Project Journal, April 25th, 2012: “The long wait to get wet”

 
 

Hello friends, welcome to our project journal! We start with the suitably titled “The long wait to get wet” because, for the past 3 months, that’s all we’ve been doing, waiting to get wet. Our show’s ambitious schedule calls for travels all around the world, but since a lot of it will take place in the Caribbean and Atlantic areas surrounding Central America, which is all very close to our base in Miami, our plans were to take care of those dives now during the spring months. Now, if you know a little about this part of the world, you know that there aren’t really 4 seasons here, it is either hot, hotter, hottest or less hot. But from February to May, which is a somewhat extended period of the Spring, we have lower temperatures, low winds and abundant rains, which can actually make for pleasant diving conditions. It also means that we get better deals on those locations that suffer from heavy tourism traffic later in the summer, and more importantly, we get those locations all to ourselves, since they are almost empty. Great, right?

IMG_0182Yes, except that this year, these months have come with tremendous bad weather. Incredibly, amazingly bad weather. Hard rains, very strong winds, heavy seas, over and over. You could say it is fitting that for a project that wants to showcase the environmental damage suffered by the oceans, we have not been able to dive due to the unstable weather patterns created by global warming. But then you could also say: you are very experienced divers, with thousands upon thousands of hours spent at sea, surely you can brave a little bad weather and get the job done. And if these were pleasure dives, yes, there are many times we would have probably been able to go out, where conditions would not have been enjoyable but certainly bearable. The problem is that conditions have not been acceptable to conduct the type of filming we are set on doing. Let me tell you a little about our underwater set up, which is actually one of the most interesting things on the diving side of this project.

We have decided to use scooters as an integral part of our filming. Scooters are those machines with propellers that, like a mini submarine, drag a diver through the water, allowing him not to have to kick and to cover long distances on one dive. I know, sounds like a lot of fun, and it is, but it much more than that. When you kick underwater, even if you are a very experienced and efficient swimmer like the members of our team are, and even when you wear high performance carbon-fiber fins, you still cover very little ground per dive. And because we don’t just want to show you the general aspects of the amazing locations we’ve chosen, it will require many dives to cover all the unique spots, creatures and behaviors we want you to see, which is very difficult to do. Some of our divers will use scuba gear, but to do so many dives will require too much of that gear, and in many cases, since we’re traveling to far off locations, we need to bring all gear with us over very long distances, and that becomes impossible. Then there is Yasemin, who as a freediver will not require additional gear but who nevertheless, will get exhausted after so many dives. And given the fact that she’s the most important piece of our puzzle, we need to do whatever it takes to keep her rested and in good form, so she can be able to fulfill the already high demands expected of her. For this reason, we decided that we need to maximize the amount of footage and interaction we get from every dive, to do more with less, and that’s where the scooters come in. They will allow us to carry the heavy cameras and scuba gear attached to them, keeping the divers more free and rested. We can also carry more gear and stay down longer. They can also be used by Yasemin to move from one location to the next, both on the surface and underwater, quickly and without effort. Finally, the scooters will accomplish two other very important things. First, they allow us to mount cameras on them and perform panoramic moves and move the cameras up and down, and in every direction, without vibration and shakiness, resulting in amazing images. And then, most importantly, they will increase the safety factor immeasurably, by giving us the possibility of reaching Yasemin almost instantly if she encounters a problem and needs assistance or to return to the surface at once. Ok, scooters are great, but what do they have to do with bad weather?

Well, they are very heavy. these are not the scooters you may have seen recreational divers using on vacation spots. These are the high end units used by professional divers on what’s called “mission critical” dives, where their lives are depending upon the scooters. For example, cave divers, who must carry with them hundreds of pounds of equipment to complete dives that last anywhere between 5 and 20 hours (yes, you read right, 20 hours!!!) need scooters to carry that weight and move faster. Our scooters are the same, and to give you an idea, once they have two cameras attached at the front (we use two cameras because this project is filmed also in 3D) plus 4 sets of heavy lights to record the most breath taking detail, plus additional breathing tanks and other gear, each of our scooters weighs around 250 lbs/114 kilos. And to launch them in, and retrieve them from, the water, we need calm conditions. We have a very ambitious goal of how we want this show to look, recording images that have not been seen before, and for that. we need a combination of specialized equipment like our scooters, new underwater camera and light technologies, and the right number of people performing different tasks underwater, from filming, to safety, to support. And this complex ballet we’re trying to dance underwater requires good conditions to maximize our chances of success and minimize the chances for an accident, which is always a very real possibility when you are trying to do such difficult things with so much gear and so many people. And for now, the weather has not really cooperated with us. In fact, the weather has been so bad that I doubt we could have done much even with minimized setups. So we have had to wait.

But, the good news is that the weather has started to stabilize now that the combination of temperature and barometric pressure that comes with the summer has started to arrive. So we anticipate the start of filming soon. Stay tuned!

Rudi Castineyra
Project Manager

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