I was gonna keep it a secret ... but i obviously didn't. To make the most out this Covid19 situation, i finally starting working on my children's book again, which i started (embarrassingly) 10 years ago after coming back from the Amazon.
The story is about a very special patient in our Turtle hospital back then, called Ella. She has been so special, that the media loved her, because she loved my camera, and i managed to take of my most beloved photo concepts of her. So here we go, i pretty finished the book, just some final touches and i will release it into the world. Its purpose is to inspire, educate, and to raise funds to support and establish conservation projects that are close to my heart.
There is even a website too www.ellasadventures.com.au
I am sure you can imagine, for a conservation film maker working all around the globe, there is probably not much happening in this current climate. But i am sure we are all in the same 'boat'. Talking about boat, i did manage to get myself out onto the Reef at some stage, to look at the state of our coral reefs, and to follow one of the amazing coral restoration projects.
I was deeply impressed by what the crew of Wavelenghts in port douglas has been up to. Not only this, but i was also rewarding by the Ocean gods (if they do exist), with a tiger shark, hang on, a really really big tiger shark coming into the coral nursery to check out what are these bubble makers doing, where no one has been in months. Definitely a chance of behaviour in Marine life, and there is some amazing stories of how wildlife is thriving when humans are not present.
Back in Baja California, our long awaiting mission to collect whale snot by using drones. In almost 5 years perfecting the Snotbot, the way we collect, and fine tuning gathering important data, we working hard to look further into the future of whales.
The conditions were challenging, (working on the ocean always is), we had strong winds and a change of current, resulting in a change of the feeding behaviour. But when we had whales, we are guaranteed to collect the snot, because that's what we do best.
In the end we had nearly 60 samples, plus photogrammetry and even several poop samples. All this means a complete data set of several whales, making it extremely valuable. We did observe less calves than usual (couldn't see any) and quite a number of skinny whales. In the same migration pattern are the grey whales, and almost 2000 individuals have been lost since last year. This is alarming and should tell us that something is wrong. There is no better way to find out than a non invasive tool like ours.
I love the Whitsunday Islands. I started my career as professional diver there, with millions of amazing memories. This regions has suffered more than any other are, with cyclones, shark incidents, the bush fires and now the virus. We formed very strong relations with local business, especially Ocean Rafting and the Hamilton Island Group.
Together with Corona (the beer!) we took a special bunch of selected influencers to the island, then hosted our Ocean School concept, cleaned up some of the remote southern beaches, enjoyed the paradise like beaches such as whiteheaven beach and inspired each other to protect our Oceans, especially the Great Barrier Reef.
Going back to the Maldives almost feels like going home by now. This time it took me to the far northern region, into an Atoll i have not only never visited, but we were also the 3rd ever airplane landing on this Airport. The community received is with flowers and one of the most welcoming ceremonies. They are asking for help, because they drown in plastic.
Parley and ARD working on a documentary to look at sustainable solutions for Island nations like the Maldives.
In the Images below you can see the 3 of the 4 local female Hero's (top left) that are leading this movement. We did education sessions and cleanups (top right). On one island (bottom left) we could witness the impacts of styrofoam boxes which are used to ship fresh produce around the country and from overseas like Australia or Sri Lanka. These are hard to recycle, and end up on islands or washed up on beaches. You never stop learning!
After a very successful 2019 cleanup campaign all around Australia, we started the new year with a very exciting campaign, together with Corona (the beer!). Our pledge is to cleanup up 1 million square meters of Australian beaches, equal to 1 million cases of corona beer brought into Australia specifically for this mission. We kicked off in Adelaide, then Cronulla (images below) with some super motivated local crowds and even more motivated Parley Australia Crew.
Our goal is that all of Australians are taking action in protecting our Oceans, starting with every day products we use, or better decide not to use!
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 ...