Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Our Newest Segment: About a 13 year old JBBW fan!

It all started when Jake Whitlock, a 13 year old ocean-lover from Massachusetts got a writing assignment for school. His task: write about something he would love to do. His finished paper was 3 pages of underwater adventure centering around his desire to go diving with some guy named Jonathan Bird. (Hey, that's me!) He e-mailed it to us--and we loved it. Then we started hatching a plan to make his dream come true. With his parents' permission, we enlisted the assistance of Katherine Apse, a scuba instructor working for United Divers in Somerville, MA. Kat specializes in scuba certification for children and young adults. Because Jake is 13, he can be certified with a full adult certification. Kat and I met up one morning near his house and hiked up the street with Cameraman Tim and Production Manager Julia Cichowski for an "Ed McMahon Moment." Jake's parents knew we were coming, but Jake didn't.

I knocked on the door and Jake answered--and his expression said it all! He was shocked and thrilled! The Blue World film crew was at his front door! I introduced him to Kat and explained that she was his new scuba instructor. You have never seen a 13 year old light up more than to discover he is getting certified to dive, and he will be going diving with someone he watches on TV.

Over the next few weeks, we showed up randomly during his scuba course. We filmed him in the classroom, his first breaths underwater in the training pool, and even his first dives in the ocean. We dove together in some murky water in Nahant, MA on his first open ocean training dive. His certification at this point is almost done, but the adventure is only half over. We plan to take him to a tropical island for his big dives with the JBBW team. But which island? Well, that's a surprise. Can't give everything away just yet.

This will be a fantastic segment for season 3, especially for the younger viewers in our audience when they realize that they too can become scuba divers!


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Blue World Crew Heads to Bonaire!

In search of the elusive coral spawn, Mia, Cameraman Tim and I headed to Bonaire last week during the time of the predicted coral spawn to shoot a segment for season 3 of Jonathan Bird's Blue World. Some of you may recall that we struck out on the coral spawn on Curaçao last year. We were there in October and the big spawn happened in September. The coral typically spawns twice per year, once in Sept about a week after the full moon and again a month later in October. But one of the two is the "big" spawn, with the other one being smaller. You never know which will be the big one. So last year, we got very little on Curaçao. We were lucky to have a couple of backup segment ideas though.

This year on Bonaire, we didn't have a back-up plan, so we surely hoped the coral would spawn! We started our dive trip at the always enjoyable Captain Don's Habitat where we had beautiful, large, well-appointed rooms in bungalows with seriously cold AC. We dove at night off their dock, starting on Monday night. We did two dives per night, starting at about 8 and going until around 11:30, to be sure we wouldn't miss anything. A typical evening would have us in the water by 8 or so, out at 9:30, change tanks, and back in until 11:30. We kept the dives shallow so we could have nice long dives. On each dive, all we did was swim up and down the reef looking for signs of corals getting ready to release eggs. Kinda boring actually!

On Monday we saw nothing. On Tuesday, we saw one coral head spawn and I filmed it but I only caught the end of it. Wednesday was the peak, with about 5% of the reef spawning. That's when we got most of the best shots. But we were still short a few tight close-ups I needed. Fortunately, just one more coral head spawned on Thursday night and we were able to get the much needed last few shots. Whew!

Clearly, we did not have the "big" spawn this year either. Looks like it will happen in October. I'm not sure if we are really unlucky that we missed the big spawning event two years in a row by being there the wrong month, or if we are really lucky that, in spite of that, we got the shots!

We also did some day dives looking for some other critters that will be featured in season 3, such as sea horses, frogfish and cleaning stations. Our divemaster Lutty from Captain Don's found us some great sea horses at a site called "Oil Slick." Thanks Lutty!

Halfway through the week, we moved to the lovely 5 star Harbor Village Luxury Hotel, and wow, what a nice place! Beautiful accommodations, incredible beach (especially for Bonaire, which is not known for beaches) and a fantastic staff. The only downside is that they do not have a house reef like Captain Don's, Buddy Dive, and the other resorts that cater more specifically to divers. So we ended up driving over to Captain Don's house reef for the night dives.

So in a 6 day trip (4 dive days), we did 7 night dives and believe it or not, only 5 daytime dives. (We spent a lot of our days shooting topside stuff). With 90 minute night dives, we managed to stuff a lot of diving into only only 4 diving days! And yes, we pulled off a cool segment that I'll start editing soon. When you watch a 9 minute Blue World segment, you are often watching something that took quite a while to shoot. In this case, it took two trips to the Caribbean over a year to finally get the shots. That's the way nature sometimes works!