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Voyage to Kure: Expedition Diaries

<< Expedition Diaries | About the Islands

Day 30: Expedition Reflections

Paul Atkins
Paul Atkins

[What surprised me about this expedition was] the spirituality we all felt at the top of Mokumanamana. We are all different in our personalities, and we all come from different religious backgrounds, but the feelings we experienced are something you cannot fairly verbalize.

- Paul Atkins, Director of Photography


Nihoa Island

Date: 8/5/03
Location: N23°03.9' W161°54.6'
Weather: Partly cloudy, wind 11 knots'
Sea Conditions: Choppy seas, swells 2-3 feet

On one of the team's final dives, they go underwater at night near the dramatic cliffs and shoreline of Nihoa Island. They are thrilled to see two Hawaiian monk seals, one of which comes right up to Yves and his camera. They also see a few nocturnal hunters, including two varieties of eel -- the banded moray and the mustache conger.

Paul Atkins, Director of Photography:

What surprised you about this expedition?

The spirituality we all felt at the top of Mokumanamana. We are all different in our personalities, and we all come from different religious backgrounds, but the feelings we experienced are something you cannot fairly verbalize.

The film team at work during a night dive in the waters off Nihoa Island. Expedition diver Holly Lohuis appears as a silhouette, as she waits for the cue to enter the camera frame. Photo credit: Tom Ordway
Click to enlarge

What did you want to film/document, but couldn't?

The sequence of tiger sharks preying on albatross chicks at East Island-French Frigate Shoals, because we were a little late in the season to film it. But thanks to the new remote camera at East Island, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration researchers shared with us the last month's footage of attacks. We hope to include in our story the hard work they are doing on a daily basis to better understand the movements of tiger sharks.

The other thing [we didn't get to film] was green sea turtles nesting, laying eggs, and hatchlings making their way to the ocean. Sometimes in the natural history world, you just cannot film what you have hoped.

What did you get to film/document that you didn't think you would have the opportunity to?

We were thrilled with the feeding behavior of the Galapagos sharks and jacks while night diving at Kure Atoll. We filmed them a lot during the day. But to discover and film them feeding on small fish at night was a pleasant surprise. Both sharks and jacks are major characters of the film because they represent the abundance of top predators the NWHI are well-known for, and therefore it was important to film them eating. It was a real stroke of good luck.

What was the magical moment for you?

Filming Holly free-diving with the big school of Galapagos sharks at Maro Reef. Visually, it was beautiful poetry that we were able to capture on film. Rarely are sharks portrayed that way.