April 3, 2011

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Marine biologist Sylvia Earle Photo: Kip Evans

Oceanographer Sylvia Earle talks about working on the movieOceans.
BY CLAUDIA ATTICOT

Travel into the deep blue sea where only scientists and oceanographers go! In Disneynature’s Oceans, filmmakers take viewers inside the undersea world of the great white shark and the horse mackerel. Viewers witness the slow march of hundreds of thousands of crabs and get to swim alongside dozens of exotic creatures.

The movie, which was shot at more than 50 different locations, involved two years of planning and four years of filming. Oceanographer Sylvia Earle worked as an advisor on the movie. TFK chatted with Earle about the movie and her thoughts about Earth Day.

TFK: How did you get involved in the movie Oceans?

SYLVIA EARLE: I suppose it was because of my lifetime commitment to exploring and doing everything possible to take care of the ocean. A year ago I made a wish to develop networks of hope spots to basically ignite a public campaign to take care of the oceans. [The producers] said they would like to commit the oceans film to help support that wish, and to convince people that the ocean matters.

TFK: Did the cameramen capture anything that you hadn’t seen in the ocean before?

SYLVIA EARLE: There are creatures in the movie that I had not seen before, as well as events that only a few had witnessed before, such as a gathering of crabs. It looked like the world belonged to crabs. It was stunning. This is something that now can be shared with the world. A handful of lucky scientists and divers have witnessed phenomenon of that sort. But to be able to have anybody tune in and be there as part of the action is a wonderful gift!

TFK: What was your favorite part of working on the movie?

A great white shark swims off the coast of Guadalupe Island, Mexico, in a scene from the new documentary Oceans, Galatee Films

SYLVIA EARLE: I think the most memorable for me was having the [point of view] that is provided there and the pleasure of being able to share with a wide audience something that I have personally experienced during thousands of hours under water. This film takes you there. It condenses in a few minutes—what some of us have spent a lifetime trying to experience with images that lift the viewers beyond where they are into the ocean, to see that the world is basically blue. For me, the greatest pleasure is being able to share what I have experienced in an amazingly effective way.


TFK: How would you describe this movie to kids?

SYLVIA EARLE: Seeing the film is like diving into the sea and not getting wet. What the filmmakers have done here is to take you to a place that they love to go themselves—where I love to go. This film gives you insight into what it’s like to be a fish, or a crab or the other creatures that are there, and it helps you understand what life on Earth is like because most of life on Earth is in the blue part of the planet in the water. Humans are land creatures breathing air, staying dry except when we take a bath or a shower or when we dive into the ocean or a lake or stream. It’s hard to appreciate that there are creatures that live their entire lives underwater and that most of them don’t breathe air. The ocean shapes the way the world works. Even if you’ve never seen the ocean or touched the ocean, this film makes it clear that the ocean touches you with every breath you take and every drop of water you drink, everyone is connected to the sea. You don’t have to think up imaginary creatures that are exotic and wonderful, just look in the ocean.

TFK: How can kids help take care of the ocean?

SYLVIA EARLE: My goal was to ignite a public awareness campaign to inform people about how important the ocean is, and what everyone can do. Kids do have power. They should never ever underestimate the power they can have on their schools and on their parents. Kids can make a difference in the choices they make. Like not eating tuna. They can learn how to go online and be informed and inform their parents and their schools about better choices that can be served in the cafeteria. I urge kids to think about the individual things they can do. Use their special talents to make a difference.

TFK: This movie comes out on Earth Day. Do you have any words of advice for kids who want to get involved?

SYLVIA EARLE: Think blue! Realize that without water there is no life. We need to take care of the waters of the world. There’s a green movement going on that is really important, but unless we take care of the ocean and of the freshwater too, nothing else really matters. All life depends on water. No blue, no green! Every child is an explorer. They should never lose that curiosity, that sense of wonder. All explorers, all scientists are children at heart, they just have never quite grown up. I urge kids to maintain that for their whole lives: Keep that sense of wonder and exploration. Ask questions. Never stop. I really salute the filmmakers for making this movie happen. I hope it will inspire people to think about the world, and to think about the blue part of the planet in different ways.

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