Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Blue World Team lands in Australia!

After a 32 hour series of flights from Boston, the Blue World film crew (this time consisting of me, Kerry Hurd and Julia Cichowski) arrived in Cairns, Australia. Our assignment: shooting segments featuring the amazing underwater experiences to be had in Queensland. We’ll be here for 2 weeks documenting marine life from the Great Barrier Reef off Cairns, to the Coral Sea, all the way down to the sharks in the waters off Brisbane.

Our first two days were spent working at the Great Barrier Reef with a company called Sunlover Reef Cruises. They have a massive platform they call a “pontoon” anchored right next to a beautiful section of reef. It takes about 90 minutes to reach the pontoon by boat. Passengers board a 100 foot long catamaran for the ride out. However, our first day we were flown on a helicopter out to the pontoon so we could shoot some aerials of the Great Barrier Reef. In a helicopter, it’s a 20 minute flight. After we arrived and flew around for a few nice shots of the pontoon anchored near the reef, we flew up the reef a little and shot some impressive looking stuff of the reef. Then we landed on the helipad about 100 yards from the pontoon. Since they sell helicopter flights as part of the tourism operation, people get shuttled back and forth to the helipad by boat all day long to get their 10 minute aerial tour of the reef.

Once we got to the pontoon, I was impressed with not only how immense this floating activity center was, but all the things you can do! They have an underwater viewing room with windows on the reef, a semi-sub and glass-bottomed boat for tours of the reef, snorkeling, scuba diving, scuba instruction and even a program called Seawalkers (which the dive instructors playfully call the “bucket head program.” More on this later.)

We started our day with a dive on the reef. The tide had turned and the viz was down a bit to maybe 50 feet. A little murky by tropical diving standards, but it didn’t inhibit our enthusiasm because the reef was gorgeous and the marine life is so used to divers that they have absolutely no fear. (In truth this is also because they are fed to bring them over to the divers and snorkelers). We watched a sea turtle that would follow a divemaster like a puppy. A huge Maori wrasse decided I was his best friend and followed me for 20 minutes, looking at my hands for food and peering with wonder into my camera lens. They use small 72 cu ft tanks and we milked ours for the most bottom time possible! Fortunately Julia had her Ikelite G11 still camera rig and shot some great pics of the action while Kerry was filming for the show. When Kerry finally ran out of air, I had just a few minutes left with no cameraman. The wrasse was so close that I turned my camera around and was able to film a self-portrait with the fish. That’s close!

On our second day on the Sunlover pontoon, we rode out on the boat, did some various topside shots and standups around the pontoon, then of course did another dive, where we encountered the friendliest sea turtle in the ocean. After lunch we participated in the Seawalker program. This is a program for people who want to get underwater without scuba. It looks a little hokey, but we thought it would be hilarious in the segment, so Julia and I geared up to try it while Kerry filmed. Basically, they put an 80 pound helmet on your head, with a huge plexiglass window in the front. They pump air into the helmet so you have a constant flow of fresh air to breathe. It bubbles out the back. Underwater the helmet weighs about 8 pounds. You walk down a ladder and onto a nice flat platform, where they bring some fish over. My assessment? It’s an absolute riot! It was probably the most fun I have had underwater in ages! Wait until you see the segment. (We rigged an audio recorder in my helmet so I could do standups underwater on camera. Very cool stuff). Julia shot some funny pics.

After the bucket-head experience, we boarded the boat for the ride back to Cairns, had some food and did more shots on the boat. We have wrapped our first Queensland segment. Today we are boarding the Mike Ball live-aboard boat to Osprey Reef for 5 days. It should be awesome!



SEO said...

I did a Great Barrier Reef tours last year...I'm italian and Australia is not near Europe.. but it's a thing to do before die! one of the things to do .. :)!

Alejo said...

I really really want to go to the Great Barrier Reef... but unfortunately I don't have enough money this summer :(
Instead of that I'm enjoying with the whole family in these Aquapolis water park of course is not the same but at least we are having some fun anyway :p