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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 temperature either. They were not lasting as long as they should. Time for new batteries. I was warm except for my toes when I got out, but unfortunately, the seals were not playful. They would swim by, about 10 feet away, stare at me, but would not come over and play. I did a quick battery change on the camera, a tank change, and went back into the water for a second dive. The dive lasted 90 minutes. I did something I rarely do, which was call the dive due to being cold. I still had camera battery power and plenty of air (the dive is 10-15 feet deep, a tank lasts a while!) but my toes were so cold, I couldn't feel them! By the time I got to the dive ladder, I had to be careful climbing it because I couldn't tell if my feet were actually on the rungs they were so cold!
Diver Ed whipped us up a great lunch of burgers on the grill and homemade chicken soup. My third dive was only about 45 minutes--it was clear that with the tide going down again, the seals were out of the water for the rest of the day and we weren't going to get anything.
Overall, a very fun, if chilly, day on the water with great friends, but not so productive with the seals. These are the realities of shooting nature footage. For every incredible thing we see and film, we have plenty of days where things don't go as planned or happen as predicted. You just have to try again until you get that magic moment. And so we will try again!