A mesmerising display of aquatic acrobatics Print E-mail
Monday, 15 March 2010 00:00

(Source: The Royal Gazette, 15 Mar 2010)

A mesmerising display of aquatic acrobatics

By Amanda Dale

Andrew Stevenson has produced a film about whales entitled 'where the Whales Sing'

'Where the Whales Sing' by Andrew Stevenson (Bermuda, 2010)

Beneath the sea just off this tiny island lies a mesmerising display of aquatic acrobatics.

The participants weigh in at a staggering 40 tonnes, but they are just as graceful as any ballet dancer.

Each Spring residents and visitors to Bermuda have the chance of seeing humpback whales off our shores as they travel north on their annual migration.

You can sometimes see them breaching off the South Shore or get close to them on a boat trip, but most of us will never see their elegant underwater antics.

Until now that is, with the production of a documentary by naturalist and adventurer Andrew Stevenson.

For the past three years, the conservationist has been researching and filming these giants of the deep as they pass by our Island.

Among the questions posed by their annual visit are, why are they here and what are they trying to communicate?

For not only are these mammals graceful dancers of the deep but they have an equally impressive musical prowess.

The song of the male humpback whale can travel hundreds of miles across the ocean, and is as individual as each singer himself.

In the course of his Bermuda Humpback Whale Film and Research Project, Mr. Stevenson discovered many of the whales gather at Challenger Banks to sing.

He believes the cone of the seamount is "a perfect acoustic chamber" and therefore acts as a meeting point for the performers in this underwater opera.

'Where the Whales Sing' features some of the songs of these animal artistes in their natural setting.

The film takes us on a journey of our island home and the other Atlantic destinations of the humpback, as seen through both the eyes of a child and an adult.

The story of these whales is narrated by six-year-old Elsa, the daughter of Mr. Stevenson, and the filmmaker himself.

Elsa likens living in Bermuda to inhabiting a "magic kingdom" at the top of a mountain. We see footage of the Island's coral reefs and their marine inhabitants before descending deeper to the wrecks of ships with a group of scuba divers.

Eventually we are introduced to the lone humpback whale who inspired Mr. Stevenson's quest to discover the mysteries of these giants of the deep.

Perhaps the most mesmerising part of the film, the whale approaches Mr. Stevenson from as little as three feet away and calmly watches him, stretching out his pectoral fins as if trying to communicate.

"It's absolutely brilliant," are the words of someone on the boat as this moving encounter takes hold.

Now known as 'Magical Whale', Elsa and her father become fascinated to discover more about him and journey north to watch humpback whales in their feeding grounds off Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Mr. Stevenson says marine scientists are still in the dark about the migratory lives and mid-ocean behaviour of humpback whales.

Through his research he discovers they could in fact be travelling to Bermuda to dine on the nutrients surrounding the Island's seamounts. Water samples from several boat trips reveal the presence of krill and plankton.

He also suggests mothers and their calves could find the Island a welcome sojourn to rest a while from the rigours of the open ocean and predators such as killer whales.

Mr. Stevenson estimates he spent 600 hours in the water trying to capture footage of the 3-4,000 humpbacks which pass by our Island each year.

The results are stunning.

Besides the beautiful images, the underwater opera and ballet, 'Where the Whales Sing' is also an informative educational tool for the history of whaling and the need for marine conservation.

Copies of 'Where the Whales Sing' are to be distributed to every school and library in Bermuda, but the public can also see the documentary at this month's Bermuda International Film Festival.

Go to www.biff.bm for more details.


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