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Follow the adventures of the Jonathan Bird's Blue World team on location here on our blog. This blog starts at season 4. For older posts, see our blogspot page.
Diving the cenotes of Merida
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Monday, January 11, 2016.
In December, cameraman Todd and I flew down to Merida, Mexico for another amazing Blue World adventure! Merida is in the northwest part of the Yucatan peninsula, about three hours west of Cancun. About 65 million years ago, a huge asteroid crashed in this area creating the Chicxulub crater (which is now half submerged). This asteroid impact is now believed to be the event that caused such widespread climate change on Earth that it wiped out the dinosaurs. But it also created a ring of fissures in the limestone around the circumference of the crater. Over millions of years, water percolating through these cracks created a vast network of caves and cenotes to explore! There are thousands of cenotes around Merida, the vast majority of which have never been explored!
The Maya people called cenotes ts'onot, meaning "sacred well." They were not just sources of drinking water in a tropical climate. They considered cenotes entrances to the underworld. Some of them were used as burial grounds and places for sacrifices. In our expedition, we teamed up with Freedom Divers and owner Jeff Shaw to explore some of the most amazing cenotes I have ever seen, including Cenote San Antonio, which was used by the Mayans for human...Continue Reading »
Photo Gallery: Diving the cenotes of Merida
Diving in Iceland!
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Thursday, September 03, 2015.
Iceland may not sound like the kind of place one goes for scuba diving, but in fact Iceland has some rather interesting--if chilly--diving. Local dive shops boast that one of their dive sites has some of the clearest water in the world. The place is called Silfra (pronounced Sil-vruh with the f sounding more like a v). It's a crack in the ground which is actually part of the mid-Atlantic ridge where the north American and the European tectonic plates meet. Iceland was formed by a volcanic hot spot on this ridge in the same way Hawaii was formed. The crack between the two tectonic plates runs right through Iceland. At Silfra, the crack has filled with spring water that originates in glaciers. So, it's cold (36°F) and clear. They claim it has 100m (330 foot!) visibility! Christine, Cameraman Todd and I flew up to Iceland (only a 5 hour flight from Boston) to check it out. What we found was water every bit as clear, and as cold, as we were told. We dove with divemaster Jose Soroa from dive.is who took us on two long dives that enabled us to thoroughly freeze our toes off!!
The dive itself doesn't have much to see. There were a few tiny fish the size of a pinky and some algae. But for the most part, it's just rocks...Continue Reading »
Photo Gallery: Diving in Iceland!
Cave Diving in Abaco!
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Wednesday, March 18, 2015.
Over the past few seasons of Blue World production, we have done several segments in cenotes and cave-like environments in Mexico and the Bahamas. It first, I didn't have much interest in this kind of stuff. After all, I'm a marine life guy. I would much rather play with sharks than crawl through a shipwreck or film stalactites. On the other hand, the more I saw of the amazing underground world in caves, the more fascinated I became. A couple years ago I started thinking it was about time to get cave certified so I would be able to venture further into the most beautiful parts of the caves.
Cave diving is considered an extreme sport because of the obvious danger of being in a place where there is no light, no air, and no way to get to the surface for air in an emergency. In the scuba diving world, if you are in a cave yet you can still see the light from the opening, or if the cave is only half full of water so you can surface and breathe, you are not technically cave diving, but cavern diving. Most of the segments we have done on Blue World where we are filming in a cave, were technically, by scuba standards, caverns, not full caves. (This fine distinction is sort of lost on the general public, so we don't generally...Continue Reading »
Photo Gallery: Cave Diving in Abaco!
BIG New Project for the Blue World Team!
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Well, it's time to let the cat out of the bag...a little. We are working on an exciting new project! It's Blue World's first theatrical release film. For now we would like to keep some of the details about the film shrouded in mystery, but we are working with NASA, Hewlett-Packard, and RED Digital Cinema on a Jonathan Bird's Blue World film to be released nationally next spring. We are super excited!
Camerman Tim, Editor Tim and Jonathan have just returned from a week filming at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. This facility, part of the Johnson Space Center, is a huge indoor pool containing a complete replica of the International Space Station. It is used for simulation of micro-gravity. If you haven't seen our webisode about the NBL, you can check it out and be an instant expert!
We will bring you more details about the film as the shoots wrap. In the meantime, here are a few fun pictures from the production!
Photo Gallery: BIG New Project for the Blue World Team!
An Expedition to Cocos Island
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Thursday, October 31, 2013.
Back in the 1980s when I started diving, and therefore began subscribing to dive magazines, it was hard to miss the fact that Cocos Island was the hot new destination. Everywhere you looked, the magazines were filled with pictures of schooling hammerheads from this exotic place known as Cocos. Of course, like many other divers at the time, it went onto my “bucket list” of places to dive in my life. (A list which never seems to get any shorter, I might add.) “Someday,” I thought to myself, “I’ll get to Cocos.”
In the years since, I have been lucky enough to visit some of the most exciting diving destinations around the world including the one most similar to Cocos, the Galapagos Islands. Yet for some reason it has taken me 25 years to get Cocos on my schedule.
Julia, Cameraman Todd, and I have just returned from a 12 day excursion to Cocos with two simply incredible Blue World segments. Our trip to Cocos began in pursuit of two Blue World segments, neither of which is about what you would expect—the world-famous Scalloped hammerheads schools of Cocos, since we shot a fantastic segment about these hammerheads for season 1.
In addition to being famous for Scalloped hammerheads, Cocos is also famous for its white...Continue Reading »
Photo Gallery: An Expedition to Cocos Island
Diving The St. Lawrence!
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Tuesday, September 24, 2013.
We’re winding down towards the end of the production of season 4. I know it has been a long time working on this season—about 2 years in fact. Alas, our program involves an incredible amount of travel and expense. Furthermore, I actually hate being away from my kids, so I don’t like to travel too often or for too long. As a result, the shoots get spaced out a bit rather than being back-to-back. Season 4 is our most ambitious, most exciting, highest production-value season so far, and there are only a couple shoots left. You may have noticed that we are starting to release the webisodes already, because we know you are getting impatient for new material!
For some reason, a lot of exciting things happen in the ocean in the September/October time frame, all over the world. So we have had shoots scheduled in several places during this time. Hawaii, Mexico, St. Lawrence, Massachusetts and Cocos Island all within weeks of each other! It’s exciting but also exhausting! A lot of people express to me that I have the greatest job ever, and it definitely has its perks, but when you have been on the road for the better part of two months, it starts to lose its luster. I am ready for a month without getting on a plane, let me...Continue Reading »
Photo Gallery: Diving The St. Lawrence!
The Big Hawaiian Film Shoot!
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Sunday, August 18, 2013.
For every season of Jonathan Bird’s Blue World, we do a couple “big expeditions” which are typically extended-length shoots where we hope to film at least 2 or 3 segments to maximize the return on the high cost of the shoot. For season 4, one of these shoots was an adventure in the Hawaiian Islands. Much research was done before we ever bought plane tickets, and I can’t thank my friend Doug Perrine enough for his assistance in lining stuff up! Doug is one of the world’s most successful underwater photographers and happens to live on the Big Island. He is an authority on Hawaiian diving and really helped us out. Thanks Doug!
Our shoot began on the absolutely drop-dead gorgeous island of Kauai, where we filmed underwater sequences of Hawaiian Monk Seals. These adorable pinnipeds are among the most critically endangered marine mammals on Earth, numbering less than 1,200 spread throughout the Hawaiian archipelago. Most are found far from civilization in the French Frigate shoals way up to the northwest of the main (i.e. inhabited) Hawaiian islands. However, a few dozen can be found here and there around Kauai and Ni’ihau and some of them have actually become quite curious and inquisitive about divers. We spent a...Continue Reading »
Photo Gallery: The Big Hawaiian Film Shoot!
A Shipwreck Adventure in The Florida Keys!
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Thursday, May 09, 2013.
We just returned from a challenging but productive shoot in the Florida Keys where we shot two new segments for season 4. The first segment is about artificial reefs. Back in 2009 I dove the wreck of the Vandenberg the day after it was intentionally sunk as an artificial reef. At the time it was brightly painted white and looked ready to set sail for adventure on the high seas—except for being on the bottom of the ocean near Key West. I thought it would be interesting to see what it looks like now, four years later. To continue the segment, we decided to take a look at the wrecks of the Spiegel Grove (11 years old) and the Duane (25 years old) off Key Largo. This would give a good idea how a ship turns from a big piece of metal on the bottom to a coral-covered fish habitat and "playground structure" for divers.
We actually shot the entire thing out of order because that's just how the schedules worked out. We started on Key Largo diving with Horizon Divers. Our first day out was to shoot the Duane and it was rough. Even though Horizon Divers has a nice big, stable catamaran, we were rolling around. There were quite a few people seasick on the boat. And poor Editor Tim (who was our surface cameraman) was stuck on...Continue Reading »
Photo Gallery: A Shipwreck Adventure in The Florida Keys!
Snakes at “Bird” Island: An Adventure in Indonesia!
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Wednesday, April 24, 2013.
Kerry and I have just returned from an exciting shoot in Indonesia where we filmed a segment about an incredibly remote island called Manuk Island (which coincidentally means "Bird Island"). Why Manuk? Because Manuk is famous for its massive numbers of sea snakes, and I thought it would make a fun segment! The only down side is getting there. You see, it's more than 100 miles out in the middle of nowhere from the Banda Islands, which are already out in the middle of nowhere. So it takes a live-aboard dive boat and several days sailing to reach Manuk Island.
I chartered the MSY Seahorse dive boat, a boat I also chartered back in 2009 for our segment on bottom-dwelling sharks in Raja Ampat. I gathered a whole group of enthusiastic diver friends to share the boat, and off we went on a grand adventure on the high seas! We had no idea what to expect at Manuk Island. Would there be any snakes? Had I unwittingly led my friends to a boring destination?
After several days flying to reach Sorong to board the boat, and several more days sailing (and diving) across Raja Ampat and on to the Banda Islands, we finally reached Manuk. As I prepared to roll off the boat into the water, I was nervous, hoping there would be sea...Continue Reading »
Photo Gallery: Snakes at “Bird” Island: An Adventure in Indonesia!
The Blue World Team films at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at NASA!
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Thursday, January 31, 2013.
This week the Blue World team shot a fascinating segment that we had been working towards for a long time. Several years ago we heard about the Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL) at NASA and knew we had to make a segment about it. I made a few calls, but could never get through to the right person to discuss it. Eventually, the idea got buried—we figured we would never be able to get through to the right person at NASA. But that idea just kept flickering in the back of my mind and I couldn’t let it go. So for season 4, I decided I would make another serious attempt. This is where karma comes into play. Early in the production of Season 4 we made a segment about Aquarius Reef Base and put it on our website well ahead of schedule because they were looking for as much publicity as possible to gather funding. Well it turns out that NASA does a lot of training at Aquarius, so many of the astronauts, divers, staff, and management at the NBL had seen the segment. So this time when I started calling around trying to get permission to visit the NBL, I was talking to people who not only knew who I was, but had actually seen Jonathan Bird’s Blue World and knew we would make a great segment about the NBL.
The result? We were welcomed...Continue Reading »
Photo Gallery: The Blue World Team films at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at NASA!
Stargate Blue Hole, Andros, Bahamas
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Wednesday, December 05, 2012.
Back in 2010, the Blue World team headed down to Small Hope Bay Lodge on Andros, Bahamas to do a segment on Blue Holes. We dove The Guardian, one of the Blue Holes near the resort. While we were there, we learned about another blue hole, called Stargate, that was a little more difficult to dive, but more spectacular. Then I saw a picture of Stargate in National Geographic magazine, by my friend Wes Skiles, (one of the world’s most renown cave photographers) and knew we had to go back to Andros!
Fortunately, Jeff Birch, the owner of Small Hope Bay Lodge was happy to take us to Stargate. So we arranged another visit to this laid-back island and cozy resort, for a super adventure! Todd (our resident technical cave diver), Cameraman Tim and I have been looking forward to this adventure for a while.
When we arrived at Small Hope Bay Lodge, Jeff met us and his first words were “Jonathan Bird comes, and the wind comes!” It seems to be true. The last time we were here it was windy as well. (And raining!) Fortunately for us, the wind only interferes with ocean diving, not underground diving.
The next day, we planned an excursion to a local blue hole known as Cousteau’s Blue Hole so we could get our weight worked out, and...Continue Reading »
Photo Gallery: Stargate Blue Hole, Andros, Bahamas
In search of Great White Sharks and Kelp!
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Wednesday, December 05, 2012.
In late October, the Blue World team consisting of Julia Cichowski, Todd Kelly and Jonathan headed out to Guadalupe Island in Mexico on a mission to film some Great White Sharks. Our trip was cut short by a day due to some "fishy" problems with the charter boat, and overall our luck was not terribly great with the sharks. Overall, to be honest, it was a bit of a disappointment. After that, we headed north to Los Angeles, where we hopped a ferry out to Catalina Island, one of the greatest places on Earth to dive in southern California kelp forests.
It's hard to believe that in all these years, we haven't made a segment about kelp forests!
We stayed at the lovely Hermosa Hotel and dove with Scuba Luv Catalina for 3 days of outstanding diving! We filmed some amazingly beautiful kelp and even an incredible encounter with an electric Torpedo Ray! This exciting segment will be part of season 4 in 2013!
Photo Gallery: In search of Great White Sharks and Kelp!
Filming the Queen Anne’s Revenge!
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Wednesday, December 05, 2012.
Almost everyone has heard of Blackbeard the Pirate, but many people do not realize that he was a real pirate with a real ship! And the remains of his ship, Queen Anne's Revenge was discovered just off the North Carolina coast in 1996. Since then, a team of archaeologists have been working to excavate the wreck and preserve the remains. While most of what has come off the wreck would not be considered "treasure" in the traditional sense, the artifacts have provided an insightful look into the life of pirates in the 18th century.
In October, Jonathan and Editor Tim visited the Queen Anne's Revenge ("QAR") archaeological site along with Rick Allen who is not only the principal underwater cinematographer for the QAR project, but also an occasional Blue World cameraman. The underwater visibility on the site was outstanding at about 8 feet (!) and we filmed the cannons and other artifacts that were being prepared for retrieval. In addition, we visited the lab where the artifacts are being preserved for exhibit in a museum. This exciting segment will not only provide a glmpse into the past, but show how science and chemistry can help bring history to life!
Photo Gallery: Filming the Queen Anne’s Revenge!
Filming Belugas at Mystic Aquarium
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Wednesday, December 05, 2012.
In September we spent a day filming at the Mystic Aquarium in Mystic Connecticut. Our mission? To follow the daily activities of a Beluga whale trainer and learn what is involved in the maintenance of such a large exhibit. They do not generally dive with the Belugas at the Mystic Aquarium, so this was a fairly unusual segment for us--no scuba diving! I did get to go into the water with the animals in hip waders, where I learned a bunch of hand signals and got a kiss from a Beluga! This exciting segment has me learning the ways of the Beluga trainer for a day, and will make a Beluga lover out of anyone. It will be a segment in season 4 of Jonathan Bird's Blue World, due out in the fall of 2013.
Photo Gallery: Filming Belugas at Mystic Aquarium
The Blue World team heads to the St. Lawrence River!
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Monday, June 04, 2012.
Editor Tim, Todd and I have just returned from a 3 day shoot in upstate New York, where we were filming Lake Sturgeon in the St. Lawrence river. We were invited up by my friends Jen Hayes and David Doubilet. Jen did her PhD work with Sturgeon, and she is really excited about them and an encyclopedia of knowledge. Jen also hooked us up with Rodger Klindt from the NY state Department of Environmental Conservation. He is a biologist heading up the efforts to save this endangered and dwindling stock of fish.
The sturgeon is an ancient fish going back 200 milion years. It looks primitive, and has features unlike many other fish. Although it is a "bony" fish, it has a cartilaginous skeleton like a shark. It has no scales like other fish, but instead has sharp "scutes" on its back. The sturgeon is probably most famous as the primary source of caviar, which has caused a great decline in their numbers around the world. In the St. Lawrence, hydro power and dams have limited their migrations, which has caused a great reduction in their population. Rodger is heading up a program to collect the eggs from live sturgeon and raise them in hatcheries to be released. We got to see, film and participate in this year's egg collection...Continue Reading »
Photo Gallery: The Blue World team heads to the St. Lawrence River!
The Blue World Team cleans up at the Emmy Awards!
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Monday, June 04, 2012.
Well, this weekend was the 35th annual New England Emmy Awards, where we were nominated for SEVEN awards! It was a fun and exciting night. We shot some video that we will make into a little behind the scenes webisode shortly. We had some real nail-biter moments, but came away from the event with a very respectable FOUR emmys: Best Children's Program, Best Segment, Best Musical Score and Best Editing. This was the first time we ever won for editing! Nobody in the whole room was more excited than editor Tim who just took home an emmy one year out of school!! (I'd say that his Blue World internship worked out ok, huh?) This was also the first time Bruce won for filmscoring, although he has a pile of Emmys from other films he has scored. With these four new Emmys, Jonathan Bird's Blue World now has earned a total of eight Emmy Awards over a span of three years.
Included here are a few pictures from the evening! Enjoy! And thanks for the continued support!
Photo Gallery: The Blue World Team cleans up at the Emmy Awards!
Blue World films the Aquarius
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Tuesday, May 22, 2012.
The Aquarius Reef Base is the world’s only underwater research lab where the scientists live in saturation for extended periods of time. Like an underwater space station, the “aquanauts” eat, sleep, and dive from this base on the bottom of the sea for a week or more at a time. By being “saturated” with nitrogen, they can go out diving for hours at a time without having to worry about decompression sickness, because they do not return to the lower ambient pressure of the surface after a dive. Instead they return to a habitat at about the same pressure as the dives they did. Then, at the end of their mission, the aquanauts undergo one long decompression to return to the surface.
It’s no secret that I have been dreaming about visiting the Aquarius Reef Base for many years. In the mid-1990s I proposed doing a whole film about the Aquarius, but couldn’t find the funding.
Fortunately for us, the nice people at Aquarius agreed to allow the Blue World team access to the habitat for a few days during a recent mission, so we could make an episode about how they use this incredible tool to study the ocean, and what it’s like to live inside an underwater lab!
Aquarius is located a few miles off the coast of Key Largo, on a...Continue Reading »
Photo Gallery: Blue World films the Aquarius
The Blue World Crew Goes Seal Seeking….
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Monday, April 09, 2012.
Many years ago, I filmed Gray seals underwater near Bar Harbor, Maine. These animals, especially the juveniles, are often quite curious of divers, and come over to investigate us if we just sit around in 15 feet of water. Unfortunately, for some reason, Gray seals no longer hang out in the same places they used to. I wanted to film them again for Blue World and I was told that they no longer live on Little Duck Island, right in the Harbor. Instead, they are way out at Mount Desert Rock, which is 26 miles offshore! You can't get there unless it's a nice calm day and you can't dive with the seals unless it's calm.
Diver Ed Monat has been going out and getting great interactions with the seals so he invited us on a trip last weekend. The weather was looking really good. Julia, Editor Tim and I drove up to Bar Harbor and went out early with Diver Ed and his wife "Captain Evil" Edna. Also on the expedition was film maker Nick Caloyianis and photographer Mauricio Handler. We left the dock at 5:30 AM and were out at the rock before 8 AM, so we had a good long day to work with the seals. The water was 40 degrees (chilly!) and my first dive with Julia was 75 minutes. The camera batteries were not really happy about the...Continue Reading »
Photo Gallery: The Blue World Crew Goes Seal Seeking….
The Blue World Team at BTS 2012
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Thursday, March 29, 2012.
For the first time ever, this year we had a booth at the Beneath The Sea diving trade show in Secaucus, NJ. I go to the show every year to give a few talks and meet up with old friends, but this year it was a bit more busy with the booth. Nearly the entire team showed up! Christine, Julia, Mia, Kerry, Linda, Todd, and Editor Tim came down and helped with the booth. Pierre flew in from Montreal for the weekend, and Cameraman Tim drove down for a day to hang out as well. I gave three seminars (Turks & Caicos, St. Vincent, Galapagos) during the day, as well as presented David and the Goliath Groupers Blue World segment (from season 3) in the evening film festival. (This webisode will be released here on the website next month).
For everyone who came out to the booth, thanks! It was great to see you! We are already looking forward to next year.
Photo Gallery: The Blue World Team at BTS 2012
Bull Sharks in the Riviera Maya
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Monday, January 30, 2012.
A couple years ago I met Jorge Loria, owner of Phantom Divers in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. He told me about an amazing dive he had been doing with Bull sharks, and I really wanted to do a Blue World segment about it. Bull sharks look like your basic reef shark, but they grow considerably larger, and are often considered quite a bit more feisty. Bull sharks enjoy a rather bad reputation as the shark involved in the most documented attacks on people, but this is probably more because of where they live (shallow water near people) than their demeanor. I wanted to find out what these sharks are like in the wild.
I planned a trip down to meet the sharks in January of 2011 with Todd and Mia, but only a week before we planned to arrive, fishermen went out to Jorge’s secret spot and caught all the sharks. When the crew and I arrived (see blog post here) there were absolutely no sharks left. We used our time in the Riviera Maya to produce two wonderful segments about cenote diving (to be posted soon on the Blue World website in the coming months as part of the season 3 releases) but we never did see any Bull sharks in spite of a couple dives in search of them.
In November, Jorge dropped me a line to let me know that the Bull sharks...Continue Reading »
Photo Gallery: Bull Sharks in the Riviera Maya
Maldives Expedition for Season 4!
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Tuesday, October 04, 2011.
We have just returned from the Maldives, having shot another awesome segment for season 4. But it wasn’t the easiest segment we ever shot. It all started a couple years ago when Hanifaru Bay in the Maldives became the newest “must see” destination with the discovery of dozens of manta rays feeding in an area about the size of a football field. Because this is a fairly remote spot, the best way to visit Hanifaru Bay is by live-aboard boat. So I chartered the 20-passenger Maldives Aggressor for a trip booked around the strongest tides in September, the time at which several experts agreed that the manta action should happen.
Since Jonathan Bird's Blue World doesn’t have the budget to charter an entire boat like this ourselves, we sold the rest of the spots to diving friends who wanted to join the expedition. So Julia Cichowski (acting as both camerawoman and field producer) and I set out with 18 friends on a journey to the other end of the world. My good friend Carl Bodenstein would help out with additional underwater camera work. He has since demanded to be known as “Cameraman Carl” which has a nice ring to it. (We call him “Caaaaaaaaaarl” in our best Boston accents.)
Our flight took us from Boston to Washington DC to Doha...Continue Reading »
Photo Gallery: Maldives Expedition for Season 4!
The Blue World Team Heads to Bonaire!
Posted by Jonathan Bird on Monday, August 15, 2011.
I have been diving for almost 25 years now, so it’s rare for a dive trip to completely change my perceptions of the sport. But this past week on Bonaire, two different events did just that. (Click any image to enlarge)
Our film crew for this expedition consisted of me, Mia Peluso (production manager), Tim Howe (normally one of our editors but this time getting his first shot at being the topside cinematographer) and Pierre Séguin (underwater cinematographer). Pierre flew in from Miami while the rest of us came from Boston. We arrived at the invitation of Buddy Dive, and the Tourism Corporation Bonaire to film and participate in two extraordinary events hosted every year on Bonaire.
The first event is a freediving event sponsored by Buddy Dive, featuring the world-renown freediver Karol Meyer. Karol is a Brazilian freediving legend who has set more records than you can imagine. She teaches freediving seminars, a freediving certification class, and gives instruction to her students in the open water. My goal was to take her class and become a dolphin—or at least improve my pitiful freediving skills.
The other event is for the 6th Bonaire-Be A Diver-Wounded Warrior Scuba Certification trip, held at Captain Don’s Habitat and...Continue Reading »