Thursday, September 25, 2008
Something much, much scarier than sharks...
Paul (my favorite camera man from Lkwid Productions) and I headed out to do some filming for the national evening news here in South Africa and nearly lost our livelihoods! (Read the story then watch the footage...)
It all started innocently enough. Shark Angel Alison’s research is being featured in a national story on SABC and rather than head out with her, they wanted some footage of her in action. Since we have spent the last two weeks on the boat filming just that, the timing was perfect and Paul provided some great footage.
However, they were quite keen on getting some underwater footage, and Paul was quite keen on using his pole cam. He has been dying for someone to mutter the words... "I just wish we had some underwater footage of the white sharks..."
So, without much fore-thought or pre-planning on the logistics of using a heavy camera on a pole, in rough seas, with White Sharks, out we headed to Seal Island to try our luck… It wasn’t long before a real player showed up, and Paul eagerly plunged the camera in the water. Our goal was to capture the shark underwater maybe even WITH the National Geographic Crittercam on.
This beautiful shark made several passes eyeing what we thought was the bait… My job was to let Paul know where the shark was, so that he could slowly pan towards her (in addition to my full time post as Head Chummer and First Mate). Each time, she came closer and closer into the camera, and Paul was beaming, just dreaming of the type of footage he was probably capturing. (With no screen, it is difficult to know exactly what is happening, and as Murphy’s Law often has it, you always think you are getting better footage than you are, but this seemed like it was definitely the million dollar shot.)
Then before you could blink your eye, this four meter lady swam past the bait and launched towards the camera putting on her full attack speed… All we saw from our vantage point was a wide open mouth and teeth – and even more desperate, a terrified look in Paul’s eyes as he managed to pull the 50 pound camera out of the water attached to a slippery, straight swimming pool cleaner pole like it was a feather. I have never seen such super human strength, but he was centimeters away from losing his beautiful and quite costly lens… The shark didn’t stop there. Frustrated, she thrashed and managed to soak Paul at the same time. So Paul was dripping wet with freezing water and wide eyed just having been scared to death by the thought of the tens of thousands of dollars he might have just lost.
After Morne, Alison and I all had a good laugh (yes, at Paul’s expense just a bit) and checking the housing for scratches, we then heard from Morne that he has lost countless lenses doing just that… And even had to dive in for one camera! In our enthusiasm, Paul and I had just forgotten one thing: to ask if the shark ever goes for the camera instead of the bait.
It is definitely worth the risk though… we are both totally addicted to the pole cam. Had the visibility been better, the footage would have been simply amazing. We are already desperate to get another chance to peek in on the White Sharks. This time though, we are strapping the camera to Paul!
Watch the drama unfold... Note, Paul has a wide angle lens, so things are MUCH, MUCH closer than they appear!