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All the latest June 2015

Typical berg off Newfoundland
Our RIB for the Newfy filming
Prepping for the dive. Note the hard hats for protection!
SMB's so the RIB knew where we were
The Bristol Whales being woven
One of the weaving workshop groups

Greetings all – yup it’s the old story, apologies from the world’s least consistent blogger. I turn round and another six months has slipped by.

It was a quiet-ish kick off to the year, starting with five talks for the Royal Scottish Geographical Society up north. I concentrated on climate change issues, a subject near to my heart with all the changes that are happening in the Arctic. When you’ve been going there like I have since 1988, it’s clear the region is altering, and real fast. There was the poorest sea ice on record at the end of March, which doesn't augur at all well for this summer. I wonder if we’ll see a new sea ice minimum mid September which is when its area is measured?

US Lectures:
I went to the US in March to deliver three lectures – at The Rosenstiel Scool of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Miami Zoo and the National Aquarium in Baltimore. All great venues, well filled with enthusiastic and interested audiences. It seems to grab their attention when near the start I flash up that picture of me washing a bathtub when I was in the Red Sea in 1974 before moving on to polar bears, belugas and climate change …… I had an excellent reception and thanks to everyone who helped make them happen. Hoping to return to the US for more dates January – February 2016.

Doug’s RED Dragon:
I was always thinking of more filming for this year, so while preparing for the US talks, I also set about acquiring a RED Dragon camera package, including a Gates underwater housing. I got lots of sensible advice from Dave Blackham at Esprit Films (http://www.espritfilm.co.uk/) so I’m now well set up. A fair bit poorer, but well set up ….. and when I’m not using the rig it’s hireable through Dave.

Kit comprises
RED Dragon
Gates Housing
Canon Lenses
8-15
16-35
24-70
70-150 macro
and all the accessories for topside and hand held shooting

Chagos BIOT:
First outing for me and the RED was to Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean. Three weeks in April with John Ruthven for the Living Oceans Foundation. Spectacular diving in one of the most remote and least visited places in the world. LOF are a great crew, their super support ship The Golden Shadow is a perfect dive / research platform, and this time we the film crew had our own dedicated RIB. Some lovely dives across acres of virgin Acropora tables, but also evidence of bleaching events. One reef was covered with the most amazing hues of pink, yellow and blue, for in the five days or so a reef takes to turn white, the coral goes through all these vivid colours. We were lucky (I use the word ironically) to be on a reef just as it changed. A sad terrible beauty.

Big thanks to Andy Bruckner, Phil Renaud and all the Shadow officers and crew for all their help on the cruise. I know I’ve said it before but LOF really is a good worthwhile organization, I like it that they spread the word of conservation and back it up with useful science.

BBC Brian Cox:
Shoot in June couldn't have been a greater contrast in tewrms of water temperature. Doing a sequence for Brian Cox’s forthcoming BBC series, Forces of Nature. Before you ask, the man himself wasn’t on this one, and I’m not able to say a whole lot about it right now as the Beeb like to keep the highlights back until closer to transmission (spring 2016) but it involved diving round icebergs off Newfoundland in Canada. Our man on charge on location, Rick Stanley, of Ocean Quest Adventures (http://www.oceanquestadventures.com/) was a larger than life character, knew Newfy water like the back of his hand, had just the greatest boats and dive support crew. Big thanks to him, Patricia, Debbie, Johnny Mac and Johnny O for keeping us fed and safe and in the right place at the right time (most of the time). And to Alice of course, the blurry AP who was always on the zoom organizing thing.

Forthcoming Lectures:
With Jo Sarsby Management, I’m going on the road later in the year with another talky tour. Dates through November are on the poster with this blog. Also doing presentations in 5 public libraries in Scotland through the week of 23 – 28 November immediately after the English venues. Not yet sure of the time of day and the exact library venues, but closer to time I’ll post them here.

The Bristol Whales:
Codsteaks (http://www.codsteaks.com/) are a classy Bristol company, managed by their eccentrically wonderful MD, and I’ve been helping out with their current project, creating giant (and I mean giant - bigger than life sized) wicker sculptures of the tail and the head of a couple of whales. Modeled on Humpbacks but in reality as big as a Blue, these are in the final stages of construction in Cods yard. Last week five parties of pupils from local primary schools came for a three hour workshop - I gave them half an hour’s worth of whaley facts,pictures and sounds before joining them to be taught by Abi and Ollie about the weaving. Yes that slightly wonky bit of weave just near the eye of the whale head is courtesy yours truly ….

The Bristol Whales are officially being launched and will be on public display in Millennium Square in Bristol from the evening of 17 July. My birthday but regrettably I’ll be away on shoot in South Africa. Some things just don't work out do they …….. do come see them, they’re truly spectacular. They’ll be on display until the end of August.

Off to Svalbard now to try some polar bears ……

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