Bermuda's stunning underwater world

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Remarkable efforts were taken to secure stunning Bermuda underwater cave footage for a four-part mini-series on the Island currently being aired by Discovery Channel Canada.

The behind-the-scenes story of how the documentary segments were put together by the newly launched Bermuda Environmental Alliance (BEA) was revealed at a special presentation attended by scientists, environmental experts and Government ministers last week.

Each of the five-and-a-half-minute mini-documentaries, which highlight the Island's caves, cahows, roof rainwater systems and research into ocean algae biofuels, had its own challenges to overcome.

  • Mesmorising: A Bermuda cave diving team, seen here in the BEA miniseries airing on Discovery Channel Canada, shed light on a hidden world beneath the island.

    Mesmorising: A Bermuda cave diving team, seen here in the BEA miniseries airing on Discovery Channel Canada, shed light on a hidden world beneath the island.

  • Energy from the ocean: The BIOS research vessel Atlantic Explorer, pictured in one of the BEA's miniseries documentaries, which has been involved in gathering information about the possible use of sea algae as a biofuel.

    Energy from the ocean: The BIOS research vessel Atlantic Explorer, pictured in one of the BEA's miniseries documentaries, which has been involved in gathering information about the possible use of sea algae as a biofuel.

  • Birds: Conservation officer Jeremy Madeiros speaks on camera in the BEA miniseries about the successful breeding of cahows on Nonsuch Island.

    Birds: Conservation officer Jeremy Madeiros speaks on camera in the BEA miniseries about the successful breeding of cahows on Nonsuch Island.


Remarkable efforts were taken to secure stunning Bermuda underwater cave footage for a four-part mini-series on the Island currently being aired by Discovery Channel Canada.

The behind-the-scenes story of how the documentary segments were put together by the newly launched Bermuda Environmental Alliance (BEA) was revealed at a special presentation attended by scientists, environmental experts and Government ministers last week.

Each of the five-and-a-half-minute mini-documentaries, which highlight the Island's caves, cahows, roof rainwater systems and research into ocean algae biofuels, had its own challenges to overcome.

When it came to the caves, the cave diving specialists spent ten days practicing for the underwater filming assignment. They strapped air tanks under their arms rather than on their backs in order to squeeze through tiny spaces to capture never-before seen pictures of the Island's mysterious submerged caverns and labyrinths.

At the private screening in Hamilton, divers Gil Nolan, Leon Kemp and Bruce Williams were applauded for their part in the mini-series. Day-after-day the trio rehearsed in the dark waters of the 2,000m long, barely-explored caves around Castle Harbour.

Mr. Nolan explained that it would have been all too easy to stir up sediment on the cave floor and cloud up the water, thereby scuppering any opportunity to capture on high definition film equipment for the first time images of an underwater world filled with mesmerizing geological features and rarely seen critters and plant life. The intriguing discoveries were explained on film by a fourth cave diver, cave scientist Dr. Tom Illiffe.

He said the magnificent formations of stalagmites and stalactites provided evidence the Island was once 400 metres above sea level. Bones of long-gone birds and creatures that lived on the Island before it was settled by man have been uncovered in the submerged caves, while sponges and plant life that cling to the rocks exhibit antibacterial and even anti-cancerous properties. The divers were part of a wide-ranging collaborative effort instigated and directed by the newly formed Bermuda Environmental Alliance that brought together an extensive group of scientists, conservationists, wildlife experts and film technicians to create the mini-series for Discovery Channel Canada. The BEA is guided by former Island TV reporter Sangita Iyer, with backing from a host of leading business executives on the Island. Ms Iyer used last week's event to turn the spotlight on the many others involved in creating the BEA and assisting with the TV segments.

Conservation officer Jeremy Madeiros and Dr. David Wingate featured in the preview about the survival of the cahows on Nonsuch Island, while the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences' Dr. Michael Lomas explained the research being done into the potential of creating a new greener biofuel energy source from sea algae.

The fourth segment focused on Bermuda's centuries-old success in harvesting rainwater through traditional roof designs and underwater storage tanks. The concept of the rainwater catchment on a house-by-house basis particularly caught the imagination of Discovery Channel Canada boss Paul Lewis.

It is planned to distribute the mini-series on DVDs to schools and the BEA's website designed with youth in mind.

The organisation is hoping to further engage the Island's youth with the help of former Miss Teen Bermuda Alexa Lightbourne. She is partnering with the BEA to promote its youth component.

Having been designated an Island youth leader for last year's 400th anniversary celebrations, she said: "I feel that I have some connections that can help encourage the youth to be part of something like this."

Government ministers, business leaders and environment professionals who have seen the resulting work have spoken highly of the mini-series and the objectives of the BEA.

Deputy Premier Paula Cox hopes the five-minute documentaries can be shown as part of the Bermuda reception event at the upcoming RIMS (Risk and Insurance Management Society) conference in Boston.

"I'm impressed. Often we focus on the international business and tourism link. What this signalled to me is that there are many other opportunities in terms of the environment and green technologies," she said.

Premier Ewart Brown sees the potential for attracting greater tourism interest in the Island from Canadian TV audiences. He said: "I am excited by the potential impact of this work by the (Bermuda) Environmental Alliance. "It coincides wonderfully with next month's launch of the WestJet low-cost service from Toronto. I believe that the more we expose Canadians to Bermuda, the more they'll come to visit us in Bermuda."

While Education Minister El James, reacting to the stated intention that the mini-series by distributed to schools, said: "Our children will welcome it. They will get an education from it; it showed me things that I never knew. It is tremendous and I take my hat off to Sangita for having the foresight to do this."

The BEA's extensive list of backers includes HSBC Bermuda, Bacardi, BF&M, the Department of Tourism and Fairmont Hotels Bermuda.

BEA chairman David Ezekiel views the mini-series as the start of many projects. He said: "This is a taste of the many great things that are going to come from the BEA. It will be a banner charity for other causes that can be aired through the BEA."

Ms Iyer said many of Bermuda's conservationists are her heroes and she had often wondered why the work being done here was not featured overseas. She hopes that is now being addressed and that the BEA will continue to give exposure to the Island's conservation endeavours, and added: "Hopefully we can change the way people think about animals and the environment."

Last weekend the BEA, in partnership with race organiser Anthony Raynor, held a 6K walk and run in Hamilton as part of the global Live Earth Run for Water campaign to raise awareness of the scarcity of drinking water around the world.

The BEA has a website at www.bermuda-bea.org.

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