Exploring Iceland’s spectacular underwater sights on snorkel

When a last minute opportunity arises to revisit some of natures most unspoilt destinations for an underwater film shoot, it’s almost impossible to say no. Last weekend we took a whirlwind tour of Iceland to join the team from Beautiful Destinations (named one of the World’s Most Innovative Companies in 2017) as they document the story of ice freediver Kiki Bosch.

At this time of year Iceland experiences 24 hours of daylight, which turns out to be a blessing when your plan is to film several unique locations around Iceland’s iconic ring road in  just three days.

Þingvellir national park 

The journey started with an early morning shoot at Þingvellir national park where Kiki braved the 2 degree glacial melt water in just a swimsuit. Earlier this year a video we shot of Kiki in at this location which reached over 20 million people around the world. The purpose of this latest shoot was for the team to document that this type of dive is no easy feat.

While the original clip demonstrated Kiki’s calm composure while free diving in this crisp ice water, the story extends much further beyond a simple act of courage and spontaneity. These kind of shoots require careful planning and safety measures. Kiki must be both mentally and physically prepared. She has built up a tolerance to the cold and through her training to become a Wim Hof Method instructor, she has thoroughly researched both the risks and benefits of cold exposure.

Dryrobe Iceland

Warning: NEVER practice the Wim Hof Method breathing exercises before Freediving. It is extremely dangerous, click here to learn more about why.

Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon

Our next beautiful destination lies 370km East of the country’s capital. It may be hard to believe, but the lagoon is a relatively new phenomenon. Glaciers fluctuate in size due to prevailing global weather patterns and by the late 19th century, the massive Vatnajökull glacier was one of the largest in the world. As temperatures gradually increased, the glacier retreated and one of the many by-products of this movement was the creation of a large lagoon during the 1930s.

The lagoon itself is one of the deepest lakes in Iceland, more than 300m deep, and is full of chunky icebergs floating around the waters after having been calved from the glacier itself. Kiki had a shot in mind of sitting on an iceberg in the middle of this lagoon.

Thanks to the expert guidance of our skipper, we managed to get up close to a recently flipped iceberg. Since it had recently overturned, the locals explained that it was unlikely to break or flip again. The underside of this icy lump was simply spectacular and the perfect backdrop for Kiki’s shoot.

NOTE: Swimming around icebergs can be very risky. This shoot was conducted under the guidance of experienced locals and should not be attempted.

After Kiki’s shoot, we met up with some of Iceland’s local Wim Hof enthusiasts. On our last visit we interviewed a number of locals who explained to us a wide range of benefits to their practice. While many would consider a swim in freezing cold water a crazy act of self punishment, for many of these guys and girls it is quite the opposite.

Humpback whales near Akureyri

The following day we made a dash up North to take advantage of the annual aggregation of Humpback whales near Iceland’s second largest city, Akureyri. Just a short drive out of town we met up with Erlendur Bogason who owns and runs Strytan Divecenter. Erlendur kindly offered to take us out into Skjálfandi Bay where he explained that humpback whales come each winter to feed.

Erlendur is one of Iceland’s diving legends and has over 25 years of diving experience in this country. In 1997 he discovered the worlds largest geothermal underwater chimney which is home to a diverse range of unique marine life. Since it’s discovery. Erlendur helped make this area Iceland’s first underwater protected area in 2001.

As we spoke about our filming objectives, Erlendur explained that the wind was strong and conditions would be challenging. On the positive side, from the dive centre’s hot tub we could see breaching whales and dolphins not far offshore.

Iceland

While in many places around the world snorkelling with whales is Illegal, in Iceland no such restrictions apply. Some would argue that these interactions may cause disturbances to the whales but Erlendur disagreed and believes that the loud vibrations from some of the larger whale watching tour boats in the area had a far greater impact on the feeding whales.

Kiki Bosch Iceland

“Twenty years ago we used to drive straight up to the whales and try and jump in, but they would just swim off. Over the year’s we’ve learned that if we stop the boat, they are more likely to swim up to us. They come back here each year because they know it’s a safe place, and we’re seeing more and more each year.”

Erlendur has even made friends with one particular whale which he can recognise by the markings on it’s tail fin. He explained that he always looks out for this whale because it is more curious than the others, and will often take three breaths at the surface near the boat.

Before we knew it we were out on the water and literally surrounded by whales. However with high winds and rough seas we knew this was going to be challenging. Kiki once again opted to dive without a wetsuit and while the water was warmer (about 8 degrees C), the wind chill was a big factor we had to consider. Luckily Kiki had her Dryrobe to keep her warm while we waited for the perfect opportunity to jump in.

Kiki Bosch Iceland

On many occasions it was very tempting to jump in but Erlendur gave us strict instructions to only jump when he deemed it appropriate. We reluctantly waited – snorkel in mouth, for his call. Timing was crucial because these whales only remain at the surface for a shot time. After a few jumps with no luck, we finally found ourselves face to face with a roughly 14m, 30 tonne ocean giant.

This experience was something that we will never forget and we can’t thank Erlendur enough for making this dream come true. The whales stay in the bay for many weeks over the summer so if you’re interested in snorkelling with whales in Iceland he is your man to get in touch with.  We will be back ourselves in early August and have our fingers crossed for some better conditions.

Sage Iceland

Camera giveaway!

We finished off the weekend’s filming back at Þingvellir national park to trial out a new Action camera by Apeman. The company gave us a 4K camera to try out and we are even giving one away. If you’d like to win one, just share this video with a comment on where you would like to do some underwater filming?

We will be diving in The Arctic in August!

With no dive centres, Greenland is not an easy place to organise things like SCUBA cylinders. Through our network we have managed to get in touch with a guy in a town called Sisimiut who will be able to help us out.

Earlier this week we announced a proposal for our plans to film in The Arctic this August. Thanks to your support we’ve already reached our first goal of $250! We will be able to hire tanks and weights for this trip, two essential pieces of equipment that we are unable to bring along. I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thankyou to everyone who has contributed so far.

Yesterday we also Skyped with the skipper of the sailing boat we will be joining in Greenland. Right now he is in Virginia and he plan on leaving later this month with a small crew to make the journey North. He seemed very determined to get the boat up there and explained to us that once he reached Nuuk (capital of Greenland), he is happy to be flexible with his plans.

We explained our desires to reach Disko Bay as per our proposal and he liked the idea but explained that that a lot will depend on the wind. Other members of the crew who will be joining the expedition have expressed a great deal of interest in visiting local Indigenous communities in Greenland. We are excited at the possibilities of this trip and appreciate all of you guys who are helping make this happen.

Our next goal through Patreon will enable us to take along solar chargers for our electronic equipment. We recently found out that the ship we will be boarding was stuck by lightning and will need some electrical work. Since we rely heavily on electricity to charge our camera batteries etc. we want to make sure that we are not put in a situation that we are unable to film.

We have looked at some affordable high quality solar chargers that will mean guaranteed charging (we will have almost 24h/day of sunlight). This will also mean in our downtime we will be able to use our laptops to edit footage as we go, giving us the opportunity to release videos within a short timeframe of events unfolding on this expedition.

To learn more about our expedition, click the link below. By contributing $1 or more, you will gain access to a special private feed of our progress in the build up and during this expedition. We look forward to sharing this exciting experience with you.

Filming proposal for Arctic expedition

We have been offered a unique opportunity to film in The Arctic this August.

3 members of the Ocean Imaging team plan on joining a small sailing vessel in the Arctic this August to:

  1. Produce educational videos for secondary school students relating to climate change, sustainability, marine biology and ecology, including the livelihood of local communities.
  2. Document the story of Ice freediver Kiki Bosch on her journey to becoming a Wim Hof Method Instructor.
  3. Research and communicate local environmental stories including collecting baseline data on marine habitats affected by climate change, and stories around fish stocks, food webs, whales and other marine life.

Background:

Stefan Andrews a marine biologist and science teacher from Australia. He is a specialist fish surveyor, scientific diver and underwater videographer. He has been producing, filming and editing for Ocean Imaging for over five years and is currently teaching Key Stage 3 and 4 science in the UK.

Kingsley Griffin is a marine ecologist, scientific diver and videographer conducting scientific research at UNSW in Sydney, Australia. Kingsley has experience working on a wide range of human impact projects, and has a passion for communicating new scientific research. In his own studies Kingsley has developed methods for rapidly mapping marine environments in difficult to access areas. The outcomes can help non-scientists and environmental managers better-understand the effect of neglecting critical issues like pollution, overfishing, and climatic change.

Kiki Bosch is a Dutch nutritionist, biohacker and daredevil. After three years of studying psychology, she realized that she was looking for a more holistic approach to the mind, body, and its connection. This led her to study nutrition, with a focus plant-based living, and to learn about different strategies used to control the mind and stay healthy. A recent video of her freediving in glacial water in Iceland has gained her worldwide recognition.

Proposal details:

We have been networking with local scientists and propose to help communicate Arctic research to a wide variety of audiences. We will board a sailing vessel this August in Kangerlussuaq and head North to visit Disko Bay stopping at coastal villages along the way. August is the peak of whale season in this area and we will be likely to come into close contact with a variety of species of whales including Humpback, Minke and Fin Whales 

Kiki is training training to become a Wim Hof Method Instructor. Within her journey, she aims to motivate other people to disturb the comfort in their everyday lives and motivate them to experience the great benefits the cold can have on mind and body. On this particular trip, we plan on filming Kiki freediving near the Ilulissat Icefjord. This is one of the few places that the Greenland Ice Cap flows out to sea on the West coast. The Ilulissat Icefjord is filled with icebergs that calve from Sermeq Kujalleq, the fastest moving glacier in the world (40 meters daily). This fjord is increasingly in the spotlight and is sometime referred to as the ‘climate change ground zero’.

Underwater, Greenland is a place of dramatic change both between seasons and with ongoing ocean warming. We have made contact with a range of scientific and environmental groups in Greenland, to ensure that the information we collect will be of broad use for the future. We will meet with environmentalists and researchers working in Greenland to discuss some of the issues which threaten wildlife in the area, and the challenges of conducting research in such an extreme place. Whilst on the expedition, we will measure variables such as water temperature, salinity, and turbidity; and collect samples for later analysis of marine microbes (by Indigo V Expeditions), microplastics (with Dr. Mark Browne, UNSW), and seabed plants and animals (Kingsley Griffin) using a small robot (supplied by OpenROV). We will film the collection of these samples, and stories to promote scientific understanding of the influence of humans on this sensitive environment.

Patreon is a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter but it works on a monthly basis and smaller amounts. You can support us for as little as $1, get billed at the end of the month and you can pull out whenever you like. To help us get the most out of this opportunity, we will be stoked if you could help support us for even one or two months in the lead up to our expedition to the Arctic. 

Earlier this week launched our Patreon page. Thanks to your support we’ve already reached our first goal of $250! We will be able to hire tanks and weights for this trip. I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thankyou to everyone who has contributed so far.

If we reach our next goal through Patreon,  we will be able to take along solar chargers for our electronic equipment. We rely on electricity to charge our camera batteries etc. and only have a limited number of spares. As you can see above we have a lot of filming objectives for this trip and with a little extra help we will be able to really make this happen!

Become a Patron!

Kiki’s story

This week our video of Kiki Bosch freediving in 2 degree glacial water in Iceland has reached millions. If you enjoyed the video I encourage you to turn on audio and have a listen to her story. Kiki has been training for cold exposure and believes that by disturbing the comfort in our everyday lives we can reconnect to our senses and nature.

 

Kiki’s dream is to freedive in the Arctic. This August we have been offered a unique opportunity to join a sailing vessel in The Arctic. During this two week expedition we want to continue filming Kiki’s journey, produce educational videos and communicate scientific research. But we need your help to make this happen. If you want to support Kiki and Ocean Imaging please click here visit out Patreon.

During our filming we have been astounded by the number of people that have been helped by the cold. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of cold exposure and experience the beauty of Iceland, Kiki will be running a workshop in Iceland in October.

How cephalopods see colour

Researchers from the UC Berkeley and Harvard University propose “colourblind” cephalopods may be able to see colour after all!

The father and son team Alexander and Christopher Stubbs, suggest octopus and cuttlefish use their large, wide pupils to accentuate the refraction of different wavelengths of light. They may be able to sense colour by bringing certain wavelengths into focus on the retina.

Click here to see the full journal paper.