15 March 1999
Kaikoura, New Zealand

Clyde and Ingrid have asked me to write down a few of my thoughts on the amazing expedition we are on and to give a brief outline of the camera systems we are employing in and on the sub.

In 1975 I graduated from college with a Marine Zoology degree and a burning passion to study on a live coral reef. So I moved to Hawaii and entered graduate school at the Univ. of Hawaii studying cephalopods. While Clyde chose the fast-moving, large-growing, complex and infinitely interesting squid to focus on, I chose the sluggish and by comparison, boring, chambered nautilus. But that's OK, it's still a cephalopod.

After three years, a funny thing happened on the way to the office. Well, actually, several things happened and I had no office. First, I took a job for a year as the resident manager of the Mid Pacific Marine Lab in Enewetak, Marshall Islands, the site of atomic bomb testing 45 years ago. My "year" hiatus from graduate school turned into two and one-half years and forever changed my life. Changed not because I now glow in the dark due to the radiation on the islands, but rather, because a friend of mine and I went "temporarily insane" and with no prior filmmaking background, began to make a film about the chambered nautilus. The filmmaking bug then bit me so hard that the graduate school's doors would never again be darkened by me (as a student anyway). My career as a natural history filmmaker had begun and I have never turned back.

In the last twenty years I have traveled all the continents and dived in most of the world's seas making wildlife films about the great, small, mighty and the weak creatures crawling, hopping, slithering, but mostly swimming, in our world. In this time I have produced two films and shot a third on the magnificent cephalopods and am currently in production on a fourth - an hour on octopus. To say the least, I like cephalopods. Make that I LOVE the cephalopods.

The previous paragraphs are meant to give an appreciation of my reaction many months ago when I was asked to join Clyde, Ingrid and the gang on the "Calamari Safari" as our New Zealand colleagues refer to this Giant Squid Expedition. There are very few places that I dearly want to go that I have not already visited. But there certainly is an animal, a magnificent animal, the inspiration of centuries of myth and legend and literature, that I would give up very much for the chance to see - and this IS my chance - The Giant Squid. I have looked forward to this possibility for probably 25 years and am thrilled to be a part of this effort. I was chosen to be the deep-water cameraman for the expedition and this translates to many dives to over 2000 feet in the DEEP ROVER and a mighty enviable position I assure you. My job and certainly my aim, is to shoot the first footage ever taken of the giant squid and I am taking this as seriously as I have taken anything in my life. In this vein we have designed and brought out a camera package for the little sub that is mighty impressive and I'll outline that camera package now.

We have two cameras inside the submarine and three additional cameras mounted on the outside. The two interior cameras are referred to as the "lipstick cameras", referring to their small size. They more closely resemble the size of a Cuban Cigar. These cameras are mounted at the front and the rear of the sphere of the sub. The front one looks directly at the pilot's face and the rear one is mounted with a very wide angle lens and looks "over the shoulder" of the pilot so that it reveals a little of what the pilot sees as he looks out of the sub.

The cameras on the outside of the sub are a mixed breed with very different potential and characteristics. Our "primary camera" is a very impressive creation by Sony and highly modified by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's advanced imaging department headed by a brilliant man called Bill Lange. We essentially hired Billy's camera (a Sony WS90) for this job and Bill and his team came out and installed it. It is a very advanced digital camera that produces the very best images that currently can be recorded on underwater video underwater. This primary camera is mounted on the port-side manipulator arm so that it can be panned and tilted as the pilot wishes.

We also have a "SIT" camera mounted on the other (starboard) arm of the sub. The SIT produces a relatively low quality black and white image, but it can do this with just a whisper of light. If we determine that the squids don't appreciate our wonderful lights (which I will get to shortly) then we can turn them off and still record an image. The SIT camera is part of Nuytco's submarine package. The third camera on the sub is a relatively common consumer camera (Sony VX 1000) that mounts on the "scorpion tail" of the sub and gives a very nice shot of the submarine and whatever is in front of it. You can imagine what we hope to film with this one!

Except for the scorpion camera which records pictures in its underwater housing, all the video signals from the sub travel up fiber optic cables to the surface where they are viewed on monitors by the scientists and crew aboard KAHAROA as well as being recorded in the ship's lab. This may sound simple, but I can assure you it is not. We have two fiber optic cables attached to a huge tether rope (which took a day and about 10 people to lash together with duct tape) traveling up the 3000 foot tether. Inside these cables are microscopic (well, OK, the thickness of a coarse hair) strands of glass that carry digital (ones and zeros) signals over mile to the surface. At each end are electronic boxes that convert the camera's analog signals to digital signals and then on to transmitters and finally up very fragile connectors to the receivers at the surface, again through converters to change the signals back to recordable pictures, and into the recorders and monitors. Believe me, it took much longer to set this up than it took me to describe it. Fiber optics are great when they work, but getting them to work is a Herculean task - as we have all learned during the many days of installation and checking.

For lighting, Nuytco has provided us with four different lights of two kinds. We have each light individually switched from inside the sub. Two of them are 250 watt Halogen lights that provide a 3200 degrees Kelvin tungsten light (the color of your lamps at home). The other two are provide light for the WS90 camera that really likes a lot of light. They are 400 watt HMI lights that are amazingly efficient, providing the equivalent of 1200 watts of tungsten light each. They are also daylight balanced (5600 degrees Kelvin) so the spectrum of light they provide is perfect for photography.

Clearly a great amount of effort has gone into acquiring the very best images we can and into getting these quality images up to the surface through the complicated and delicate fiber optics cables. Why not just record the pictures in the sub? First, the pilots for this expedition (Clyde and I have never before flown a submarine and we felt we would have plenty to worry about a half a mile down without having to change tapes in three or four video machines! Also, space is very limited in a one-man sub so we did not want to crowd it with any more equipment than we already have. And finally, this way I can have a conversation with Clyde and the gang up on the ship while they are actually looking at the pictures I am filming - as well as looking directly at me in the front-looking pencil cam. Great for television!

And so we are finally ready. All systems are go. Many people from Washington, DC, California, England, New Zealand, Canada and readers of the web site around the world are all hoping and praying for our success in getting to the squid's homeland in the Kaikoura Canyon, filming it for the first time, and safely returning to the surface. There will be a celebration heard 'round the world if we succeed!

 

Michael V. deGruy


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