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 ....
To rescue a Sea Turtle is pretty cool by itself. But there is no feeling like when a sick and injured animal is rehabilitated and ready to go back to where it belongs. This can take up to several years, and we are lucky to have such a large amount of supporting individuals that want to spend their own free time to help wildlife.
One more animal saved, no one gets left behind!
We have just completed the second shoot for the IMAX series on the Great Barrier Reef. Our lucky Crew was calling the most southern Reefs their home as we prepared to capture the gathering of countless giant Manta rays in the waters of Lady Elliott. The water temperature was 24 degrees, which is about 2-3 degrees warmer than what is should be. But this didn't stop the manta's from giving us their best show.
At times we had 5-6 individuals getting a cleaner wrasse treatment right in front of our eyes. A strong wind warning did cut our trip short by about 5 days, and we had to jump onboard the MS Adrenalin to seek shelter behind Fraser Island.
It took me over 12 years of diving the Great Barrier Reef to find one of the most amazing spots i had the privilege to submerge!
Tulum, Mexico - Today, on International Recycling Day, Corona and Parley for the Oceans announced their partnership in the movement to end marine plastic pollution, one of the biggest threats to human health and the survival of the planet’s largest and most important ecosystem – the world’s oceans. The long-term partnership launches with a plan to protect 100 Islands by 2020 starting in six key regions in different parts of the world – Mexico, Maldives, Australia, Chile, Italy and Dominican Republic.
An estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic waste enter the oceans each year. The problem is found in every known ecosystem and at every level of the food chain. If current marine pollution trends continue, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by the year 2050. The partners will protect these regions by implementing Parley’s creative, multidisciplinary approach and signature formula, the Parley AIR Strategy (Avoid, Intercept, Redesign).
Now i am back to Australia with the mission to establish the Australian & SE Asian project parts !
3 years ago i was lucky enough to share a dive trip with Mike Huish and his family. We where heading out with Mike Ball Dive Expeditions to encounter the inquisitive Minke Whales during the migration into the warm waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
I am stoked and honoured to receive the first Place award of the "Ocean Art Competition" 2016 in the conceptional Category with one of my all time favourite Turtle Shots.
I want to congratulate all the other inspiring Photographers out there that have either won or tried.
I am lucky to receive a trip to Sulawesi, which comes with perfect timing to get deeper into the Plastic solution around Asia Pacific.
Spending Christmas in Bali and Lombok was a start to get an idea on how big the Ocean Debris issue is in Asia Pacific. As you may have guessed .... it is huge.
Together with Parley this is going to be one of our big projects for 2017 and it will be challenging.
The good news is, i could certainly see a lot of businesses, hotels, pubs and restaurants to reduce the consumption of single use plastics and come up with alternatives such as bamboo straws.
I could also see a lot of signs and smart approaches to make everyone aware of the issues.
We are now scanning for the best partners and will start to initiate pilot projects in Indonesia and Malaysia!
I can't wait to get it started!
It was long in the planing, but finally our production of the second IMAX movie shot on the Great Barrier Reef is finally here. This week we jumped into a pool to test the equipment, allign the cameras, play with the focusing and the image composition required to shoot a big screen 3D movie.
In the image you see Richard Fitzpatrick aiming to frame a Pool shark and also playing with the new Gates UW lights. Outside the Pool is Stephen from December Media taking notes of all the settings.
I can't wait for the first official Ocean shoot ....
A shoe made from Ocean Plastic ? Does that sound weird to you ?
It is now reality. Exactly one year ago we have taken Adidas to the Maldives to introduce a new concept of making shoes and at the same time cleaning up the mess all of us (humans) have created.
Now, 12 months later its all reality. Adidas is releasing the first 1 Million Shoes made from Plastic bottles from the beautiful islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
The Parley Strategy "AIR" - Avoid : Intercept : Redesign has been put into Action, and it is only the start.
Ocean School - consist of different activities including Scuba Diving, Snorkelling, Surfing, SUP, School Projects, Beach Cleanups, Workshops and Ambassador Parley Talks.
It is such an honour not only creating the vision for this project, but also to be an Ocean Ambassador alongside with Emily Penn, Kahi Pacarro and Iain Kerr.
This year was a huge success and we can't wait to see what other changes Adidas can make. Millions of Plastic bottles have already been taking away from ocean pollution and landfill, making the Maldives more beautiful, our oceans cleaner, and giving us a product with an inspirational Message! Its time to change - NOW!
Parley is doing it again! I was heading straight from the Philippines to Catalina Island, a small piece of paradise right in from of Los Angeles.
Artist Doug Aitken is building outer space looking underwater Spheres in collaboration with Parley for the Oceans. Despite the cold water, i did fall in love with Californias breathtaking underwater world!
Once again I am back home in Cairns, for a short time. Together with my friend, shark biologist and Emmy Award winning filmmaker Richard Fitzpatrick, we are setting up a foundation to protect our beloved Great Barrier Reef.
Work will include shark tagging programs to further set up marine protected areas, manta ray and turtle research and a youth ambassador program I am extremely passionate about. And if that's not enough, we are also getting ready to film the new IMAX film about the Great Barrier Reef !
IUCN, Obama announcing the world's largest marine park and Parley's launch of the Deep Space Project, all happening at the same time.
I was lucky to meet some real leaders in conservation and also deep sea exploration, including my favourite Ocean Hero once again, Sylvia Earle.
But I was also fortunate enough to spend time with my friend Kahi, the founder of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. His organisation is working tirelessly on cleaning up the islands' beaches, but also educating, and working on solutions to eliminate plastics to wash up on our shores.
without the whale even knowing. That's the idea of Snotbot. A drone flying through the 'blow' of the whale, collecting a real treasure of biological information, basically, everything about the whale in real time! In addition, we also had Earbot, a drone with a hydrophone, and Flirbot, capturing night vision and the temperature of the whales. The more we know about the whales, the more we can eliminate impacts on them, and hopefully come up with solutions to better protect them!
The Green Turtle Ella (up to the left), was released back to the wild. Almost 3 years ago Ella was coming into our Turtle Hospital, with almost no chance to make it.
We grew to over 200 dedicated volunteers in recent years, and all the hard work is paying off. Ella is back to Flynn Reef, with a tracker on the back. I worked for years as a dive instructor on this particular dive site, and it's a turtle heaven. Ella high-fived me, swam a couple of circles, then said good bye, The Great Barrier Reef was calling ! The best moment for every wildlife conservationist!
I never knew so much research is done to get a better understanding of the impacts on the Ocean Ecosystem. Experts are working round the clock to simulate all the possible impacts our Oceans and Coral Reef are facing. Only through understanding we may have a chance to take the right steps. Coral Reefs have survived to this day, and we need to make sure they will survive us!