Diving the Ilulissat Icefjord, Greenland

“Let me get this straight. We’re boarding a handmade wooden sailing boat…. in Greenland. Then we will sail up to an area highly concentrated with Icebergs … go scuba diving in sub zero temperatures”Yep, that’s the plan!” Kingsley nodded his head as a huge grin wiped across his face.So there we were, in Kangerlussuaq, waiting for our boat Breskell to arrive. It was coming all the way from Virginia, so the three of us were somewhat nervous. What if the boat doesn’t arrive? There’s nothing here!  With such anticipation of what lay ahead and almost 24h of daylight at this time of year, it was difficult to sleep. Looking back, we really had no idea what to prepare for. We did, however, make the right call in following our intuition.

“There it is!” Kiki announced pointing to the centre of the harbour.

There seemed to be no movement on the deck of Breskell but before long, we spotted a tiny wooden row boat coming towards us. I looked over to Kingsley “getting in and out of the water in that little thing with scuba gear isn’t going to be easy!”. We both shrugged.“We’ll make it work!” we agreed.

Upon boarding the boat we were greeted by our skipper Olivier. Prior to the trip our communication with him was limited to a few emails and Skpye calls. His confidence in the success of the mission through decades of sailing experience was the big reason we felt like we could make this trip work. Within minutes of being on board, Olivier sat us down for a safety briefing.“If you fall overboard, you’ve got about 3 minutes to live.” Olivier explained with a very serious look in his eyes.

“..and it’s going to take more than 3 minutes for me to turn this boat around” he continued. “So if you fall in.. you’re dead”.  He was serious. After all, he was no stranger to the dangers of the sea.

“I lost a boat in the Bahamas” he shared with us later that evening.This was just one of a many compelling sailing stories we would have the privilege of learning about during this trip. As a boat builder at the South West boat school in Florida, Oliver explained that boats are his life. His father built boats, and he had learned everything he knew about sailing and building them from his father. In fact the boat we were sitting on was designed by his father and hand built by himself.“Sailing is part of me. It’s in my genes” he explained. When Oliver was at sea, he was at home. We were now guests in his home and we would play by his rules.

But Kiki had a different perspective on the cold. She could barely contain her excitement dangling one of her hands in the water grinning. Kiki is Dutch freediver who specialises in cold water therapy. She has been training to withstand cold temperatures and has taught her body and mind to deal with these extreme conditions. On this trip her plans were to freedive the sub zero glacial waters of The Ilulissat Icefjord.She explained to us that as soon as you go into cold water your mind just kind of shuts off.

“When you’re in the cold you’re forced to be fully focused on the moment you’re in”. She explained. “The cold has helped me through some tough times in life and taught me a lot”.

“I want to show people that we are capable of things like this. We are capable of so much more than we think” Kiki pleaded with passion.

Oliver looked shocked but intrigued “Now this, is something I have to see!”.We were off. The plan for the trip was to try and make it up to The World Heritage listed Ilulissat Icefjord. The site is one of the few places where the Greenland ice cap reaches the sea. The ice that flows out to sea here comes from the Sermeq Kujalleq glacier. At about 40m per day. the stream of ice flowing from this glacier is one of the fastest in the world.“It is rumoured that the iceberg that sunk The Titanic calved from this glacier” explained Maluk, who spent much of his youth growing up in Greenland.

One of our biggest challenges in preparing for a scuba trip in Greenland is organising scuba tanks. Thankfully we had been put in touch with one of the few people in the country that could help us out, Bo Lings.Bo from Sirius Greenland was based in Sisimiut, the second largest city in Greenland. Home to just over 5,000 people, this “city” was not much more than a small town. We were greeted in the harbour by fishermen who allowed us to pull up alongside. They had recently returned from a fishing trip. The catch was Arctic crab. With fishing exports from Greenland in the past 20 years accounting for 90% of the country’s total exports, these men were part of the majority of the country’s residents which rely heavily on local ocean resources for their livelihood.In addition to supplying us with scuba cylinders, Bo was able to give us some good tips about places to jump in, local marine life, and some of the challenges that we may face. Besides from the cold and breaking ice, one of our biggest challenges was tackling strong currents. This was especially of concern to us because Breskell was never designed as a diving boat, and more importantly the small tender was unlikely to be enough for a rescue if needed.“I think the only way to make this work is for us to be transported one at a time to the drop site” I explained to Oliver. Kingsley pointed to the small island several hundred meters from the boat where we wanted to dive. We waited for the peak of high tide.

The look on Kingsley’s face reflected how I was feeling. Nervous. One of the expedition leaders, Edgar, stood up to the role of driving the tender  and the two took off for the island. Kitted up in my wetsuit, I looked through a pair of binoculars… it seemed as though the plan was actually going to work.Before long, I was at the island too. Moments later we were underwater. We were diving in The Arctic! The site was spectacular. Vibrant, healthy fields of seaweed. Aside from a few curious Greenlandic Cod, fish life though was limited. But at a closer look within the rocky reef, tightly packed beds of small shellfish filtered the nutrient rich water and small macro life hid in the gaps of the reef.With the first dive under our belt, our confidence was soaring. Thankfully all of the equipment was all in order, cameras were functioning well… the dive was a success.

While the kelp beds we had just experienced were impressive, our sights were really set on Disko Bay. In the build up to this trip, visions of the expedition involved glaciers, icebergs and whales but with strong winds continuing late into the afternoon, our skipper didn’t seem to think it would still be an option. “Impossible” exclaimed Oliver over dinner. “We won’t be able to make it up there with these conditions”.

The crew didn’t let these words impact our spirit. Even though we may not be able to make it up to the Ilulissat Icefjord, we may still come into close contact with icebergs.With the prevailing conditions, Oliver explained the importance of having set destinations each day with sheltered places to moor overnight. The next few mornings involved 4am starts, lots of coffee and long shifts at the helm and on watch. Each day the wind grew crisper and the extra layers of clothes we packed, finally became useful. “Iceberg!!!!” A loud call came from up deck. We all raced upstairs. As we sailed closer, the giant white floating structure grew larger and larger. It was massive… and there was more in the distance too.Our captain Olivier told us right from the start of the expedition, Icebergs were a concern. As a wooden hulled boat, a collision would be catastrophic.

After confidently navigating between icebergs for a few days Oliver’s Arctic sailing confidence was soaring. “I am not scared of icebergs no more” explained Olivier. “It’s the growlers we need to watch out for” he rolled off with a distinct French accent.I looked at Kinglsey puzzled “Growlers?”… thinking grizzly / polar bear hybrids or something like that. He shrugged his shoulders. The boat was fitted with a radar that would pick up icebergs on the surface but the smaller partially submerged “growlers” were something we needed to watch carefully for.

The call “growler” became a familiar echo as the icebergs grew more dense. We were getting close to Aasiaat, a small town at Disko Bay’s southern edge. Finally it really felt like the real Arctic experience that we had envisaged. It was beautiful.As we entered the bay of Aasiaat we were greeted by whales. “Humpback’s and Minke’s” Kingsley called! The boat slowed down to a gentle drift. Without hesitation I was in my suit and ready to go, waiting for the whales to come close. The pod frolicked playfully closely as I lay in the water camera in hand, welcoming their presence. I could hear their calls in through the water. At one point I looked down and saw bubbles rising from the depth. They were underneath me! But that was as close as they would come. The whales kept their distance and after some time we returned to the boat.The crew were ecstatic, we had made it to Disko Bay. The plan was a quick stock up of supplies at the store and with just a few days left before we had to fly out, there was still hope to make it up to the Illulisat Iceford.

Between Aasiat and Disko Island there is a small group of islands that we were aiming for that night. This would put us within a day’s sail of Illulisat. We wasted no more time, lifted the ropes and got going. Upon arrival at these islands it was late in the afternoon but there was still plenty of sunlight. With just days left in our expedition, Kingsley and I knew exactly what we wanted to do… another dive!The following morning we rose again at 4am to get going. Excitement, anticipation and… more coffee, helped us push through. By midday, what appeared to be a wall of ice appeared at the horizon. It was the Icefjord!  But none of us knew exactly what to expect ahead.

With Icebergs literally everywhere now making navigation a challenge. A path through the ice was not clear. Earlier that day Olivier explained that we may not be able to reach the town. Not going any further from here may be too dangerous.

But by now Oliver was in full captain mode. Calls of growlers didn’t seem to phase him as much as before. Sounds of small pieces of ice colliding with the bow caused for some uneasy looks within the crew. He had confidence in his boat and was determined to reach the port of Illulisat.  After all, by making it into this port, it would mean another successful expedition, safety and a sense of accomplishment.

Below is the trailer from this expedition by London based film maker Dominic Joyce .

“This is one of the greatest moments of my life” Olivier said quietly as a tear roll down his cheek. We had made it.

With two days before we had to fly out, there was still time for our dream of diving in the presence of an Iceberg. We had confidence in our equipment, boat and captain. There was plenty of ice around. Our biggest uncertainties was within the icebergs themselves and choosing the right spot to jump in. We had been warned about the dangers of ice collapsing and these bergs weren’t something to mess with.We sought advice from a local boat taxi driver. He had years of experience in the area, driving boats around the Icefjord. Never in his time though had he been with people who wanted to get in. While he didn’t feel ecstatic about our plans, we negotiated a plan to get in the water on snorkel. If we could be shown a safe place to jump in and learn where to avoid, we may have a chance to scuba dive here in our last morning before we needed to leave.

Our the driver stopped the boat near some breaching whales, we wasted no time but to jump straight into the water. My dive computer read -2. My face was instantly numb. As I swam towards a humpback tail in the distance, I was already imagining what I would see next. Whales and Icebergs, this is the moment I had been waiting for! As I got closer and closer to the iceberg, it seemed to grown taller and taller. Once I reached the base I looked up and and I felt as though I was at next to a ten story building of ice.Then… something felt wrong. I heard muffled screams and shouting in the distance. As I pulled my dive hood away from my ear, the shouting grew louder. I was being warned to swim away from the iceberg. It was cracking. I was scared!

I frantically swam back to the boat and climbed aboard. My heart was racing but a huge grin came across my face. It was incredible.

Later, we found a safer site to jump in and snorkeled our way along to the base of a smaller berg. Once again the whales stayed too far away to film, but their nearby presence was enough. This was really something special.On returning from our snorkel we began to plan our dive. Oliver agreed that on our way out of the Icefjord the following morning, we could dive the Icebergs.

Our moment had arrived. Breskell was right up next to the Icebergs we were ready to jump in. With echoes of the panicked calls from yesterday’s snorkel racing through my mind, I wasn’t sure if this was a great idea. I also knew that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to do this. We jumped in.

With the iceberg in sight. I nodded at Kinglsey and we started our descent.The structure of the iceberg underwater was completely different to that exposed from the top. Initially the surface looked like ripples like those from a sandy beach but as we continued along the slope, the shapes changed.  Further along, deep vertical carvings were engraved in the icy sheet like claw marks from a giant animal had scratched down the side. The changes in shapes and texture along the ice were mesmerising. My imagination was running wild.The sound of all the ice surrounding us was overwhelming. Cracking, scratching, colliding.

I was worried that the nearby ice would collapse. The depth of this water was over 200m deep, that thought alone was intimidating. We continued along the icy wall, ever so often making a sudden bolt away from the icy edge when the sounds of the ice were especially concerning.Overall we spent about 30 minutes underwater. Upon surfacing we high fived. What an adventure! What an experience!

But we weren’t ready to get out just now. As part of our plans for this trip, we had a wild dream of filming Ice free diver and daredevil Kiki Bosch freedive these waters, in just her swimsuit.

I was already starting to shake. My hands were numb. It was now or never. I called out “let’s do this Kiki!”

Kiki had been training for this moment for months. She was prepared and I had the confidence in her abilities to make this happen. Even still, this is an incredibly dangerous stunt and there’s a lot that could go wrong.I let the air back out of my BCD and waited, several meters deep next to the iceberg. Within a few moments, Kiki was down there. She glided past, and reached out touching the iceberg with one hand. In this moment Kiki was doing something most people would simply rule out as impossible. She is quite literally overcoming the impossible.One of the reasons I love videography is being able to share experiences like this that most people would never have the opportunity to feel in their life. Once people see for themselves that something like this is possible, all of a sudden it becomes possible.

This philosophy also speaks true with climate change. It’s easy to discard something as fake and untrue if you haven’t seen it for yourself. As an underwater videographer I’ve been seen many climate impacts first hand. My mission is to share these with the world.Sometimes I think we really need more people in the world like Kiki Bosch and Olivier who are able to defy the odds and change people’s perspectives into realising that a change in culture starts with you. The first step in changing the world is to change yourself, and if you truly believe that you can actually do something meaningful… then maybe, just maybe it is.

___

This expedition was made possible through non profit organisation Ninth Wave Global. Ninth wave are independent, international organisation and think tank which works in unknown or forgotten territories over the horizon generating space for investigation and positive change in environmental, community and social settings.

Stefan Andrews is 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 working as a Biology teacher in the UK.  

 

Olivier Huin is currently in Greenland preparing for his North West Passage journey this summer. The journey needs a careful physical and mental preparation. If you’re interested in sailing safely in one of the most beautiful place in the world, he encourages you to get in touch. 

This incredible adventure was supported by some generous friends, family and fans who contributed through our Patreon page. We sincerely thank each and every one of you for helping us make the most out of this unique  opportunity:

  • Gerald Caussade
  • Zac Raymond
  • Thomas Wernberg
  • Deike Alberts
  • Ang Lin
  • Jenny and Bill Ferguson
  • Nicki Ara
  • Jo Brown
  • Peter Bergman
  • Victoria Ginnane
  • Divesangha
  • Tom and Lucia Keen
  • Phil and Karen Andrews
  • Gunnar Inge
  • Caroline Brown
  • Natalie Anne

Waterproof 4K drone full Arctic review

In May 2017, Swellpro launched the “World’s first all weather drone” The Splash Drone 3. Boasting a 4K camera and waterproof functionality, this drone was something we had to try out.

The drone is specifically designed to fly and land on or off the water and film both above and below water. Ocean Imaging were among the first to try out this exciting new design and decided to put this drone to the ultimate test…. and take it to the Arctic.

Greenland is an unforgiving environment , so before sailing out to sea, we first experimented with the drone at a nearby glacier. With strong wind conditions the stability of the drone gave a good first impression, holding a steady hover even in gusts. But with highly sensitive controls, maintaining a straight line and performing steady pans was really challenging.

Upon reviewing the footage we noticed that stability issues didn’t end there – something was wrong with the camera. We were experiencing severe distortions in the footage, which we diagnosed as vibration not being absorbed by the gimbal head.  Swellpro advised us to tighten the gimbal screw.  Unfortunately this didn’t solve any of our problems, and with each flight we kept getting the same issue. Eventually we narrowed it down to the gimbal mount itself, which we stabilised using our old faithful – ‘duct tape’ – to build up some extra layers of support.

This is not something we would expect from a drone at a price tag of $1700USD. After building confidence through a number of flights and making some adjustments, we did manage to get some ok shots but our modification to the gimbal still hadn’t completely eliminated the vibration and distortion on all of the footage.

Finally before setting sail we wanted to test out the drone’s low battery procedure. Strangely in the manual, all that’s written is “Drone will commence landing procedure”. What we discovered was that when the drone reaches 14.4 volts, it will start descending where it is, though you can use restricted sideways movements. The explanation in the manual has now been updated to say that the drone will “proceed to auto land at its current location.” But note that there is no warning on the remote – the drone itself has some flashing LED lights, but they won’t be much use if you’re flying in daylight.

We soon learnt to keep a close eye on the voltmeter on the remote control. The volts dropped rapidly from a full charge around 16.6V to 15V within minutes in these cool conditions. We were averaging just 8 minute flights before being restricted to land the drone.

Swellpro assured us that the drone would work well in Arctic conditions. Whilst we had read about GPS deadzones in arctic latitudes we didn’t experience any issues and usually had around 18 satellites for a good GPS fix. In contrast, we knew that the lack of trees or tall buildings should mean a consistent clear path between the drone and remote, but the screen and signal overall on the remote was very disappointing. Even after experimenting with different channel signals, we found the image quality and reliability of the signal poor, and on a couple of occasions the connection to the remote just completely dropped out.

When this happened we had no way of viewing the drones video and we had to pilot the drone back to the boat with just visual sighting or even the return home function.

Another big problem with this drone is the ‘SwellCam” App. It’s difficult to use and once again unreliable, often crashing or taking a long time to load. From here you can change ISO, video format and resolution but once a setting is selected in the app you can’t always be sure that it has translated to a change in the camera. To complicate the issue further, Wifi functionality must be turned off before flying – this means you must set everything and check it twice. Because the remote screen is not of suitable quality to review exposure settings in realtime – at best it was useful for framing – your flight is likely to be wasted and you’ll only find out once your flight is over.

People specifically interested in buying this camera for filming will also be disappointed to find out the “4K” camera only puts out a maximum of 2880 x 2160 pixels at 24fps, there are no manual controls for changing camera settings, the dynamic range is poor and doesn’t perform well at all in low light conditions.

Not to mention the gimbal tilt is off the charts. Calibrating the gimbal takes a little effort and regardless of what we did, the camera will never stay level during pans!

But the main selling point of this drone is of course the fact that it’s waterproof, right? We did land the drone a few times on the water with success and the camera seemed to do a fairly decent job underwater. But just be aware that unlike the splash drone 2, the Splash Drone 3 model cannot right itself if it flips upside down. 

Water drops tended to remain on the lens after the drone had been in the water

As underwater videographers we’re very familiar with the damage that salt water can cause to electrical products and took care to rinse and dry the drone after each flight. But sadly two weeks after returning from filming in the Arctic, the gimbal had seized up and required some force to regain movement.

But strangely enough, the biggest test of my confidence flying this drone didn’t come when I was in the Arctic – but back home.

I wanted to get some more experience landing and taking off from water so I took the drone down to my local flight park which has a small, slowly flowing creek. Moments after rising from the creek, with no apparent warning and without my control, the drone took a sudden dive, crashing into a nearby bush. I initially thought this could be an example of radio interference, but there were no other R/C pilots at the park at that time. I didn’t notice any sign of water inside the drone body after the crash – but as we all know, it takes a surprisingly small amount of liquid to interfere with electronics. Perhaps some of you out there have more experience and could diagnose what happened. Regardless, I couldn’t be confident flying this drone anywhere near people, animals or property, which rules out just about any film job.

We shared all this feedback with Swellpro who offered to repair the drone. After posting the drone for 100 pounds, 2 Weeks later the drone was returned to my address – as it couldn’t be delivered to the address Swellpro gave me.

More emails went back and forth, and a month later we had a new drone from Swellpro. Actually it got delivered to a guy down the road as Swellpro wrote the wrong address, and surprisingly this guy made me go to the local police station to pick it up, The Splash drone saga continues.

This new drone was now equipped with a ‘upgraded’ black version of the camera. With high hopes we continued to test the drone. We wanted this drone to be a success story because it promised everything we wanted in a drone. Stable, 4K filming and waterproof.

While the drone now seemed to fly better than the original version, sadly the camera hadn’t improved. With the orange camera we found that the 2880* resolution produced the best results, Swellpro explained that  “honestly speaking, the current camera performs better at lower resolutions, however, we will release a full 4K camera later”.

I tested the black camera on every video setting possible. The higher frame rates looked average to say the least and sharpness was terrible until I lowered the resolution to 720 pixels which gave the best results.

But before releasing this video, we really wanted to hear what other Swellpro users had to say about their experience with the drone. I mean, maybe it was just us that was having so many problems with the drone?

We surveyed 20 owners of either the Swellpro 3 Auto or Swellpro 3 Fishermen versions. 16 of which were flyers of the Auto with an average of around 15 flights experience with the drone.

Several people’s claimed that people would need extensive experience to properly handle this drone in the air. We found out that we were not the only ones experiencing problems.

Based on our experience and 20 other users, the top 6 reasons not to buy this drone are:

Unreliability. Ultimately the unit is unreliable, regularly dropping signal and connection mid flight. Here’s a some footage of my most recent flight with the drone where it just cut out at 200m away line of sight for about a minute before regaining signal.Poor camera quality. Compared to the Phantom 4 for example, this drone’s camera doesn’t put out high enough quality footage for professional use.

Failsafes. The craft will only return home if the signal goes, not if the battery is at a low level. There is no way for it to return to the controller which is essential for a drone like this that you will most likely would use from a boat and over the sea.

Battery life. Even in warmer conditions, it’s a struggle to get a flight longer than 15 minutes with this drone with most flights being cut closer to ten minutes.

Usability. Changing settings is difficult to say the least. SwellPro app is terrible, unreliable and cumbersome.

Durability. I do credit that we took the drone to Greenland which is a pretty harsh environment, but a seizing up gimbal after just two weeks of use is not a promising sign. Out of the 20 surveyors, people have spent an average of extra ($US) on their drone.

While the thought of a waterproof drone sounds very appealing, this product really performed poorly, especially compared to other similar priced competitors. While being waterproof is a great feature, it’s completely undermined by inconsistent performance and poor image quality. While for now I’d recommend avoiding the Splash Drone 3, rumours are there is a Splash Drone 4 around the corner, or even waterproof models from some of the bigger names – we shall wait and see.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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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?

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.