them that he could throw them in jail for the
violation. For us, filming the cabbage corals will have
to wait until January. Top
November 26, 2000
Today we made our first 300+ dive. Our goal was to test
our diving gear, and to test our skills. We dived the
Wakaya wall to 325 feet and had a bottom time of 11
minutes. The dive was eventful. At just over 300 feet,
we were rocked by a brain-stunning explosion. Actually
it was an implosion. After recovering our wits, we began
inspecting our gear. Bob had descended with one of our
sealed beam movie lights which he had attached to a
line and hung fifteen feet below him. We had expected
it to implode somewhere after 200 feet. But after inspecting
the lamp we found it intact. The problem turned out
to be my Ikelite 200 strobe. Rated to 300 feet, it imploded
at about 310. We had difficulty discussing the problem
down there because the earphones and microphones on
our underwater communications systems had also crushed.
Return to Fiji
- January, 2000
January 27, 2001
We had a very good day yesterday. The weather was perfect
and the sea snakes were cooperative. We shot three rolls
on sea snakes then decided to move on to a titon triggerfish
sequence. Four days ago these fish were nesting everywhere.
One attacked me and put a nice ding in my forehead as
I accidentally passed too near its nest. Day before
yesterday we saw literally hundreds of titons, and you
could not swim more than a few minutes without seeing
a nest. Yesterday we swam almost a mile along the reef
and didn't see a single nest. Titon triggerfish nesting
is over. It literally finished overnight.
I wonder if anyone has studied this phenomenon. Certainly
synchronized spawning is not uncommon on the Coral Reef.
But I have never heard of it in nesting fishes. I had
wondered all week why, with so many titon triggers nesting,
we never saw courtship or egg laying. Now I suspect
I know the reason. If egg hatching all happens on one
day all over the reef, then courtship and egg laying
also is synchronized. All those triggers must have laid
their egg all at the same time.
Today we shot another couple rolls in the mangroves,
and we plan to spend the rest of the day with the shrimp
gobies. A nasty bug has been cycling through our crew.
I was sick for four days and didn't dive one of those.
Our galley crew has been sick. Michele has laryngitis
and Thurlow was down yesterday. Tonight we plan to leave
for Wakaya Island. Top
January 29, 2001
We've been at Wakaya for two days now. Yesterday we
established a new record for time underwater. Eight
and a half hours! We made a four hour dive filming shrimp
gobies in the morning and another two hour dive doing
the same in the afternoon. Of course, it would take
a sport diver an hour to accomplish with a video camera
what we managed to accomplish after a full day of filming
shrimp gobies in 70mm large format. After placing the
tripod then the weights then the massive camera then
the 2,000-watt lights at the front door of a goby's
home, the fish tends to get shy. It takes as long as
an hour for the fish and his crustacean companion to
After six hours in the water during the day, we made
a night dive. It was supposed to be a short one. It
turned into a two and a half hour dive. We wanted to
film lionfish hunting small fish on the reef. I almost
hoped we wouldn't see any and we could call the dive
and go to bed. But as soon as I got down I saw two waiting
for me. By the time the camera came down, there were
eight or ten beneath the lights. Cat noticed a large
male (I'm guessing at the sexes) attacking a smaller
female. He seemed to have grabbed her pectoral fin.
Cat prodded the pair with her hand light and separated
them with some difficulty. That's when we realized that
the male did not have the female's pectoral fin in his
mouth. Instead the two fish were pressing themselves
against each other tightly. As soon as Cat separated
the two, they resumed their embrace. Then after spinning
in a tight circle for a of couple fast revolutions,
they produced a small transparent egg case which floated
away on the current. We were all quite amazed and Cat
was especially beside herself with excitement. None
of us had ever seen spawning in lionfish. No, I didn't
get it on film. Tonight we plan to go back and try again.
An important part of the formula is knowing what actually
goes on. Now that I know how lionfish do it and what
it looks like, it may be possible to get the camera
running in time. It might snow on Wakaya Island this
summer too. Note: we didn't see lionfish spawning the
following night. It may be because we dived earlier
and the fish only spawn as the current changes and begins
to run out to sea as it did the first night.
morning we decided to make one short dive then take
the afternoon off in preparation for the night dives.
We went down and set up on a shrimp goby den and we
were just getting ready to shoot when Cat and Michele
found a very large octopus tent-feeding in the middle
of the pass. After watching the animal's amazing performance
for several minutes, I decided to gamble and called
for a lens change on the camera - a process that takes
about twenty minutes. While the camera was on the surface,
I watched the octopus expecting at every moment it would
crawl into a hole and disappear. Wonderfully, the camera
came down and we not only shot a roll of film, but the
octopus continued to perform while we reloaded the camera.
We managed to shoot two and a half rolls of film. We
got lucky. Of course, part of the formula for luck is
spending enough time underwater to be presented with
the opportunity. Once presented, you then need to be
prepared to react. We spent three and one quarter hours
underwater this morning. We had a great octopus show
up unexpectedly. And I had a great crew who got the
camera to the surface, changed lenses and film and got
it back in time for us to "get lucky."
Tomorrow we will make a deep trimix dive. We plan a
descent to 350 feet for 20 minutes and will require
over three hours of decompression before returning to
the surface. This should be a fascinating dive, and
Bob, Mark, and I look forward to it eagerly.Top
February 12, 2001
It's been four days since we left the Undersea Hunter.
Reading the last sentence from my pervious log entry,
I find it a bit hard to write the following words. During
the four days I have been off the boat, I have undergone
four recompression chamber treatments. Yep, I got bent.
I'm fine now. All the symptoms have disappeared and
I am glad and lucky for that. The only lasting insult
has been to my pride.
It happened during our last deep dive at Mt. Mutiny.
The dive itself was spectacular. We shot three minutes
of footage at 350 feet, certainly some kind of record
for 70mm large-format film work. One shot was particularly
magnificent. Bob and Mark were swimming through a forest
of wire corals as I pointed the camera up the steep
slope from 350 feet. The impossibly shear spire of Mt.
Mutiny was silhouetted against the deep blue ocean sky
high above, providing a scale and perspective that could
only be visualized from this depth. Their dive lights
illuminated the corals as if we were on a night dive.
But it wasn't entirely dark.
I saw movement to my left and my finger automatically
pressed the camera-run switch. Two large hammerhead
sharks approached along the escarpment and then descended
straight down toward the camera, veering away less then
ten feet from the lens. Mark and Bob lit them up with
their lights and then slowly swam into the frame as
the sharks turned and swam away. It was the best shot
I ever did at 350 feet. Of course, that's easy to say.
If I hadn't been so excited, perhaps I wouldn't have
forgotten to change the pp02 set point on my rebreather.
Forgetting to change the set point until fourteen minutes
into the dive, instead of five minutes as planned, was
one of several mistakes I made that day. The result
was some transient pain during my 50-foot decompression
stop. I had a hard time accepting that the pain might
be bends. After completing decompression and surfacing,
however, I felt fine. But a few hours later I began
to feel tingling and numbness in my right leg. As the
symptoms worsened, I began breathing pure 02 on the
boat while my crew reassembled my rebreather for in-water
recompression. A half hour later, I was in the water
where I spent ninety minutes at 27 feet on pure 02 followed
by a two-hour ascent. The symptoms abated considerably,
but were not completely resolved.
Yesterday I finished my last of four recompression treatments
and was given a clean bill of health by Dr. Ali of the
Fiji Recompression Chamber Facility. Dr Ali and his
team did a great job and it was a comfort to have DAN-USA
to call for consultation. In the end, the only serious
damage has been to my pride. I hope that will heal soon
as well. I am preparing a report of the incident, which
will describe the technical details of my dive in hopes
that other technical divers may benefit from my mistakes.
It will be published as the March adventure story on
this website and will be called simply, Decompression
I already look forward to our March expedition and the
deep dives we will make then. In the meantime, I plan
to develop enhanced dive protocols that will help me
and my crew avoid the kind of mistakes that precipitated
this latest incident.
we returned to Wakaya Island where we hope to film manta
rays and where we will begin filming our deep trimix
sequence. Richard Pyle and Dave Forsythe have joined
our team to make these deep dives. Richard's presence
is fundamental to the sequence. It was hoped that we
might film Richard actually discovering a new species
of fish in that deep dark realm he calls "the twilight
zone." On our first expedition to Fiji Cranston,
Thurlow, and I made a dive to 325 feet just outside
the Wakaya Pass. There we discovered a ledge that seemed
rich with life. So, yesterday while most of the team
waited four hours for a manta ray to swim into the cleaning
station, Richard and Dave descended to 320 feet to investigate
the ledge. The manta rays didn't cooperate, but while
we waited for one to swim by we were entertained by
the distant Donald Duck-like helium squeaking of Dave's
voice as he excitedly reported over his OTS comm. system
that Richard had captured several spectacular fish.
After returning to the Undersea Hunter, Richard amazed
us all by displaying a beautiful orange, red, and blue
wrasse that he is sure has never before been seen by
humans. The fish seemed quite happy in the small aquarium
where we all lined up to photograph the jewel-like creature.
Today we spent many hours underwater doing the drudgery
of production work. We shot five rolls of film depicting
the various logistical components to the deep dive including
staging of bailout bottles, descent lines, and stationing
of safety divers. Tomorrow we will do more of the same.
Once that is done, we will begin a series of deep dives
here where I hope to film Richard actually capturing
one of the many new species he says live in the dark
shadow of the Wakaya wall at just over 300 feet.
Of course, I have some degree of apprehension at making
these deep dives having spent four days in a recompression
chamber just over a month ago after being struck with
decompression sickness following a 350 foot trimix dive.
But I am very confident that the problems that caused
that accident have been solved by modifications to our
deep dive protocols. I would be more worried if I had
been bent without having made any mistakes I was aware
of. Fortunately, I'm sure my bends case was caused by
several easily avoided mistakes. Top
March 16, 2001
we made our first deep dive for the Richard Pyle sequence.
Cranston, Thurlow, Richard and I descended to 250 feet
and prepared to shoot a sequence of Richard and Bob
descending. Water was crystal clear, light was perfect,
and there was no current. The Wakaya wall was covered
with spectacular soft corals and the bottom was magnificently
garnished with beautiful gorgonians. I called "action"
and was pleased that our deep-water OTS comm. systems
worked perfectly. Richard and Bob turned on their lights
and began their descent. Unfortunately, the camera didn't
run. I repeatedly tried the run switch, but the camera
only inched. It wouldn't come up to speed. I pushed
the button on my comm. microphone and said, "Guys,
it looks like we're going to be sport diving at 300
March 24, 2001
spent most of yesterday scouting locations to do a sequence
where Cat and Michele get their teeth cleaned by cleaner
shrimp. I've looked forward to filming this ever since
seeing published photos of Cat with a shrimp perched
on her lip picking at her teeth. Predictably, Cat and
Rob found the perfect location and the perfect pair
of shrimp on top of a coral bommie called Tetons. Yesterday
we shot two rolls as Michele and Cat got the treatment.
Today, we finished the shrimp sequence by doing a four
and a half hour dive at fifty-three feet, shooting six
rolls on the Mark II camera and two rolls on the W14.
This is a new record for rolls shot during one dive.
We shot the sequence with every lens in our arsenal.
It went perfectly. I left the top of Tetons whispering
the cameraman's silent prayer, "Please Lord, save
me from having screwed up."
April 4, 2001
We're now docked in Lautoka. Cat and
Rob left the Undersea Hunter late this morning along
with Rusi. A few tears were shed as we said good- bye
to such good friends.
That our wonderful Fiji adventure was
over struck me suddenly yesterday as I decompressed,
perched on the improbably shear escarpment that is Mt.
Mutiny. In the late afternoon light I peered down into
the depths and became aware that I won't be back this
way soon. I had mixed emotions about that. I was really
tired after four weeks of diving every day. I also became
aware that the last time I dived Mt. Mutiny, I was treating
myself for decompression sickness with in-water recompression.
Still, I was overwhelmed with the sad feeling that this
view was about to be yet another memory. Good times,
good friends, well played, well met.
We did our last trimix dive at Mt. Mutiny day before
yesterday. I had hoped to get one more deep dive free
of the persistent technical problems we'd suffered with
the cameras. We didn't even bother to take the W14.
We had realized that despite working well above 250
feet, it always jammed in the dense pressurized environment
below 300 feet.
Dropping down the incredibly steep wall past 200 feet,
I began looking for places to film Richard's attempt
to catch fish. At 250 feet I noticed a small ledge with
nice gorgonians and whip corals. I decided that we would
film there if we didn't immediately find a better spot
below 300 feet. A moment later, I heard an excited voice
on the OTC comm. earphone crying, "It's leaking,
it's leaking!" I turned to see Mark Thurlow pointing
dramatically at the camera housing footage counter window
where a strobe light was flashing! Then I heard the
leak detector alarm.
Flooding an70mm large-format camera system is problematic
for several reasons, the most obvious of which is the
consequences of damaging a $100,000 camera. But at 250
feet, descending along the face of a shear wall that
drops well below 1,000 feet, water damage to the camera
is the least serious problem. If the housing were to
completely flood, it would become over 200 pounds negatively
buoyant. There is simply no way we could lift it to
the surface. Our only hope would be to lodge the falling
camera against the cliff face and hope we could make
it stick there before plummeting past 500 feet or more.
Then we might return to recover it the next day. Chances
of making a 200-pound camera stick on the shear wall
are slim. The camera would, most probably, fall into
the abyss despite our most desperate efforts. Attempts
to save the camera would be extremely dangerous at these
depths. We had discussed this possibility between ourselves
and decided that if our first attempt to lodge a flooded
and falling camera against the cliff face failed, we
would let it go. In practice, I'm not sure we would
have the courage to let the camera go and watch it bounce
against the wall as it fell into the darkness. And that
Fortunately, I detected no immediate change in the housing
buoyancy, despite the leak detectors. So the leak was
not catastrophic. Normally, we would immediately rush
the camera to the surface. But on a deep trimix dive,
this is not possible. So despite the fact that the leak
was a slow one, we were still in trouble. It was going
to take us nearly fifteen minutes to get the housing
shallow enough for our safety divers to recover it.
The important question was, how severe was the leak
and how quickly would the housing get heavy?
Having suffered a string of camera failures on our trimix
dives, I just couldn't face the prospect of another
total failure on our last deep dive. I heard Bob say,
"shoot it." And I immediately agreed. We would
shoot the scenes as quickly as possible and as long
as the camera worked, hoping the housing didn't get
In a rush, I shot five quick scenes. Certainly, the
camera work lacked the artistry one might expect of
a seasoned 70mm large format director. With the strobe
light flashing, the audio alarm blaring, and my mind
reeling from helium jitters, I'll be lucky if I remembered
to set the focus.
Anyway, we shot the roll. A half hour later, after the
surface crew had inspected the camera, we learned via
the underwater comm. system that there had been a cup
of water in the housing but no damage. Our final trimix
dive in Fiji had been a success. Sort of.Top
Adventure - French Polynesia Expedition
May 3, 2001
On April 28, one day after finishing
our hang gliding sequences in the Sierras, Michele and
I packed up and flew to Tahiti. We met the Undersea
Hunter in Papeete and soon pulled anchor and steamed
for Moorea. John Dunham is with us again as is Greg
MacGillivray and his above water crew. Our primary purpose
is to film aerial shots of Dunham and me in John's ultralight
as we fly over the spectacular reefs of French Polynesia.
The ultralight is the same one John and I used when
filming aerial sequences at Cocos Island for Island
of the Sharks. So far we've been here five days and
have had little to do. Unfortunately, the ultralight
has been held up in shipping. By some snafu, it was
off-loaded in New Zealand instead of coming to Tahiti.
We hope it will arrive today. With luck, John will assemble
it tomorrow and we will be flying tomorrow afternoon.
It's certainly a bummer that the aircraft has been delayed.
However, conditions for flying haven't been very good
with the exception of our first day here. Perhaps conditions
will improve just as the delayed ultralight arrives.
We could still get lucky.
May 18, 2001
We have had two days of ideal conditions. We've spent
much of that time filming silvertips near Avatoru Pass.
We shot nine rolls yesterday including both the W14
and Mark II cameras. On two of the best rolls, however,
the Mark II didn't run to speed. The footage may be
ok, but I plan to re-shoot those rolls just in case.
We also had some very good luck with manta rays in Avatoru.
Eight or nine of them gathered at the inside of the
pass and were feeding. Sun was out and visibility was
great. We shot several good manta rolls as we drifted
through the mantas in strong current. Yves says this
manta gathering is unusual and very lucky.
We did one dive inside Tiputa Pass. Current was almost
slack. We saw about a dozen gray reef sharks resting
in channels inside the pass. I shot one roll of film
but the sharks didn't come very close. Yves says that
the gray reef shark mating season is early this year.
That's not good news. Apparently the sharks move from
outside the pass where we had hoped to film them in
large numbers, to inside the pass for mating. Inside
the pass they are more difficult to film and are not
easily attracted by bait. We have yet to look deep outside
and I hope to do that tomorrow.
June 6, 2001
We made the last dive of our Coral Reef Adventure
today. Editor, Steve Judson, had emailed us with a request
that we expand our coverage of coral species. We planned
to shoot one roll with the wide lens and one roll of
close ups. What could be easier. When we got outside
the Avatoru pass, however, conditions were about as
bad as we have seen them. Seas were up to eight feet
and wind was howling. I yelled over to the camera boat
to ask if they were up to it. Rough seas make launching,
landing, and loading the camera difficult if not dangerous.
But Brad and John Anderson didn't want to end the expedition
on an abort.
When I got to the bottom with the wide lens, I realized
there was too much surge to accomplish anything useful.
But I decided to shoot the roll anyway since we had
gone to so much trouble. I was almost relieved when
the camera failed to run. The battery was dead. I sent
it back to the camera boat with Betty and Conlin and
asked that they replace the battery and change to the
close-up lens. Two and a half hours later, we finished
the dive having shot three minutes of coral close ups.
Two and a half hours!
I heard the whoops and hollering of celebration over
the comm. system as I sent the camera up for the last
time. Then I suggested that anyone who wanted to make
a final dive should come on down. Everyone who was not
already underwater made the dive. I had an eight-minute
decompression stop at ten feet and I hung there watching
Brad Ohlund, John Anderson, Mark Conlin, and Betty Almogy
cruising along the reef sixty below. A large school
of bigeye jacks rose up from deep water and provided
a great opportunity for their still cameras. I found
myself hovering directly over the swirling school and
could not resist the temptation to drop down and join
them. I dumped a little air out of my BC and began to
descend. My sinuses immediately began to squeeze painfully.
Well, I thought to myself, I guess that clinches it.
That's the end. I'm really done. My Coral Reef Adventure
Tonight we had our last dinner aboard the boat and Michele
pleased us all by passing out award certificates. During
the entire project she had kept meticulous records of
our dive number and durations. I got the prize for the
most hours accumulated, Bob for the longest dive, Conlin
for the greatest number of dives, etc. Everyone got
a prize for something. The awards list is as follows.
July 29, 2001
It is now the end of July as I prepare to post this
last entry for the Coral Reef Adventure log.
The experiences filming in Australia, Fiji, and French
Polynesia still seem fresh in our minds. Although the
diving is over, there is still the film to look forward
to. It is now scheduled for release in February 2003.
That's a long way down the road. I'm sure, however,
that looking at the film that first time in early 2003
will be almost painfully nostalgic. These lengthy productions
tend to become more than a project. They become part
of our lives, our personal history and forever shape
who we are. Michele and I and our crew will always be
grateful to Greg MacGillivray for this wonderful and
Coral Reef Adventure Awards
|Mark Conlin: Most number of dives made
|Howard Hall: Most underwater hours
|Bob Cranston: Longest single dive
|Richard Pyle: Deepest dive
|Total hours logged by underwater team
|Total dives logged by underwater team
|Number of diving days
|Number of days in the field
|Most underwater hours during single day
|Total number of trimix dives