Friday, December 31, 2010

The crew is growing as we head back to the Gulf on Monday

Well let's welcome more of the "Film Crew" as we head out on phase II of Mike deGruy's "Science of the Spill!" On board we have Mimi deGruy, Co-Producer, Matt Levitz-Editor, Mike Braniger-Sound, Stephen Posner-Grip, Tissa Loehr-PA, R&D Michael Hanrahan all joining in this month as we head back to the Gulf of Mexico.  Seems to me one of the main requirements is that your name is MIKE!!! Pretty funny as we now have 4 out of 7 of us whose name are MIKE or MICHAEL! I'd say it's a good omen...Just ripping seats out of SUV's and stuffing our cars with gear as we start the next 3 1/2 weeks of shooting. Kind a hoping we have our wrap party in KAUAI!! Signing off for now with lots lots more to come from the road!...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

WHOI's Ken Kostel and DIVE & DISCOVER Website for our Kids

Ken Kostel
Well I had the honor and pleasure of meeting WHOI's Photographer and editor of their website "DIVE & DISCOVER" Ken Kostel on the December 2010 trip we took on board Atlantis in the Gulf of Mexico.

This site is an incredible resource for classrooms to participate in each expedition made by WHOI vessels such as the Atlantis. Ken's detailed interviews, stories & scientific data are all accompanied with great photos and videos to provide a stimulating multimedia portal into the world of Marine biology.

Be sure to check it out!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Getting ready for driving the Gulf of Mexico coastline

Well the thought of driving from Santa Barbara all the way along the Gulf of Mexico coastline to Clearwater Florida is both daunting and intriguing at the same time. Why are we driving? Well we want to get the best coverage possible and flying from point to point just won't accomplish that quite as intimately as being there and seeing it all from the ground.

So what do we need to do to prepare for such a journey? A portable refrigerator would sure be nice along with a second floor living accomodations. Living accomodations on a car? For 3 people? Is that possible... Believe it or not solutions like this exist! Ok what about a shower? Bathroom...whoah ok slow down, next thing you'll be doing is asking for the Kitchen sink!

Here's a better question can we do this ALL GREEN, Eco friendly...I think so! So we'll be looking at solutions and your suggestions for our film crew's long road trip to bring this compelling documentary to you at home! Send us your comments on this one, we really need your advice!

hmmm what about a solar shower?

Cape Cod Times article on our trip aboard ATLANTIS

Courtesy of WHOI
 One of the scientists we were privileged to work with, Tim Shanks, played a key role in the investigation of the ocean floor. Here's an article that sums up pretty well what we did and what we found. That picture you see in the article is a frame grab from Mike deGruys footage as you can clearly see an HMI light in the left manipulator hand of Alvin.  We came up with a better light configuration for Alvin and this shot clearly demonstrates the added capability we achieved for lighting the subjects deep under the sea.

Tim Shanks inside ALVIN DSV. 
Photo H.Rabin
For a little more on Tim Shanks discovery that helped change the way we view deep sea life forever, check out his audio interview with WGBH host Mindy Todd right here!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Staying safe in contaminated waters

Well we are definitely concerned about our health when we set off in January diving and filming in and around Oil Rigs, river mouths, estuaries, remote barrier islands and other places that may be harboring oil and dispersants. So precautions and research are underway to insure we stay healthy.

So most important on our list will be our choice of diving gear that will help to isolate us from these caustic substances. Scubapro is at the top of our list when it comes to innovative and dependable gear. Their new semi drysuits are a bridge between the conventional drysuit and wetsuit. We will be working closely with them to test these new materials and make sure we create an isolation layer between ourselves and any oil or dispersants we may encounter.

 The Scubapro Novascotia 6.5 semi-dry suits are not like any wetsuit we have ever seen before! The traditional bulky hard to put on and hard to maneuver in is the typical drysuit that we have been accustomed to over the years. As for head gear well looks like Scubapro has that covered too. Used by the military and commercial divers their full faced mask will keep us safe from contaminated waters.

As soon as we get this all dialed in we will take a close look at the gear we put together to keep us out of harms way right here on the blog.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The submarine briefing

Ok so I actually got to go inside Alvin several times in preparation for my dive. On my last visit inside I received a full briefing from one of Alvin's pilots Dave!

Now Dave actually spent 5 years with the Navy and in submarines! As soon as he got out he was immediately attracted to the idea of diving in the Alvin DSV so off he went to Woodshole Oceanographic Institute to get his training and become a member of the elite Alvin team.

Dave covered emergency procedures in the event of a fire or complete loss of power. He also went over Radio procedures and the T Bar. The T bar is the last resort and believe me your in for one heck of a ride if you have to resort to it. What it does is to basically release the almost seven foot diameter Titanium sphere from the frame of Alvin. You the begin your ascent and it can be like the inside of a washing machine as it tumbles on your way up to the surface! Unfortunately I missed out going down with Alvin but Mike deGruy went down twice!

However I have been promised that when the new Alvin is ready about 1 1/2 years from now I will be heading down inside it with a WHOI scientist named Tim Shanks.  I'm counting the days for that adventure!

Next post we'll talk with Mike and get his take on the Alvinn dives he took down to the bottom in search of the oil from the DEEPWATER Horizon spill!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

GRAND Isle not so Grand anymore

Well there will be a lot more information coming over the next 30 days regarding our 10 days aboard the Atlantis but need to wait for the show to air before we can release the stories along with the images. I can tell you that we worked 20 hour days for almost 20 days to get the unique footage and perspective of what it's like to be aboard one of the leading research vessels in the world along with leading scientists amidst a crisis of incalculable proportion. 205 million gallons of OIL!Where it is and it's impact will be revealed here and only here in first hand never seen before footage very soon.

So this brings me to my 2 day trip to Grand Isle to talk to some of the locals and get their viewpoint and insight to the mess at hand.

From Wikipedia:
Grand Isle is a town in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, located on a barrier island of the same name in the Gulf of Mexico. The island is at the mouth of Barataria Bay where it meets the gulf. As of the 2000 census, the town population was 1,541; during summers, the population has increased to over 20,000. Grand Isle is part of the New Orleans–Metairie–Kenner Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Grand Isle's only land connection to the mainland is via an automobile causeway bridge, near the west end of the island, which connects it to southern Lafourche Parish, Louisiana. To reach the rest of Jefferson Parish by roadway, one has to travel through two different parishes (Lafourche and St. Charles) through a total distance of about 95 miles (153 km).

 I drove past many fishing docks and quaint little communities with the ocean usually in view from either side of the roadway. So why Grand Isle? Well mainly because it was pretty much ground zero for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill! Most of that crude that got away on top headed right for Grand Isle and hit with a vengeance.  Many of the long time residents of this beautiful community are outraged over what happened. Eight months after the spill, oil is still hitting it's coastline with the high tide like clock work every single night.

Mike deGruy is working now editing the documentary and as soon as it's done we will post information here so you can see and hear the incredible stories that unfolded in the brief time we were there. Keep an eye on on this blog for a release date.

More to come I just need a couple days to re-cooperate!       : >)  ZZzzzzzzz

Monday, December 13, 2010

ALVIN makes its LAST DIVE tomorrow before retiring

Well seems like the good old satellite internet has just been to slow up until now for me to post from the Gulf. Glad to be back! We've seen 12-20ft swells over the last 2 days as the wind kicked up to over 40 knots! I'll be posting that footage as soon as we get back to port in Gulfport MS. That should be on Wednesday now as we extended the trip one more day to get ALVIN one last dive. That dive will be with Chuck Fischer and Mike deGruy. This will be ALVINs LAST DIVE after over 50 years.

SENTRY is an amazing AUV because it literally acts as a scout before each ALVIN dive. The data from SENTRY provides an accurate underwater road map for ALVIN to follow and is an essential element to the success of each dive made.

OK a little on the weather...WOW! Watching waves crest above the horizon is quite a sight and getting swamped while filming TWICE was exhilarating and COLD! We have passed many oil platforms that are humongous in size and it's amazing that they can be out here in such weather and still be functioning. They are basically SHIPS at sea that do not move...
An interesting fact is that they do move several meters and when drilling at these great depths the pipe actually can bend or flex no problem, we hope!

Well I have to get back to filming, more later!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

ATLANTIS is underway with ALVIN and SENTRY ready to go!

Well we're out to sea and have been zig-zagging our way past the incredible amount of oil rigs/platforms out here in the channel. The SENTRY was tested last night and they had all 4 propellers spinning away on deck! What a sight!!  Sentry will launch, or fly as they say, early tonite and will act as an advanced unmanned scout for the track Alvin will take when it launches in tomorrow morning. Mike deGruy will be on board for that first dive.

Can't upload pictures or video yet because we share the satellite bandwidth not only with everyone on board but actually with all ships who share the one available channel on the satellite up there orbiting planet Earth! More on that later...

We have a new BLOG editor coming onboard as well, yep someone who's a great writer...Of course that will be Neal Rabin... Signing off for now.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Paid a Visit to the Atlantis and Alvin yesterday with ABC news on board. We leave tomorrow...

Hey everyone well you can imagine we've been running around here in Mobile, AL in preparation for boarding the Atlantis tomorrow! I'm actually taking a quick break and then I have to finish up packing the computer gear! Check it out!  Yesterday we spent the entire day in Gulfport on the Atlantis. We were met by Samantha "Mandy" Joye and did a great interview with her focusing on her experiences in the ALVIN over the last 30 days. You'll see this in the documentary but I can tell you this much "THERE's OIL DOWN THERE," lots of it!
We spent some time in the Science lab with Mandy and then had the opportunity to work with Matt and Erin from ABC news and helped them crunch some video they needed to get out for Nightline.  We heard some of you saw that report so let us know how it looked! We didn't get to see it...Anyhow back to packing!
Got up close with "ALVIN" and you can see that here too. Please send questions and comments and we will try to respond to them ASAP. This is a wonderful scientific expedition and your all invited to come along with Mike deGruy and me...see ya!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Scientists gather at the annual BAYS & BAYOUS Symposium

We're here in Mobile, AL. and spent our first day meeting many of the leading scientists in the Gulf area. There was plenty to learn about the effects of the oil spill in this region and many stories were shared. One interesting story was that of Kerry St Pe who gave an incredibly informative talk on the condition of the wetlands and how they have been in a steady decline over the last several decades. The wetlands play a vital role in the ecosystem and specifically in recovery from catastrophic events such as Hurricanes and pollution. The amazing thing is how resilient they are when left alone vs. digging up the shoreline and removing flora and fauna and sand that may be contaminated with pollutants. Of course the most recent threat to the wetlands has been the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The remedy quite surprisingly enough appears to be to "Just leave them alone." Also amazing to us Kerry St. Pe did believe that using dispersants was actually a good thing. Read more about the wetlands here.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The modern world we live in...Greetings from 35,000 miles high in the sky over Texas

So I'm sitting here on an American Airlines flight headed to Gulfport, MS and posting on the plane from my iPad. It's pretty incredible how far technology can soar in some areas and yet fail in other situations. Take for example the Gulf, a catastrophic failure of technology onboard the DEEPWATER Horizon...There is more information surfacing everyday and maybe some of you out there have your own theories based on the current data available, of course, on the INTERNET. Now if only they could apply some of that great technology out there to cleaning up the oil. We will look into that matter as well. For now 50 year old technology needs to get modernized!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Phase II on LAND Jan 2nd - Feb. 4th

OK so here's the plan for Phase II of "Deepwater Rising." We return to the Gulf and cover it by rugged Range Rover for one month to finish episodes 2-6. More to come...gotta finish packing as we leave at the crack of dawn for Gulfport. Next post will be from the GULF!

Schools on Board via CYBERSPACE

Well at the suggestion from the Academic community we will be responding to children all over the country with any questions they may have relating to the oil spill. We will try to field as many posts as possible and re-direct your questions to the incredible scientific community aboard the Atlantis. I guess we'll need a BELL! School aboard will be in session beginning Dec 6th!

 So to all of you students out there lets see what questions you can come up with...Like hmmm where's all that oil now? Oil is a natural substance can't nature deal with it? What's PLANKTON?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Alvin's last dives during our stay aboard Atlantis after 56 years of service !

The next generation Alvin RHOV
  OK so the word is there will be 6 dives in the Deep Sea Vehicle (DSV) ALVIN on our trip which begins Dec. 5th. We will board in Gulfport, MS and spend the next 8 days in and around the area of the sunken Deepwater Horizon. What we hope to find and what we actually do find will unfold right here on this blog. This is a history making event for two reasons. Number one it is the first series of manned dives into this area that begin this week. Number two it will be the last voyage of the "OLD" Alvin after 50 years of service. It will be re-built with a new sphere that has more windows and will hopefully achieve even greater depths than it's current record dive of over 14,764 feet (4,500 meters). Read here to discover more about ALVIN

  Mike and I will spend each evening going through the 6 hours worth of film that will be shot during each DSV dive. As new discoveries are made you will be right here with us as we log our findings and display some images as well. We will participate in 2-3 of the dives along with noted Penn State University scientist Chuck Fischer.

 Right now we really expect to find oil on the bottom. Things we do not want to find are majestic cetaceans such as Sperm whales or Whale Sharks who may have fallen victim to the oil on the surface. It's also possible that they may also have been the victims of contaminated prey that live in the Deep Scattering Layer (DSL) see diagram below

 Mother Jones article excerpt: "Some early observations of the effects of the Gulf catastrophe suggest the daily vertical migrations of the animals of the deep scattering layer may be blocked when they encounter plumes of oil and contaminants. If so, then trapped below a plume, the DSL fish and invertebrates would be unable to access their prey. Trapped above, they would be unable to escape their predators. Trapped within, they would probably die—and in their deaths, poison those who eat them. For the ocean, any loss of productivity in the deep scattering layer would be the biggest cataclysm of all—impoverishing the surface waters, depleting the coasts, cascading across the boundaries between ocean and land to denude both natural and human economies." ...

So we shall see very shortly...

For more info on Deep Sea Machines click here

Mike deGruy heads out first to speak at Bays & Bayous Symposium

The Alabama-Mississippi Bays & Bayous Symposium is a bi-annual event held alternately in Mississippi and Alabama to provide an opportunity for the community to learn about the state of our coastal environment. This symposium brings together a broad array of scientists, resource managers, local industry representatives and policy makers from throughout the southeast to promote information exchange and networking related to coastal issues that impact long-term sustainability.

The focus for the 2010 Symposium is Science, Industry, Community: Building Bridges to Coastal Health. Our goal is to make a concerted effort to bring scientists together with local industry and community groups to better educate about the status of our understanding about the Northern Gulf coastal ecosystem and processes that alter it; what local industry is implementing to sustain our coastal resources; and how citizens groups are participating in sustaining our coastal resources.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pre Production meeting in Monterey

Well went to Monterey Bay Aquarium and had a visit with a long time friend that I haven't seen in over 30 years, noted cinematographer Chuck Davis! Had a good hang over at his place on the point and got re-acquainted after nearly 3 decades. Last time I saw Chuck we were working on an underwater film segment for Alan Koslowski along with Cousteau cameraman Louis Prezellin in the Cayman Islands.

So why was I up in Monterey? Well I was gathering information regarding camera equipment as well as researching local habitats for a good comparison to what we will be seeing in the Gulf.  Also enlisting more sponsors for our expedition. Checkout the video above that I shot while we were guests at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Checkout that BAITBALL circling the kelp, beautiful!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


On the Wave has been busy working on Feature Film and also documentaries based on  current Environmental issues.  With the incredible amount of innovative products on the market we have been able to produce the highest quality production for probably the lowest production costs we've seen in years.
 We are now working very closely with several leading edge companies by putting their equipment to the test in the field. From blocked off sets to swamp lands, to on board research vessels in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.  You'll see no CHAPMAN Cranes, Fisher Dollies in use in these locations.  Instead you'll see lightweight portable gear that gets us the same look and feel as some of the uber expensive tools of Hollywood.

  DSLRs with their incredible imaging and low light capabilities, accessories like CINE lenses, High power light weight energy efficient batteries, jibs, sliders, data storage like SSD's and more are changing the universe of film making as we know it. And it's all happening at light speed. All of this adds up to a GREENER environment in film development. Minimal lighting, less fuel & vehicles involved and more! Go GREEN!
We will be covering the use of these great tools in the field in all of our behind the scenes videos that will be posted on this blog as soon as we get into Post. So stay tuned and keep following us here, on Facebook and twitter.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Deep Sea Robot added to our Expedition-NIGHT OPS !

Wow sums it up nicely as we have just learned that the new SENTRY DSR will be onboard the Atlantis on our journey to the Gulf. To learn more about it's capabilities click here!

The sentry can stay down for over 20 hours operating on Sonar to avoid collisions with the Ocean floor! A real R2 d2 crusing at depths of over 3.1 Miles !!! It runs on over 1000 Lithium batteries...

The right camera for the right job: Well looks like we're using Canon DSLRs, VideoCams and POV's like Contours HD1080 on our trip. So we've been looking at clever ways to get some backup underwater POV type footage and came across this stuff from Liquid Image and this is really cool stuff indeed! A POV built into a Dive Mask...WIDE HD and the company has generously agreed to donate use for our cause. You can even strap 2 Underwater lights to it for about 9.5 Watts of light. I would say that Mike d. will look mighty photogenic wearing one of these as he's diving with the manatee's when we're down in Florida...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


So today one of our followers, Neal, suggested we post some info on the ALVIN and the Atlantis Research Vessel! So look to the right for some shots and video below of the ALVIN going through a complete teardown.

Checkout the guys bangin on the ALVIN Deep Submersible with 2x4's !!??!....what the heck? Maybe they're chasing a marine iguana?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lenses lenses lenses CINE LENSES !!!

Well with the advent of HDSLR Video comes the search for the holy grail of lenses for our expedition. We need CINE lenses, WIDE ZOOM for underwater but it's like searching for the Holy Grail. DUCLOS, ZEISS, RUBY, HOT ROD to PL or not to PL that is the question. Whether tis nobler to stay the EF course...

We're kind of use to lenses that don't CLICK on your aperture/iris, Focus that moves at least 120 degrees of rotation, good ole CINE STYLE lenses. So we're up for suggestions as we need to accomodate a wide zoom like a 14mm-60mm range EF lens that has Aperture and Focus a la CINE and will fit in a housing.

Then there's this other NAGGING issue with the CANON DSLRs ! The AUTO FOCUS button cannot focus underwater, unstable, unreliable! So basically we have to fix it to shoot from around 3ft to infinity which pretty much kills any decent BOKEH, DOF...have to shoot at 5.6 or higher : > (

Ah good old technical issues they just seem to rear their ugly head up everywhere with every new piece of gear...Anyhow I need to keep surfin the web to get some answers here. All suggestions welcome here.

Spent the day digging out my SCUBA gear

hmmm this gear looks like the way to go
Had my regulator and Octopus rig rebuilt along with a request to replace the Battery on my #1 dive computer in preparation for the Gulf expedition. So for some reason the Dive shop also decides to replace the battery in dive computer #2 which was working fine. Good intentions but now the computer no longer works! Oceanic won't repair it as they no longer support the Datamax Sport! Good old dive gear! Oh well I have a waterproof Abacus : >) lol 

Tomorrow we narrow down the gear we're bringing aboard ATLANTIS...we'll see how that goes, the less the better, good ole run 'n gun!

Still continuing in Pre-Production with "the Film Crew!" This week we've been scheduling interviews with top scientists, conducting camera and lens testing and doing rigorous physical training to prepare for the environments in which we will be filming.

I'll be heading up to Monterey to meet with underwater film experts at Backscatter, Monterey Bay Aquarium and cinematographer Chuck Davis.

We are also getting more sponsors to help match the grant we received from the National Science Foundation (NSF). The additional funding will help make this expedition a safer less hazardous journey for all of us.

Also been scouring through all the gear for the journey so we don't get caught with our proverbial "pants down" on any particular shoot. The wrong screw size on a camera plate can cost you stabilization on an entire shoot! Then you'll get seasick watching our clips! And by the way have you noticed the ridiculous times we've been posting! Yep excitement factor which also yields some anxiety equals odd hours of sleep...

Our team so far :

Mike deGruy-on screen host and re-known Filmmaker

Michael Hanrahan -scientific coordinator, media
locations director.

Harry Rabin-DP on this film.

First trip to Gulfport, Mississippi to board the Atlantis home of the Navy's Alvin Deep submersible begins Dec. stay tuned and we'll start posting photos & video of our exploits pretty soon.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Mike deGruy
We have officially started pre-production on the GULF of Mexico documentary "Science of the Spill. This "Film Crew" documentary lead by Mike deGruy is a 6 part mini-series that follows the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent toxic events involving the oil spill and BP's use of dispersants. It will explore the impact on the Gulf Coast today as well as look at the possible effects 5-10 years from now.

The first leg of our trip will be Dec. 6th aboard the Research Vessel ATLANTIS the home of the ALVIN Deep Submersive. We will take a 6 hour journey over 5000 feet down to the vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon wreck to film the impact onsea life in deep water. This will be a historic voyage as it will be the first MANNED journey and the last expedition for ALVIN!

In January we begin the next leg of our 3-4 week trek driving along the entire Gulf coast shooting the remaining 5 episodes involving habitats with leading scientists to discuss current and long term effects of this disaster.
Completing the JACK BLACK feature film EPK...

Well we've been wrapping up the new feature film "Bernie" EPK, DVD Content and some B Roll which we're shooting in and around Austin, Texas. The film stars Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey and Shirley Maclaine. It is being directed by a fantastic guy, Richard Linklater and Produced by Ginger Sledge!

Some of Richard Linklaters other films worth seeing: School of Rock, Orson Wells and Me, Fast Food Nation and many more!

OK It's official BERNIE is a wrap. They had the Wrap party in Austin a la KARAOKE craziness with everyone including Jack Black! On to the next project!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Jay Thomas and Mike deGruy

Jay Thomas
  Well the next project in the works will be with TV, Feature Film and Radio personality JAY THOMAS along with Mike deGruy and we'll be headed back to the Gulf.

  This film will take an in-depth look into the lives of those effected by the Deepwater Horizon aftermath through the eyes on their native sons.
  Both Jay and Mike grew up on the Gulf Coast, Jay in Louisiana and Mike in Alabama.  Stay tuned for more information in the coming weeks.
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