Luckily, we have a plethora of cameras at our disposal, so while the repair work is being done on the cable dolly we are busy with trap cameras and remote-controlled cameras as well as using the starlight and thermal cameras in a more conventional way.
The trap cameras have given us some great results, and we've seen a huge variety of animals,agoutis are particularly star-struck and spend a lot of time in front of the cameras but the puma pictured here likes to strut her stuff in front of the lens too.
... then disaster struck.
After two nights of everything working smoothly, night cameras gliding above the forest on the cables, maybe we relaxed a little.
At 4am this morning the night crew came back to base needing help to rescue the starlight camera, the electronics had ceased working and the whole camera/dolly caboodle were stuck in a tree at the far end of the cable. We had to get to it and turn it off before dawn or the intensifiers would be damaged.
The turning off was achieved but untangling the mess of wires and machinery was a whole other business involving 6 hours. The pieces have been brought back for fixing and a post-mortem.
Temperatures are climbing, the forest is drying out and the leaves are falling from the trees giving us a clear view down to the forest floor. Finally we have got the camera operating on the cable dolly
Here is Jim Campbell-Spickler, a rope and climbing specialist from California, checking our cables before the launch.
Our electronics problems have been partially due to overheating. Today, the amazing Howard Bourne* cannibalised some redundant computers that he found in the Santa Rosa National Park Offices (they really didn't need them any more did they? - ed) and re-installing the ex-computer fans in the camera casing.
*Howard is powered by pineapple, he ate his way through 10 while solving the fan problem
The good news is that Justine Evans has arrived* she has been out setting camera traps with the jaguar researcher Luis Fonseca Lopez who is working in the National Park.
The less good news is that we are encountering a lot of problems. Initially it was mainly mechanical problems with the remote-controlled cameras that we were working to overcome, but then catastrophe struck; you may remember that two crews came out in January and February to stretch a pair of cables high over the forest canopy so we could send dollies along them. It is very windy in the park and we had not accounted for the amount of loosening that would happening. Two days ago one of our cables collapsed and then the other one followed suit. We have spent the last two days pulling the cables back up and reinforcing our systems.
Despite the fact that filming has been hindered we have still got some very exciting footage of pumas and some extremely charming shots of tapirs.
We're hoping to send the overhead cameras out for a proper run tonight - cross your fingers for us please!
*camera woman par excellence.
This is Ammonite's 6th project in the Santa Rosa National Park of Costa Rica. Our first visit here was in 1994.
Today Santa Rosa celebrates 40 years of existence, the park was established on the same date as a battle fought in 1856 - an epic battle that lasted all of fifteen minutes when troops of filibusters sent by William Walker, were surprised and repelled by the strength and bravery of the Tico troops. The historic value of this battle led directly to the establishment of Santa Rosa as a protected area.
Today's celebrations included two bands, lots of schoolchildren, dancing, speeches, some great music and a historical re-enactment of the famous battle.
* William Walker had at this point set himself up as President of Nicaragua, conducted fraudulent elections and launched Americanization programs which involved making every one speak English and reinstating slavery. Follow this link for more on this charming man
As usual the Ammonite crew is located in sumptuous accommodation;
Our luxury kitchen benefits from flow-thru air conditioning and a resident teasmaid - this one even has an en suite bathroom
All rooms are multi-functional, here is a combined sleep/work space - this lucky occupant has a free room mate included in his special deal*
* snoring room mates an optional extra, please ask the sales team for availability
Laundry facilities provided in every room
Earlier in the year a crew were in Costa Rica rigging up cables over the forest canopy. At one end of the cables we have built a sort of tree house, an operations centre where we will control the remote cameras that will zip along these cables.
Crews will be working shifts in this tree house which will be full of monitors, computers - and our specially made detection devices. Before they start we have to kit it out with a worktop and chairs so they can make themselves comfy for the duration.
This is harder than one might imagine, furniture is quite expensive in Costa Rica, there are no secondhand stores near us and what furniture is available is not ideally suited to being hauled up through a gap in the floor.
We are going to make what we need ourselves, the photo shows Nick loading his atv with timber ready to assemble his workstation in situ.
We are in Belize filming bioluminescent marine creatures. The bit of Belize where we are doing this is an hour’s bumpy ride on a boat from Dangriga to South Water Caye, an island which measures about the size of a cruise ship. The lodge where we are staying and working is also a marine biology study centre. Professor Jim Morin is working with us and has set up a laboratory there so we can film the work that he is doing with bioluminescent animals.
One especially astonishing creature that he is studying is a bioluminescent Ostracod, an animal the size of a sesame seed which has the capacity to set itself ablaze in blue light in order to attract a girlfriend.
Every night after a full moon an extraordinary spectacle takes place; one night Jim took us to the marine mating grounds where we waited in the boat until sunset, then we slipped into the water and waited for the light show.
The beautiful prelude to ostracod action is the dance of the female marine worms who rise to the water’s surface spraying out their eggs in a mass of green light attracting hundreds of males who rush over to fertilise them, the water fizzes with action, it's like watching hundreds of tiny catherine wheels going off all over the water.
Ten minutes after the worms have got going, the ostracods start swimming upwards, slowly at first, we just see the odd line of vertical lights coming up among the corals and seaweeds, moving gently in the current. Each male ostracod gives off four dots to signal their presence to any females who might be around, then the lights become more and more until the water is pulsating with wavy lines of vertical blue dots all moving upwards.
Just when the water seems already full of light, the horizontal swimmers start, their trails of blue light spots fan out laterally, soon the ocean becomes an intense trippy matrix, it's mesmerising. Finally the lights fade away and we come up out of the water to make our way home, the night sky is indigo and massed with stars, we sit quietly in the boat on the way home because we can’t quite believe what we saw.
If you click on the Facebook button on the right you'll find an album of photos from Belize.