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Galapagos and Greenland

Doug filming on the glacier
Preparing to dive in the Blue Lake on the Glacier
Helo support on the glacier
Polar bears on the berg

Galapagos and Greenland

It would be hard to imagine two bigger contrasts of location than the last couple of trips.

Galapagos in May – June was back again with the Living Oceans Foundation ( I did a shoot with them in the Bahamas last year, this time I had the chance for Galapagos. I was last there for Blue Planet way in the dim and distant, but on this LOF expedition we had the ok to spend several days up at Darwin Island up north. Challenging sort of place to dive, LOF were surveying the shallow reef that runs between the island and Darwin’s Arch about 600m off shore. I never really sussed the tides, strong currents pulled me every which way on most dives, made the close ups tricky and gave that surgy feel to the pictures. But those same currents also ran round the wall on the outside of the reef and along the face of the island, which meant good numbers of hammerheads and a few whale shark sightings. One was a monster - he came up from the back (unseen by me, typical), the first I knew was passing almost below me. Bigger than some whales, must have been almost 10m long, heading into the current twice as fast as I could swim.

Darwin was brilliantly prolific for fish life, huge schools of ‘gringos”, so thick at times that I could barely make out the divers working on the reef. Or the hammerheads sometimes too, they’d cruise just off the reef, but barely visible through the fish schools. Murder to light the scene because the gringos were just so close to the lights they soaked up all the illumination. Darwin’s in a no fishing zone, it’s just a great example of how prolific marine life can be if you just give the habitat a chance. It shows in the behaviour of some of the fish species too, the groupers for example seemed a lot more approachable.

As well as filming for a longer show about the expedition, Alison Barrat, John Ruthven and I were making three short films for a live hook up the Foundation had with Sylvia Earle at the Smithsonian on 8 June to mark World Ocean’s Day. That was a resounding success, with Phil Renaud and Andy Bruckner, live on the deck covering the work they were doing. Big hitting number.

You can check out the live broadcast at

I really get a buzz out of working with LOF on the Golden Shadow. It feels - worthwhile, like I’m closer to the edge of good science that’s looking at important issues. Well done Alison for getting last year’s Bahamas mission film nominated at the Blue Ocean Festival, that’s satisfying too.

Those good vibes carried on with Operation Iceberg, BBC Scotland’s ambitious 2 part series about the science of glaciers and icebergs. For the last six weeks I was a very part time presenter but full time cameraman for the team. Phase one was at the Storr Glacier on the west side of Greenland, camped on land with a zillion mosquitoes for company every time you ventured out of the tent. No shortage of volunteers for filming on the actual glacier where it was too cold for them. Magnificent location, awesome to witness some of the calving events when massive bergs would break off the front – watching them form has to be one of the most exciting natural spectacles I’ve seen anywhere. We spent three weeks there before phase two, boarding the good ship Neptune and sailing 300 miles across Baffin Bay making for a giant tabular berg. This had come off the Petermann Glacier in NW Greenland two years earlier, it was now grounded about 15 miles off Clyde River on Baffin Island. About 10k by 4k, there was all kinds of science we planned to investigate. But what’s the line about “Man proposes but God disposes”? Persistent fog, the number of polar bears on the berg itself – challenging issues you could say. We had them both, but still managed five dives round the berg as well as chances to drop off the scientists for their work.

Keith (camera), Dave (sound), Simon (sound) and self shared a windowless cabin midships near the bow of Neptune. Weird – 24 hour daylight outside while we slept in 100% darkness. My apologies to my cabin mates – years of diving have left me with a deficient sense of smell, I really didn't think 5 times used drysuit dive underwear smelled quite as strongly as apparently it does. Is that why we had so few visitors? Or so many polar bears? has more about the shoots, and look out for the finished shows, transmission scheduled (at the moment at least) for BBC 2 Sunday 9 September, either 8 or 9pm

I’m now probably a wee while at home before I head for the Blue Ocean Film Festival in Monterey at the end of September, where (glow glow) the LOF Mission Bahamas film and Ocean Giants are both up for awards. Fingers crossed!

After that I'll be at Wildscreen ( for the first days. They asked me to run the intro underwater filming session on the opening Sunday so I'm looking forward to that. Bring on the next generation of competition for jobs ........

Later this year I’m back with the talks. Satisfying I hope many of those who wrote to me in March asking when I’d be delivering my stuff at a venue closer to them, I’m now on the road again from mid October for about a month. Covering venues in the north of England and scattered round Scotland - all the details are in this website on the Talks page.

But right now – a week at Marsa Shagra in the Red Sea with Liam.

Regards to all

13 August 2012