Rick Rosenthal Filming For Ammonite

Rick Rosenthal has just gone back to the US, he was with us in the Azores for two weeks and the experience was incredible.

Rick is an oceanographer and a legendary cinematogragrapher. Enthusiasm radiates from him as he talks about the life he has witnessed in the ocean. It is clear that the more he sees the more incredible and mysterious this underwater world is. Ammonite is concerned with filming the natural, uninhibited behaviour of animals and Rick has developed a way of filming that gets closer to marine life than most other people.

Using a motor boat to get far out to sea, Nounou the skipper lets down a microphone on a long underwater cable to listen in to the activity going on all around us, Nounou differentiates between the dolphins and whales and then works out how fast the whales are moving and in which direction. We are looking for large groups of whales including full grown males, these are the ones that will dive deep and swallow massive amounts of whatever is living down there – including quantities of giant squid.

The boat stops a considerable distance from some whales that are close to the ocean’s surface. Rick then lowers an inflatable kayak into the water and paddles over towards the animals, they see the kayak but the approach is quiet and non-threatening and the animal usually stays around, unbothered. When he is very close, if Rick feels that his presence is of no concern, he will get in the water, the animal might choose to swim away but often it simply continues to do whatever it was doing.

The footage from these trips is magical, we’ve seen a lot of whales but we’ve seen plenty of other interesting things too. At one point our producer John Ruthven was scared out of his skin when a large fin sticking out of the water looking remarkably like a large shark came very close to the kayak. On investigation this turned out to be the biggest Mola Mola (ocean sunfish) anybody had ever seen, these are deep sea creatures and comparatively rare. Rick and John got in the water and shot some fantastic footage of the strange animal as it swam around surveying them.

We’ve also discovered quite a lot of debris that has floated up from the depths, the remains of a whale’s dinner that has come to the surface, giving us a tantalising glimpse of what we might find when the Giant Cable is lowered down to 500 metres tonight.

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