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The following journal entries are excerpts from Howard and Michele's Coral
Reef Adventure filming expeditions in the South Pacific.
To read their entire collection of journal entries, please visit



Great 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 equipment.

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 of Page

Fiji Expedition

Summary: 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 covered shelf.

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 of Page

November 8, 2000

The 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 thought.




November 24, 2000

We 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 of Page

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 of Page

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 of Page

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 acclimate.

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.

This 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 of Page

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 Hit.
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.

March 2001

Yesterday 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 of Page

March 16, 2001

Today 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 feet."

March 24, 2001

We 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 scares me.

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 heavy.

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 of Page

Coral Reef 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 was over.

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. Top of Page

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 rich experience.


Individual Coral Reef Adventure Awards
Mark Conlin: Most number of dives made   347
Howard Hall: Most underwater hours   410
Bob Cranston: Longest single dive   5.3 hours
Richard Pyle: Deepest dive   400+

Team awards (21 divers)

Total hours logged by underwater team   2810
Total dives logged by underwater team   2421
Number of diving days   116
Number of days in the field   179
Most underwater hours during single day   8.5
Total number of trimix dives   21

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IMAX® and IMAX® experience are registered trademarks of Imax Corporation
"Great Adventure Films" is a registered trademark of MacGillivray Freeman Films, Inc.