It still is a mystery how this event occurs, but every year, perfectly times, the entire Great Barrier Reef is releasing its sperm and eggs, a number of days after Full Moon in November, usually a couple of hours after sunset, when the moon is just in the right spot, that's when it happens. I was out with some of the worlds leading scientists and an enormous effort of collaboration between organisations, universities, individuals, business, tour operators and media.
The message is loud and clear, the Reef is far from dead, and we are not standing by and watching disaster to strike either. A few times in my carrier i have seen such an effort, and it feels like we are on the right track. The climate emergency is getting noticed in almost any part of the world, and it needs creative solutions, as well as climate actions!
All up the event was a great one, i have learned a lot, and lets hope nature will find a way to survive, until we people realise that we need each other!
Joining forces is the starting point to making a positive impact and repair the damage we have cause the Oceans. The crew from Ocean Rafting in Airlie Beach are such a refreshing positive bunch of people, it was like match made in heaven. Over two days we set out to explore the southern region of the pristine Whitsunday Islands, some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
You would probably not believe me if i told you that we have removed over 600 kg of debris and plastic in only a few hours. and the only reason it wasn't more, was simply space on the boat. There is no place on the planet without the impact of our convenient, wasteful and throw away life style. We are going to be back down here soon the ensure these islands remain pristine!
I have not been back to the Maldives for over a year. It feels like a home now, and you can imagine, i couldn't wait to get back home. I was very keen to find out if the underwater world had time to recover from the severe bleaching 3 years ago.
This time we could the adidas runners to the far Southern atolls.
It was a very enthusiastic group with lots of passion and ideas. We dived, snorkelled, surfed, ran, cleaned beaches, explored, discussed, inspired, engaged in science, paddled and looked into the future.
It was hard for me to see the sate of the coral reefs, very little recovery, and increased damage. Even more in start realising, but once we pushed past a certain point, we might not get it back. A reminder that now is the time to make all the necessary changed, everywhere !!!
What if you could combine work and pure luxury, the most amazing location, and everything you love to do. I don't really want to brag, but then ....
well anyway, someone has to do it, right ? On board Luxury Spirit charters we went up to the far Northern Great Barrier Reef to film, and enjoy life! This is one of the most spectacular places to hand out, and every time i go it still gets me.
I can't wait to show you the final film ...
Not often i get the chance to do an exploration expedition in the Great Barrier, to a place where no one usually goes. I flew down to Hamilton Island, then further to Daydream Island, to meet with Andy Ridley from Citizen GBR, scientists and other crew, to discuss and film a simplified "Coral Reef Census" method. This should help to increase the data we will get on the sate and health of the reef, especially in locations that are not frequently, or not at all visited.
During this expedition we did not only find Reefs with 100% coral coverage, but also some spectacular Blue Holes, not really know to exist here in Australia ! I love this place
Once again i was lucky to get the phone call from LaMer to do another project to raise awareness for the Oceans, called the Blue Heart foundation.
The decision was made to host this on a private island in the South of Fiji, called Kokomo. We had guests invited such as
Philipe Cousteau, Elsa Pataky, Ella Gross and many others. I love working with completely different markets and meeting the most interesting people from all different backgrounds. This is how we create the change and keep the Oceans alive!
There is no better way to explore the pristine beaches around Tasmania than in a Camper Home. We have previously planned some cleanups down South, but we decided it is best to investigate ourselves, while having a family getaway to on of Australia's most beautiful corners.
Having a family, it is also quite important for us to look into travelling with children, the challenges of avoiding single use plastic, being safe and comfortable. All of these are important aspects to consider while we have to implement some drastic changes into our lifestyles.
Planing a snotbot expedition in this corner of the world had a new level of excitement for me, as i used to live in this country, in fact, my first daughter Ariel is born here. There is a reason the DR is on of the worlds top holiday destinations, but this comes with a dark side. As in so many countries around the globe, there is very little awareness of plastic pollutions, but even less initiative to do something about it. While Parley is busy setting up a base here, we are looking in the health of the humpback migrations in the North eastern part called Samana.
One of the many reasons why drone research has changed the world of science. There is no other way to witness such intimate play between a mother and her calf, as with a boat you would interfere their space.
Increasingly more often whales are not only comfortable with boats, but also come over and check it out. They are such curious and gentle animals. The important rule to follow is to always let the animal make the decisions.
After our 10 day trip in the DR, it turned out our most successful snot collecting expedition yet, proofing the method and refining it.
Nothing compares to these surprising emails asking you to come for a quick shoot to an amazing location, with an equally amazing concept and team. I used to live in the caribbean, and sadly i must say i have seen large scale damage to the entire ocean ecosystem. Little did i know, that St.Barths is like a hidden diamond, it had been protected for quite some time and its just simply stunning. This was a quick turnaround trip and i can't wait to see the finished product.
Not long after our last trip, we returned to the far northern Islands of the Great Barrier Reef to further investigate the severity of plastic pollution reaching waters and shorelines of the highly remote Cape York Peninsula. This was the crew’s second expedition in recent weeks, and first by boat as part of efforts to gather data on the volume, types and sources of pollution reaching even protected park areas. We are working with local groups and authorities to implement the Parley AIR Strategy (Avoid, Intercept, Redesign) and plan large-scale cleanups to tackle immediate threats to the region’s marine wildlife.
The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park was formed to help safeguard a vast area of the reef ecosystem against the rising pressures of human-driven climate change, illegal fishing and related threats. Classified as “Green” (no-take) Marine Park Zones, the northern islands are of extremely high conservation value. They provide critical habitat for populations of marine species, including sea birds and endangered sea turtles which seek refuge on these islands every year to nest. Six of the world’s seven sea turtle species are found within the park.
Although Cape York is considered primarily “untouched”, we now know that ocean currents carry large quantities of debris from the Pacific Ocean to major catchment zones throughout the marine park. Our exploratory trips have revealed alarming volumes of plastic pollution and debris on even the most remote and hard-to-reach shorelines and riverbeds of the Cape York mainland. In Cape Bedford, Cape Flattery and north of the Lockhart River, Parley has found shocking evidence of the spread of marine debris, and even hazardous, deadly waste. The most recent expedition looked to nearby island groups and surrounding waters, where we found equally disturbing levels of pollution.
In addition to documenting the beauty and fragility of the marine park and its inhabitants, the expedition crew completed spot cleans and data sampling, looking closely at potential challenges (e.g. tides, winds, weather, access, permits, wildlife and transportation of debris) in planning for large-scale cleanups.
The team also conducted a manta trawl to estimate levels of microplastics within the marine park and glean a clearer picture of how specific currents and reef channels affect levels of plastic pollution. Data will be shared with marine authorities to further permits and support for conservation projects.
Click here to Cape York is a hard to reach and sparsely populated peninsula in Far North Queensland, Australia. The remote region borders coral gardens of the Great Barrier Reef along its eastern coast and is considered the largest untamed wilderness in northern Australia. But its beaches are hardly untouched by humans. Ripping currents plus winds from the South Pacific and Southeast Asia converge to make this region one of the worst polluted in the world.
On October 12, 2018, the Parley Australia team set out on an exploration trip around the tip of Cape York to locate some of the most heavily polluted beaches and Islands. With the use of a special amphibious vehicle, the team conducted spot cleans on several bays and hard to access areas.
Cleanup findings provided shocking evidence of illegal rubbish disposal from container ships entering the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Pollution from countries all across the Pacific were found scattered across the beaches, including high quantities of bleach bottles used for fishing practices, large amounts of fishing nets, floats and fish aggregating devices, and — most alarming — a toxic silver pesticide canister like those first spotted in North Queensland from an offshore spill back in 2012.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority warns that these deadly canisters pose a serious health risk to anyone who comes in contact with them.
Roughly the size of a drink bottle, the canisters are filled with aluminum phosphide — rat poison crystals. When the powder is exposed to moisture in the air, it forms a phosphine gas, which can ignite and cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, eye irritation, asphyxiation and even death in humans.
Upon finding the bottle, the Parley crew immediately contacted emergency services, who arrived via helicopter with full body suits to secure the item and transport it to Horn Island, where the toxic material will be neutralized.
As part of our global Parley AIR (Avoid, Intercept, Redesign) strategy, Parley is leading collaborative cleanups, education and conservation initiatives across Australia. The program aims to conduct more large-scale cleanups with a strong focus on remote Cape York areas
Our Team is growing and we are really getting into action. We started with smaller cleanups in the Cairns region. But it didn't take long to realise this nasty plastic stuff is everywhere.
The main areas we focused on was the Barron River mouth, plus the Cairns Inlet. In both cases we keep finding unexpected large amounts of plastics. But let the pictures talk.
I bet you all can relate to the excitement arriving to a completely new country, a new culture and especially an area that has been explored very little. We expected this expedition to Gabon to be more challenging than any other, and guess what, our expectations did not disappoint.
Collecting data from the region was to proof one particular point. You can, with a small crew and a small budget, - travel to a remote understudied region, get the data, get out.
Everything was hard in Gabon. Starting with permits (not that i was doing this part), to logistical arrangements, communication and even nature did not make it easy for us. Even the little things we take for granted, such as paying with Credit Card or getting money from an atm, not in Gabon. We had to figure out how to extract cash out of the air.
The first few days it was very windy. Snotcollection was hard, very hard. But we did average about 3-5 samples per day.
Then a crew from BBC "dragonfly', who are doing a piece on stories around the Equator where joining us. This was one of the (if not ... the) nicest crew we have worked with so far, and we got what we needed.
After the film shoot we had a few days left, and the weather was finally deciding to work with us. It did not take long to increase the Sample size to over 50 snot gold nuggets, making this in fact the most successful ... and hardest ... Parley Snotbot expedition of all times. What a great crew (including myself hahahaha) and thank you for Parley and our Special friend Pam for making this happen!
Did you ever notice, that if you want something really hard, keep it visually in front of you, and the opportunity will come.
On the last day of my minke whale trip, i got the message of a friend running whaleswims.com in Tonga to come join her.
I needed some motion vision of whales underwater for the snotbot and parley story, so the answer was "Yes" ... of course.
It's not the most easy way to get there, considering it's just a hop on the map.
I never really looked to much into Tonga, but wow this place is way more beautiful than i would have envisioned. The most surprising things that stroke me was how far behind it is, and how few tourists, but also few people live there.
Everything seem the way it should be, and since i am not generally drawn to being a tourist, its like paradise to me.
Needless to say that the whales didn't let me down either. The humpback whale migrate up north from their feedings grounds in the Antartica. Most of them travel up the east & west coast of Australia. But quite a good number is heading past tonga and french Polynesia, with the purpose to breed and give birth, and nurse in a warm and save environment until the newborn are strong and big enough to make the journey back south.
It's mind blowing how inquisitive and gentle these giants are, how they allow us to be so close and how calm they are around us. Tonga has not seen the last of me ...
Richard Fitzpatrick and myself made a promise to the Citizen GBR organisation to support their mission in recruiting the Australian Dolphins as ambassadors for the Great Barrier Reef.
We took a day to explorer the local Reefs in front of Cairns, take them snorkelling and give them a chance to absorb the marine world we are fighting so hard for.
Above you see Mack Horton being mesmerised by this Green Sea Turtle at Vlassof Cay. The only struggle of the day was to keep up with all the camera equipment. Even instruction to the Dolphins to swim slow, we had to realise their definition of swimming slow is not the same as it would be for us :)
Finally, after i was asked to be silent for over a year, i am able to announce that the Snotbot sequence shot of NatGeo's One Strange Rock, hosted by my childhoods Hollywood Hero Will Smith is finally on Air .... and i am allowed to talk about it :)
Its an incredible interesting and mind-blowing natural history documentary as i have not seen it before. The Snotbot appearance is not until the 6th episode, but what you learn until then is truly crazy. What a planet we live on, and what a privilege it is. All we have to do now is, respect it, and treat it this way!
It appears to be Murphy's law, every time i plan a project, there will be with guaranty at least one, more likely two other projects announced on exactly the same dates.
Not unexpected, the awaited email came from Endemolshine Production, which is doing the Survival Series with my friend Mike Horn, they want me to come back to the Philippines for a new Episode. All i had to do was joggling between dates, airlines, hotels and transfers to get in time from Fiji to the Philippines, but to make it more exciting, i had to be on the last day of the shoot in Coffs Harbour as Key Note speaker for a Dive conference, but that was another issue to be solved.
In the meantime i made my journey from Fiji to Leyte, a paradise like region not spoiled by tourism yet, and i had to find out why very soon, as it is very hard to get to. I was looking at some of the most beautiful beaches, the clearest water, animated like coves, and corals as we would wish they still did exist in other parts of the world.
One of our highlights was a surreal encounter with a whale shark, which was scooping around us for almost half an hour and created some of the most memorable imagery i can think off. I was glad i brought my RED Helium Weapon with me, as this should not have been recording in anything less.
We made some really good friends here, i must say i am deeply impressed by the local philippine people here, and some plans for future education and plastic interception projects have been made, until then ... i had to make my journey back to Australia to get the dive industry involved in eliminating plastic from our life's, and especially the oceans.
The Biopixel Ocean Foundation Team, consisting of Richard Fitzpatrick, Adam Barnett and myself returned for another round of shark rodeo to our favourite apex predator spot on the Planet, Beqa lagoon in Fiji, where we are hosted my Mike and his team at Beqa Adventure Divers.
The objective is to monitor the behaviour of Bull sharks, Grey Reef, White tip and Black tip Reef sharks interacting with Dive Tourists, as well as being fed small amounts of fish 5 times per week. Mike (owner of BAD) is more than just passionate about sharks, the whole business was established solely for the purpose of conservation. This data and initiative ensures the established marine park zone is kept free from fishing, by paying nearby communities to protect it, rather than fishing it.
This is no doubt one of the coolest projects to be involved in, and i am counting the seconds for the next round!