Special Expeditions

Cocos 2010 by Howard Hall Productions
This video was captured using the RED One camera during 14 days at Cocos Island, Costa Rica. During that time they made four dives aboard the DeepSee Submersible.

© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group

National Geographic Pristine Seas Expeditions: Cocos Island, Costa Rica - September 2009
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group

In September 2009, National Geographic Fellow Enric Sala, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle, and a team of leading marine scientists from Central America and across the globe gathered together in Costa Rica. Destination: Cocos Island—Isla del Coco, ringed by some of the most shark-rich waters anywhere—and the submerged an all-but-unexplored summits of the Gemelas (“Twin Sisters”) Seamounts.

The team worked with local marine scientists and conservation organizations to document these aquatic ecosystems. The data, they hope, will help to establish new scientific baselines for intact—and critically important—environments.

After spending three weeks filming at Cocos Island, utilizing both the Argo and the DeepSee submersible, National Geographic premiered Shark Island to a select group in San Jose, Costa Rica on March 4, 2010 to some 350 guests, including the President of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla. About a month later, Shark Island premiered in the US on the Nat Geo Wild channel.

News of the Shark Island screening made the front page of the most influential newspaper in Costa Rica, La Nacion. While the movie will without question reflect the beauty and diversity that exists in the protected waters surrounding Cocos Island, the success of its release will truly be seen in its ability to educate and shed light on the importance of expanding marine conservation throughout the world. DVD Summary: Hammerheads school in enormous numbers.

Coral reefs ripple with color by day but at night turn into killing grounds for packs of whitetip sharks. Pristine waters brim with tuna and dolphins in hot pursuit of clouds of fish. Isla del Coco, or Cocos Island, appears as a tiny dot on a map in the Pacific Ocean more than 300 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, and is home to one of the greatest concentrations of predators on the planet. Dive into this carnivorous crowd in Shark Island with marine ecologist Enric Sala and an international team of explorers and scientists. The team traverses hundreds of square miles of ocean in search of clues to explain why so many predators congregate here and why, just outside Cocos' protected waters, life largely disappears.
Ushuaia Film Crew - Malpelo Island, Columbia - October 2006
Argo, our new project vessel, has completed her first trip to Cocos Island, hosting the DeepSee submersible and Ushuaia film crew. The film crew used DeepSee's special features to capture deep sea scenes around the island.

In mid-November, the Argo will host the DeepSee submersible on a trip to Cocos Island for 2 weeks of intensive training for our new DeepSee pilots. From there the Argo will continue her refurbishing in Panama for 3 weeks.
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group

© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group

© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group

Discovery Channel Film Crew - December 2005
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group

© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group

© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group

IMAX Film - Coral Reef Adventure 2002
Undersea Hunter once again served as the support vessel for yet another IMAX film, this time in Fiji and French Polynesia. During her 10-month expedition, Undersea Hunter became the home away from home for the production team of MacGillivray Freeman Films. The team was led by renowned IMAX underwater cinematographers Howard and Michele Hall and director of photography Brad Ohlund.
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group

Filming Island of the Sharks - Cocos Island, Costa Rica 1998
© copyright by Avi Klapfer

© copyright by Avi Klapfer
© copyright by Avi Klapfer

© copyright by Avi Klapfer
© copyright by Avi Klapfer
© copyright by Avi Klapfer
Director/cinematographer and production team Howard & Michele Hall and crew spent a total of 125 days on board the Undersea Hunter throughout 1998. Over 2,000 dives and nearly 300,000 feet of film were needed in order to capture the stunning footage presented in this movie.

As soon as we rounded the Northeast corner of the island heading for the Alcyone Seamount in Undersea Hunter's two dive skiffs, I knew I had made the right decision. Although it was rough and raining, it wasn't as bad as I had suspected. More importantly, I could tell that the water rushing past our skiff was blue and not green. Visibility was going to be better.

We anchored our skiffs, and Bob Cranston, Mark Thurlow, Avi Klapfer and I descended down toward the bottom 100 feet below wearing our closed-circuit rebreather diving units. I was immediately thrilled with what I saw. Visibility was 70 feet or more, and I could see a large school of hammerheads passing over the seamount. I lifted my OTS communication device and called up to the camera skiff. "Send the camera", I said.

Lance Milbrand descended with the camera and was met by Thurlow, who had brought down our powerful movie lights. A school of 200 hammerheads were passing directly over my head, but I couldn't do a dam thing without the camera. Milbrand passed me the camera, and I waved him away. He was wearing open-circuit scuba and, ironically, the bubbles might frighten the sharks away. Soon I could see a massive school of hammerheads approaching from the south.

I raised the camera and pressed the run switch. As the school of 100 sharks passed overhead, another school approached from the east and converged to create a school of 200 - 300 sharks. But just as the nearest shark came within 10 feet of the camera, it bolted away, causing the rest of the school to bolt as well.

This is a consistent pattern when I try to film hammerheads with our IMAX camera. The machine makes so much noise underwater that the sharks freak out just as they come close enough for a really great shot... We had been down just over one hour when I finally ran out of film. Oddly enough, the camera holds only three minutes worth of film. But at $1000 per minute (the cost to purchase, process, and print the film), I tend to be pretty careful about when I press the run switch. With the camera roll now exposed and sharks still all around me, I called to the surface on the communications system. "Surface copy. Recover the camera," I said. "Give me a fast film change."
I felt sorry for my wife Michele and the rest of the camera support crew on the rolling seas up above. I did some time on the support boat the last trip because of an ear infection. I can tell you that trying to load that camera on a rough day at Alcyone is a foolproof foundation of a successful weight-loss program. Being in the water on the anchor line is much more comfortable...
With Cranston's help, I swam the reloaded camera to the southern end of the seamount and descended to 110 feet. There I framed a school of very colorful yellow goatfish and waited for the hammerheads to pass in the background. I didn't have to wait long. Almost immediately, a big school began heading my way. I triggered the camera and concentrated on keeping the goatfish in the lower part of the frame as sharks filled the center and top of the viewfinder. In rapid succession, I took four different shots of the goatfish school as hammerheads passed overhead. Soon the film magazine was spent. "Surface copy, recover all gear, recover all gear," I called through my underwater microphone. "We are all finished here."
The Silver Bank - IMAX Film Trip - April 1995
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group

© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group

© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group
© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group

© copyright by Undersea Hunter Group

In August of 1994, IMAX Corporation of Canada contacted us with an intriguing question. Can you bring your vessel over to the Silver Bank of the Dominican Republic to help with the IMAX filming of a short feature on humpback whales? Although we had never bean directly involved with an IMAX project, the answer was an unequivocal YES! We had designed and built our boat for exactly these kinds of projects. The prospect of serving as a platform for an IMAX film completely captured our imaginations.

We presented IMAX producer Lorne Orleans with the plans, time schedules, and costs. We also requested a deposit. Lorne’s first concern was what guaranty could we possibly provide for the boat actually being in the Silver Bank, seven month from today? Our answer; “Efficiency and integrity are basic precepts of our mission. We will be where we promise, anywhere in the world, ready and on time.”

The voyage over to Turks & Caicos in the Bahamas took us from Costa Rica’s Pacific shore, via the Panama Canal, into one of the worst Caribbean storms of the decade. For five full days Undersea Hunter plowed through 12-foot seas. We endure the storm taking severe damages to the deck gear and electronics. That relentless battering even pealed paint from the hull, which affected the overall appearance of the vessel. Our arrival was scheduled for three days before D-day, but the five days of storm had slowed the Undersea Hunter to arrive at port with a mere 26 hours to spare until the arrival of the film crew. By Avi Klapfer

March 13, 1995 - A Beautiful Clear Morning

The entire film crew and I took off from Miami International Airport for the short flight to Turk & Caicos Island. “You see, down there,” I said to Loren, pointing below. “There she is.” Half an hour later we drove a truck full of gear alongside the dock. A smiling red-eyed crew welcomed us aboard a freshly painted, gleaming white Undersea Hunter in absolutely perfect order.

A day later while anchoring on the Silver Bank, Lorne informed me that he needed our help to cover for two other vessels that had not shown up on time for the project. The first vessel arrived five days later. They both had only a short crossing over to the Silver Bank but turned back to port when faced with the inclement weather.

During the 23 days at the Silver Bank, Howard Hall and team had managed to capture some amazing IMAX footage of the humpback whales, as well as kid actors interacting with the whales.

Our remarkable and successful challenge with the IMAX team on the Silver Bank has now led us to create many new and specialized film support devices.
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