Claire Corlett

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Great Hammerhead Sharks | JONATHAN BIRD’S BLUE WORLD

Great Hammerhead Sharks | JONATHAN BIRD’S BLUE WORLD

This time on Jonathan Bird’s Blue World,
Jonathan is testing a new camera system—with hammerhead sharks! Hi, I’m Jonathan Bird, and welcome to my
world! Here at Blue World we’re really excited
about a new theatrical project we’re working on and today we’re going to take you behind
the scenes! I’m testing the feasibility of using a special
kind of camera called a RED to shoot a film for fulldome theaters, which are theaters
with a hemispherical screen that make the audience feel immersed in the subject. A good place for a test is nice clear water,
so I have come down to West Palm Beach to board the Dolphin Dream, one of my favorite
dive boats, run by one of my favorite captains—Captain Scotty. Cameraman Todd has joined me and we also invited
my friend Mauricio Handler, a cameraman for National Geographic who has volunteered to
give us an introduction to the RED and let me learn on his camera system. We depart from the dock and make our way across
the Gulf stream to the Bahamas. The wind is strong, making the crossing pretty rough,
but it will be worth it when we get there. We’re hoping to test the camera with some
big sharks—Great Hammerheads! I’ve seen a lot of Scalloped hammerheads
in places like Cocos Island and the Galapagos, but I’ve never seen a Great Hammerhead. Once we reach the Bahamas and get anchored,
the crew starts the process of chumming for sharks. Until they arrive, we keep busy by doing some
test shots on the boat. Mauricio gives me a run-down on the underwater
housing and we discuss the special fisheye lens I have to use to shoot for fulldome theaters.
It produces a rounded, distorted image in the frame, which actually looks straight again
when it’s projected on the dome-shaped movie screen. It’s pretty weird. Hopefully all this chum will bring in the
Hammerheads! I suit up to have a look down below and see
if any sharks are showing up for the party. Mauricio and Todd film me suiting up with
the fisheye lens to see how it will look on the dome screen. My first act when I get into the water is
to shake the chum box a little and get that chum scent going! Down on the bottom, divemaster Sonny Hughes
is chumming too, so we have chum hanging off the boat and more chum on the bottom. If this
doesn’t get sharks, I don’t know what will! So far all we have are some fish and a big
remora! We decide to do a little exploring. The sea
floor here is just flat sand as far as we can see, but sometimes the sand holds surprises. I spot a seafan overgrown with seaweed and
fuzzy, stinging hydroids—like an oasis in the sandy desert sea floor. And wouldn’t
you know it, there’s a little octopus hiding at the base. There aren’t many places to
hide out here on the sand, and this little octopus is doing the best it can! Sometimes an octopus will get curious about
the warmth of a human hand and come out to investigate, but I think this one is just
too shy. Moving on, we eventually come across a pile
of junk. It’s an old boat and a golf cart tossed into a heap. The local fishermen create
these little artificial reefs out in the sand because they attract fish. It really does
work as you can see. In addition to lots of snapper and grunts, a few lionfish are hanging
around too. The artificial reef is cool, but its time
to go check on the shark situation. They’re still chumming, and waiting. But things are looking up. A big nurse shark
has come in. With its large entourage of remoras, the nurse shark works up the courage to come
in close and snap up a delicious piece of fish. Then, out in the hazy distance, a sharky shape!
And it’s approaching! A Great Hammerhead! It circles around the bait box, looking for
tasty treats. Great Hammerheads are notoriously shy, but this one managed to overcome its
fear for a snack. Seeing it up close, I now understand why they’re
called “Great”. These sharks are much bigger than I imagined. They make scalloped
hammerheads look like juveniles. The hammer, otherwise known as the cephalofoil,
is an arm’s length wide. And the dorsal fin is nearly as tall. Great indeed! Soon I realize that there is more than one
animal. Both are large females and this one has a bright yellow acoustic tag on it, likely
from the nearby Bimini Field research station. She gulps down the bait. The chum in the water makes the sharks bold.
I don’t get the impression that these sharks are curious or interested in us. I also don’t
feel that they are acting aggressively. They smell fish and they want some, and that’s
it. Great Hammerheads have a fierce reputation—for
being shy. They are just not a species that is likely to bite a swimmer or a diver. It’s
not just rare to see one in the wild, it’s actually pretty rare to even be able to get
them close with bait. The only reason it works here in the Bahamas at this particular spot
is because researchers have been doing it for years. The sharks are used to it and they
have come to trust that divers mean them no harm. Fortunately, I get lots of practice with the
RED camera because the sharks keep making passes. The fisheye lens makes the sharks
look further from the lens than they really are. In fact the sharks are coming within
inches of the lens! I’m very much enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime
chance to see Great Hammerheads up close, so you can imagine my sadness as the light
begins to fade in the late afternoon. The images get darker and we need our lights. Eventually we get low on air and have to head
back to the boat. But knowing there are sharks down below is a great motivator. Todd, Mauricio
and I power through dinner so we can try a night dive with the sharks! I leave the fisheye
lens behind and grab my normal video camera for this dive. We won’t stray far from the boat. Sonny
is once again chumming on the bottom. So far it has only attracted a few fish. But we know
those big sharks are out there somewhere in the dark, just beyond our sight. Which is
kind of spooky when you think about it. Again, with no notice, one of the Hammerheads
comes out of the distance. Her keen sense of smell tells her we have fish and she wants
some. But when she gets close to our bright lights blinding her, she gets a little nervous
and bolts away into the darkness. Eventually she works up the nerve to come
back in and tolerates our lights on her search for food. At times she hugs the bottom, swaying her
head back and forth like a metal detector, probably trying to pick up a whiff of fish
on the sand. Finally she finds a piece of bait, but she
has a hard time eating it. Most dive operators use fish leftovers from fishermen as bait.
There isn’t much meat on it and the bones get tangled in the shark’s teeth—so it’s
actually really hard to eat. I spend an hour with the Hammerheads and then
its back to the boat. I’ll sleep well tonight. Our expedition to the Bahamas to film sharks
was a huge success. Not only did we see some amazing Great Hammerheads, but we used the
experience to learn how to shoot with the RED camera and the fisheye lens for fulldome. Practice with the hammerheads and subsequent
screening in a fulldome theater showed me how to compose images for the dome. Four months later, we used those skills and
started production on our first fulldome film in collaboration with NASA. We filmed at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston,
where astronauts practice spacewalking. Then we followed the astronauts to Aquarius Reef
base and filmed a NEEMO mission on the sea floor, testing equipment and techniques for
exploring asteroids. Space School was released in January of 2015.
It’s about how astronauts train underwater for life and work in space. You can see it
at your local planetarium or fulldome theater! It’s the closest experience to diving without
actually getting wet!

100 comments on “Great Hammerhead Sharks | JONATHAN BIRD’S BLUE WORLD

  1. Awesome job Jonathan and Blue World Team! My son and I have watched your videos over our saturday breakfasts for years, and are excited to see this Fulldome movie! The Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland would love it!

  2. hey guys I know everyone has their bucket list for your show but I've never really seen you mention jellies so I guess I should remind you about them… hey there's a lake in Palau where jellies don't even sting so I guess it's a nice place for filming but u can't scuba dive… snorkel or freedive a bit but not too deep cuz of hydrogen sulfide if I'm not mistaken

  3. Jonathan my cousin is about to go to the philapines and she is going to swim with baby whale sharks 😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😮😊😀

  4. Jonathan with all due respect, Great Hammerheads are known to be potentially dangerous because of their size, how did you go about safely approaching them without getting bitten?

  5. My 6-year old son is obsessed with Jonathan Bird (has been since he was 3!). Does anyone know if J Bird does any events or trips for families, where kids can participate? I think my kid's head would explode if he met Jonathan Bird.

  6. hi im holly and im 8 years old and i think you are the best youtuber ever and my brother loves your channle do you think we can meet you

  7. I love sharks! Because, they are nice and beautiful creatures. ♡ So your channel desirable! This channel is a perfect channel.Thanks sir! I so happy!

  8. Awesome video of an extremely intelligent animal. They didn't show any signs of aggression at all, even with chum all around.

  9. Are you wearing a BCD with that Double hose reg. ? It almost looks like a back inflator, but with small wings on the side. Just curious. 😉

  10. That metal detector behavior is actually a really close analogy. All sharks have organs in their noses that let them detect electromagnetic fields emitted by all living organisms. An animal can mask its presence, even its scent by burying itself in the sand. But it can't mask its electromagnetic field. All sharks have this organ that senses electricity, called ampullae of Lorenzini, but hammerhead sharks have much larger heads, meaning much more space for more ampullae and a much wider distribution of them. They can sense the weakest electric signals with a clarity that no other animal can hold a candle to, and it uses this to find animals that would otherwise be perfectly safe hiding in the sand, such as stingrays: their favorite prey. Not only do these ampullae let them find hidden prey, but it lets them find live prey, which is preferable to the remains of dead prey. If you were making a sandwich, you'd want only the freshest bologna, right? This is why if you put out chum and also hid a plate in the sand that could generate an electric charge, the hammerhead wouldn't give a second thought to the chum and go straight for the plate.

  11. Do you know if it’s safe (and legal) to go diving with only one person other than yourself and nobody on the boat above you?

  12. Me Myself Didn't Know! That" ? "A Man" (Would Travel) That Far Just To :Test His: " Camera System!" ….Do? "Earthly Men?" Really Do. These Things? [°Not° Fore°A°Test..]

    Travelingly. Fore A Test.,

    That Is {Opt~Served!}

    Done: By, Donald!

  13. That was so great to see! Although I still think you all are nuts for going down there, especially at night haha The ocean is my worst fear.. probably because it's so foreign and mysterious to me. How fortunate there are fearless people out there to help me see these amazing creatures. Cheers!

  14. Searching for the vid where the hammerhead boops the camera!!! Nope, not it, but a good one!!! Moral of the story: Hammy doesn't like fish bones…

  15. Man this channel is the best i have been watching for 3 years and your channel has changed my feelings and also how i see the ocean and you have inspired me to dive and get in the ocean. Keep up the good work.

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