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Nurofen Commercial then SuRi goes South December / January 2013

SuRi in Ushuaia
SuRi down south
Troy about to dive
Wilson's Petrel dancing
The big bubble being launched
Drake Passage, Alternative Route
SuRi skipper Neil with the Adelies

Come on now, who hasn’t seen this one? It’s been playing regularly on at least one of the commercial TV channels pretty much every night since its launch in February, and also more sporadically at cinemas. The agency approached me back in August 2012, and what intrigued me was how they saw a key element in their campaign to be “real people with fascinating lives”. They didn't want actors, they wanted to feature genuine individuals. One of their leading creative directors was a fan of wildlife, who knew me from my appearances in the ten minute Diary pieces that accompany the episodes of the big series. So I was in their frame so to speak from early on. I liked their idea of reality, and how they planned from the start that the personal commentaries by the three of us in the first run of the ad would be extracts from straightforward unscripted conversations we were to have with one of the directors. Conversations when I was asked questions about how I got into the business, what were my most inspiring subjects, where do the biggest satisfactions come from, how do I put up with the discomforts. It was like shooting ob doc as opposed to well rehearsed set ups, and I felt the end result had a vitality and a touch of edge that’s almost intangible but none the less real.

Good fun, good crew, and fascinating to be a part of a creative process that was new for me. It’s all on if somehow you’ve been living underground and have missed it so far …… you could check out as well.

SuRi’s a super luxury yacht ( unlike any other vessel I’ve had the privilege of working on, and in December and January I worked as a dive guide and naturalist for Henry Cookson Adventures (, who chartered the vessel for a trip to the Antarctic. I tell folk not to worry about the Drake Passage, as in my experience it’s only one crossing in ten that’s really rough. Two or three are lumpy, three or four are moderate and a couple or so are Drake Lake. We had that special one in ten on the way south, took quite a bashing, with the sea unusually off the forward port quarter ie SE. You’d expect it all to come at you from the west normally. But it quietened down south of the South Shets and in behind Brabant and Anvers Islands, we made a lot of good landings. Of course at that time of year, the wildlife breeding is at its peak, we saw Chinstraps, Gentoos and Adelies either on eggs or young chicks, as well as the usual humpbacks blowing all over the place.
One notable absentee however were Fur Seals. Normally by mid January you’re seeing increasing numbers of them on the Peninsula, but this season there didn’t seem to be any at all down there as we came north. I heard there had been a band of pack ice stretching north from the Weddell Sea between the South Shets and Elephant Island, and that may have disrupted their normal movements down from the sub Antarctic waters.
For the first charter we had a couple of submersibles on board ( 350m depth capability. Patrick (one of the world’s best tellers of atrocious jokes), Jim and Troy were happy to pilot us any time, I relished the chance to look deeper than SCUBA had ever allowed me. We found some lovely walls and faces down there, lots of multiarmed Labidiaster starfish, and weird invertebrates that weren’t in any book I’d ever read. Some dives treated to a big fly by with Gentoos whizzing around, on another occasion a 4m long jellyfish. Next time – sperm whales and giant squid for sure.
The crew were super, worked tirelessly to make it all happen for the guests. I honestly never met a happier bunch of people, made me want to give up UK and go live in the South Pacific. And if the Drake had shaken en route south, it was no hassle at all going north. Because for the first time I flew out from the tip of the Peninsula, straight from the Chilean Frei base to Punta Arenas. The DAP flights were quite a regular occurrence this season, some of the bigger tour ships did their entire passenger changeovers that way rather than back and forth to Ushuaia. I have to admit to mixed feelings – somehow a flight rather than a voyage left Antarctica feeling like just another destination at the end of an all in the air journey. The Drake is like a rite of passage, it’s part of the excitement of getting to the Big A, and it’s your best chance of seeing Albatrosses in flight. But that’s the romantic in me talking, it’s a big barrier to seeing Antarctica if you in any way are prone to sea sickness ……