Day 1

After several transfers we arrive in Alaska.  Upon inventory all our suitcases and crates are here intact. We stay at a hotel for two days before embarking on the Nautilus Explorer.  These two days originally scheduled for eventual delays in luggage transfer provide us a chance to meet the Tinglit one of the first Alaskan nations. Weather conditions prohibit aerial shoot. Nathalie almost lost her voice. Lucky for us she is not scheduled to be on screen. After a good night sleep we’ll see what is ahead of us.

Nathalie

 

Day 2

Rain and gloomy skies. Our first meetings with Tinglit artists Teri Rofkar and Charles Skutle JR. Both of them effectively perpetuate the first nations traditions. It takes several hours to obtain necessary permits. We visit the museum , the orthodox cathedral and notice a strong Russian influence throughout the town.

The first ocean liners arrive and, as they say, a can is open , offloading a flow of tourists for a few hours. Then , the streets empty, shops close their doors, and all we hear is the call of crows pierce through the relentless wind.  Bad forecast for the next few days.

Nathalie

 

Day 3

We completed a few fascinating interviews and met our first eagles. I have still no voice and my cough is almost unbearable. My cough worries folks around us. My fatigue has the best of me. Charles fetched a medicinal plant which ends up being quite effective.

We pack our equipment and embark on the Nautilus Explorer tonight.

Here at last! I have wanted to shoot this movie for such a long time. Mike and his crew welcome us with a marvelous service. On the upper deck we have plenty of space to spread our gear: two HD cameras, a 5D MARK II, 4 video lamps, a camera stand… we also travel light. A 10 day cruise requires very careful planning, if we miss anything we’ll play Mac Gyver!

Nathalie

I take this tool everywhere for its almost universal use : a Leatherman! I remember the dive in which we took this picture. One of my hardest ever. A rope hanging from the Nautilus Explorer allowed us to reach a line leading us to the site. The current was at least 3 knots and the photo and video equipment created an even stronger draft. When I arrived in front of these anemones, surprisingly all was calm.

                                                                                                                                  Olivia

 

Day 4

What we had most feared is taking place. The trip has to be modified in order to accommodate for the storm of a decade. A number of spots I meant to document will have to be included in a different project. I had been warned that filming in Alaska presents with many serious challenges as early as the first dive.  I have an opportunity to test the meaning of the term “challenge”.  Mike is a master planner in matter of drifting measurements. In certain spots, the tide gets to 7 or 8 knots. These first two outings are essentially for spotting. We decide to dive using air tanks. We spend one hour tops at the bottom and get one tide in between dives. Under these circumstances, nitrox is of no use and I’d rather habituate my body by diving with air.

Nathalie

Bad weather during a shoot is always a major challenge.  Protecting the equipment such as the aerial camera with its rain cover and not a tank is crucial. For those with no sea legs, if you get sea sick remember to gaze at the horizon - soda drinks can also be of help.

Olivia

 

Day 5

Nights are short. The sun has barely set and it reappears. This is my chance to get up early and in my windbreaker knitcap and gloves ,  I climb on deck with a camera and a tripod just in case.  I quickly spot my landmarks and our positioning. Olivia’s task is to transfer all materials on the hard disks. Only our underwater movie-camera uses tapes, all other equipment takes graphic cards. Olivia uses the laptop and the card reader, getting us data master and backups. Night dive at 9:10 pm.

Nathalie

 

Day 6

Beautiful day and fantastic dive. As we got ready to come back up, we met an octopus at 70 feet deep. It was rather shy and took off. But it was a nice encounter.

Mountains are covered in mist today but a beautiful rainbow surprises us.

Nathalie

 

Day 7

State of California. A different kind of dive today. We had not planned for a deep dive but the wreck of the State of California forced us to modify these plans. A good night sleep with special attention to rehydration. Mike Lever accompanies me as a recycler.  I will dive in open cylinder. V-planner reading at 180 feet. Several backup plans in case I am forced to dive deeper or longer. Main preparation is of a mental order. In warmer waters I can manage my narcosis at 170 feet. Having dived in France and my professional background allow me to manage my narcosis while working. What is new territory for me is to manage in diving deeper and in cooler water.
On this more demanding dive, I highly benefit of Mike’s generosity and professionalism.  My set up includes air tanks, 30% for decompression and the travel mix while a dingy and a line are set for us along with an additional decompression tank just for me.

The dive was fantastic and totally safe. A great set up and a good prep eliminated all stress;  in fact I do not recall feeling narcosis even though I know very well I was narcotic. Dive in total darkness along that shipwreck is a unique experience. Next time I’ll have my recycler!

Nathalie

 

Day 8

The shoot is going well.  A magical day toward the glaciers.  Ice cathedrals are stunning.  Today after shooting the glacier we take a break and a playful blue fresh water “bath” on the icebergs “tubs”.  A unique day which reminds me of the cenotes of Axis Mundi. Our planet is so wonderful. What a luck and a privilege to live these moments. No material wealth can be worth these encounters with nature.  The sun is out today and the blue of the sky rivals that of the ice. A perfect day.

Nathalie

What struck me most was the blue of the iceberg and the calm that reigned there.

Climbing atop the icebergs is also unforgettable.  That is when I most admired seals and similar mammals for their amazing ability to climb such barriers. If one day you have a chance to climb an iceberg with your wetsuit and your fins on,  let me know how that felt !

Olivia

 

Day 9

Off Juneau’s coast, we dive by the Princess Sophia shipwreck . You may recall the Princess on the Love Boat series?  Well the Princess Sophia is to some extent her ancestor . Unfortunately it is also the worst maritime tragedy in western North America.  Currents are rather strong and it is tough to descend with the crate and the rest of the equipment while hanging on to the rope. Once at the bottom you feel relieved because one would not want to have accidentally let go of the rope and drifted away. The dive in the Inner Passage if truly for advanced divers , able to handle securely potentially hazardous situations.

Nathalie

 

Day 10

Finally some whales spoiled us with a show reminiscent of the most beautiful choreographies. Bubble net feeding is a technique whereby they dive and form a wall of bubbles to trap fish and feed. This is also major team work. We spent hours on deck between two dives waiting to spot and film them spy hoping or feed. They did not stand us up…

Nathalie

 

Day 11

Life is full of surprises. Today the dome got hit as we came back on board from our last dive. The waves were so strong that you’d say you’re on a roller coaster.  The dome now has a major scar. Comes with the territory. Good thing we had the 5D MII on this descent and that we were able to finish up the scenes with the Steller sea lions. Sea lions are simply fascinating. Fast and nimble they playfully circle around us, behaving like our seals at Percé. But their size is more impressive.

Nathalie

Steller’s sea lions another unforgettable memory. They are so curious , and if you too are curious , you are in for a very special encounter! This was my second dive among sea lions and I was ready for them “standing on my two fins”, for a few snapshots. I could not see a single one of them, as far as the eye can see, yet,  there was ten or so of them right next to me. Hey what are they doing ? All of sudden I feel someone catch my head, good thing I am wearing a  hood! The sea lion was delicate enough and did not insist further. She “nibbled” at me and I took her picture right after that. Nice exchange!

Olivia

 

 

Day 12

We can feel that the return trip is near! A short stop at Meyer’s Chuck. A small piece of paradise where one wouldn’t mind getting lost. A last dive. We collected almost 25 hours of material on land and underwater.  A stroll through the flora of the island.  Both Olivia and I explore the island, each with a movie-camera in hand.  A must stop at the phone booth and at the post office.

Nathalie

 

Day 13

 

Last interview with Mike before we leave. We pack all our equipment. A detailed checklist of each piece of luggage enables us to repack everything where it belongs. To the ounce every crate is filled to the brim. Back home every bag is accounted for.  One of them may have been thrown about roughly and a few repairs may be in order.  This is inventory time and long weeks of editing will bring this film to life.

Nathalie