Preparing for Alaska 2017 did come with big expectations. Last year, i was not prepared, but how could i ... i had no idea what nature could possibly have on its mind.
This i year i was equipped with my new Canon 1DX m2, all the lenses you need, an underwater housing, the RED Epic Dragon, and 2 of the latest DJI Inspire 2, shooting Aerials in high frame rates and RAW, double the speed, double the flight times .... what can possibly go wrong .... :)
After the first 3 days is looking like this year will be nothing like 2016. We had to increase our range in the search for Hering's and Krill, because where they are, whale's won't be far ....
Right between Baranof and Admiralty Island, with an opening to the Pacific Ocean is where our luck and legacy would live to our reputation (so i am hoping). Not only is the country side absolutely postcard spectacular, but we found two large groups of bubble net feeders.
Just imagine yourself on this 27 foot boat from the Alaska Whale Foundation, surrounded by Glaciers, waterfalls and pristine Rainforest. Then you hear as loud and clear as a person talking next to you, the feeding call of the lead whale, from probably 100 feet below the surface all the way through the hull of our Aluminium vessel. 30 seconds later you can see 15 giant mouths breaking through the surface, sea skulls joining in for Hering's trying to escape from the baleens before the jaws close this last emergency exit. This event is followed by about a minute of opportunity to collect blow samples, then they will re-group for the next dive. This will literally repeat all day long.
And as there is no bar set in how much luck you are allowed to receive in one life time, we had Orca's on 4 seperate days, even the Transit Mammal eaters. In fact this was the first time for me ever to be up close to this giant dolphins, our encounters lasted for hours, and i enjoyed every single second of it with a massive smile on my face, and my fingers rarely leaving my camera trigger. As a bonus, we even collected a blow sample.
All good things have an end, so now i am back in Australia, already thinking about my next trip to Alaska ... but can you blame me ? ....
After last years Alaska "Snotbot" Expedition, our expectations where high. Promises about whale encounters where spoken loosely, but who can be blamed when you are surrounded by hundreds of Humpback Whales at a time.
Well this year, due to National Geographic's Live Show, it had to be one month earlier. And when you work with wildlife, timing is everything. It did not look good after the first 2 days. Rehearsals for the upcoming show finished with rather devastated facial expressions, and i am sure some of the team where already thinking about other career options after this ....
But then the impossible happened, and we believe it was the whales saying thank You. Right in the second when the world turned live to us, a whale turned up next to the boat, and right in the second when it was scheduled to collect Snot ... live with a drone from a whale, while everyone is watching, yes it did happened. Even the most manly Men on board had a little bit of a tear in their eyes, but no one will admit, not even myself ;)
The whole Ocean Alliance - Parley Snotbot team, Plimsol Productions, National Geographic, Alaska Whale Foundation and Intel had a very short time to celebrate this worlds first achievement, before most of the 22 headed crew packed their bags to get back to normal live. What a team, i would work with each and everyone of them again ... and again.
What we yet did not know is what is next to come .... because for us, the trip has only just started ....
I must admit it was heart breaking (literally) to go back to dive the outer Reef of the coast of Airlie Beach, where i started my dive career a long long time ago. I remember the most vivid colours, animal encounters that would change the way i feel about our Oceans and diversity that made me who i am today.
Diving the same spot 15 years later, i could not believe my eyes. After this dive i had to sit down and had no one talking to me just so i can process what can actually happen to our oceans if we do not take care. This was another wake up call to keep fighting harder ... i only wish everybody on this planet would feel the same way ....