Shark Attack Experiment LIVE


South African company Aquavision recently produced a two hour live broadcast off the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) coast for NatGeo Wild, writes Julie-Anne Reid.

Sunday 20 November 2011 and a crew of nine pile out of a truck at Wilson’s Wharf in Durban and begin to unload equipment on to a 42-foot catamaran called the Spirit of Elan.

At sunset the sailboat sets out round The Bluff in stormy seas. Two metre swells rock the boat and some of the crew are definitely green.

This is a test shoot for a live broadcast to the US on Thanksgiving Day. As the DOP braces himself on deck and lifts the camera, the talent steps into frame: “I’m Mark Thompson; join me for Shark Attack Experiment LIVE.’

The following day the Spirit of Elan is transformed from a leisure cruiser into a floating outside broadcast (OB) studio. The galley is a mixing desk; the portside houses generators and spools of shark proof cable to carry video, underwater communications (comms) and sync to the boat. The stern deck will be a dive platform and studio framed with HMI lights. A platform attached to the mast carries the UHF transmitter, which will send signal seven kilometres to shore.

On 22 November we sail for the Aliwal Shoal. The sky lightens in the east and a Hammerhead Shark swims between the hulls, a good omen. We feast on fresh caught tuna and watch a Humpback Whale breach in greeting.

Eight hours later we arrive at the mooring site which Mark Addison has set for us. The current is strong, but the viz is good. The crew set up to shoot but we encounter some technical difficulties; the light frame is too heavy in these rough seas and we have to remove half for safety. The signal on the transmitter is faulty. We dry run the show anyway as bad weather is coming and the cat must head back to port.

Back at sea on Friday morning, the current is pumping 1.4 knots, but the boat is rigged, the cage is in the water and we have a live feed to land! Soon chumming attracts 20 to 30 Blacktip Sharks off the stern. So excited are the sharks they bite through the cables securing the cage and it is swept away. Affixed to the cage is an LED light ball, luckily this is not damaged and we are able to hang the cage more securely.

Darkness falls, we wait… Eventually 3.30am! Countdown to LIVE! Exhilaration sweeps the boat as two shark attack survivors re-enter the water and come face to face with the creatures they fear. The cameramen fight the current to capture it on film. The scientists do their tests, checking if sharks are attracted to bare skin, shiny objects or repelled by shark blood.

Over the comms the crew is directed by the director, “Line-up MCU camera 2…go to camera 2.’ The producer is swinging boom and the medic is bashing cables, focus is intense and after what seems like a moment, two hours are gone and we are clear! Another first for NatGeo Wild and Aquavision!


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here