16 June, 2008

Oh What a Show !!!

I took part in Celebrate the Sea 2008 in Manila (Philippines) over 13-15 June. Probably one of the most inspiring events I ever took part in. Celebrate the Sea 2008 wasn’t only a festival of underwater imagery, most of all it was a very strong statement for preserving the treasures of the sea and, as a result, preserving our own existence!

To provide an idea of the weight this event carried it should suffice to say that in consultation with the organizers, President Gloria Arroyo of the Philippines proclaimed that, from here on end, the second Saturday of June be celebrated as “CELEBRATE THE SEA” day in the Philippines. This is a very powerful statement, the first of its kind made by a head of state, ever. One that it is sincerely hoped many other world leaders will imitate! As my good friend Patrick mentioned in a recent e-mail: “To me, this is most certainly more significant than say, Ronald Reagan’s proclamation of “Ice Cream day”…

The event was a combination of underwater photography contests with some stunning images and documentaries, presentations by some of the leading under-water heroes (explores, sports men, photographers, researchers….. you name it!!) and forums lead by the same.

As hoped one of the main subjects revolved around saving the sharks. Apart from a drawing competition on the subject with fantastic and very meaningful pictures drawn by kids from various parts of Asia, one of the highlights was the presentation of extracts of the 1971 blockbuster documentary / movie “Blue Water White Death” by Stan Waterman himself whom was part of the filming crew and whom grew into an underwater cinematography and exploration legend over the past decades. While the movie itself was shot at a time when the Hollywood film industry was keen to portray sharks as voracious man-eating creatures and in many regards the movie probably served that sensationalistic purpose, it should be noted that it was during the filming of this movie that Stan Waterman and the rest of the filming crew made, for that time, an extremely daring decision by deciding to step out of the shark cages in order to get better pictures of these majestic predators in the open waters of South Africa. Something anyone at that time would have deemed as utterly suicidal!! It was a first and with no little significance as, as Stan Waterman put it, apart from being like stepping into an elevator and falling into the open shaft, for the first time ever it became clear that as mighty predatorial as sharks may be they do not necessarily pose a threat to humans save in very specific circumstances which should be easily avoided. Cinematography on the subject has made tremendous progress over the past nearly four decades! Just compare “Blue Water White Death” by Peter Gimbel with “Shark Waters” by Rob Stewart! However, true understanding of sharks and their peril by the masses is still lagging behind.

The gala dinner on 14th June was a real blast and featured a full scale fashion show with the entire collection inspired by creatures of the sea while Frederic Buyle, 5-times free dive world champion now become shark tagger and photographer, ran free diving demonstrations in the oceanarium tank as a backdrop (Stunning!!!...the backdrop, the clothes and, of course, the models!).

It was an honor for me to be able to attend the event and meet people like Scott Tuason, Michael Aw, Leandro Blanco, Mathieu Meur and Lynn Funkhouser just to name a few. An event not to be missed next year! I know I won’t!!


Sandy said...

What does the statement mean? Anybody can make a statement, ice-cream or not. What positive ACTION will be taken to protect the marine environment?

Frog Man said...

Do you believe in taking a first step in the right direction? At least there is now a platform on which NGOs and individuals can build upon or use as leverage to push that government to follow up on their committment. There is too much skepticism around and perhaps that too is standing in the wy of change.