Reports from Aquarius: Mission 31 updates

Matthew Ferraro’s blog from Mission 31-Part 2

And Time Slips Bye….

It is hard to believe that six days have passed since I saturated and the mission has a little over a week remaining. Experienced Aqaunauts will tell you that time seems to pass more quickly down here but until you’ve experienced it yourself it is difficult to really understand what they mean. The last several days I have had excursions on umbilical that have lasted more than five hours with daily totals over nine hours. Laying in wait at a cleaning station or waiting for a blenny to pop its head out of its hole without the worry of how much gas I have left puts my mind in a more meditative state, and I think that is when the time slides by without notice. In some respects it is a relief because when inside the habitat I am backing up footage, making shot lists, fixing gear, charging, and generally running around worrying about being prepared and getting the story. That being said, I am loving it down here and I try not to think too much about the mission ending.

The nearly unlimited duration umbilical diving gives you is a real advantage but filming on umbilical and in a Kirby Morgan Superlite 17b helmet present its own challenge. Though I went to the Santa Barbara City College Marine Technology program and had done some hardhat diving in the past I was not fully prepared for how to shoot without the ability of being neutrally buoyant. Like all underwater video shooters, I rely on the ability to move in the water as crane, dolly, and jib all in one. Some of those moves are still possible on hardhat but the trick is to figure out how to do it. To be honest I am learning on every dive, hopefully I’ll have it all figured out by the time we are done!

(photo credit: Fabien Cousteau)

The team is all still really excited about using the Edgertronic to capture wildlife behavior. Our make shift tripod system bit the dust last night so Ryan LaPete (one of the two techs on the saturation team) and I spent the morning adapting an Xit404 tripod system, loaned to us by Backscatter (among a bunch of other stuff - thank guys, you rock!), to the Edgertronic. Fabien and I will test it out tonight, with fingers and flippers crossed!

Aqaurius Habitat technician Ryan LaPete adapts the Xit404 tripod to the Sexton Edgertronic housing

Our “A” camera for the project is the RED Epic in a Nauticam PL housing. The PL version of the housing was designed for PL mount cinema lenses but the teams at Backscatter and Nauticam USA worked quickly to adapt it to use with our Nikon lenses and manual Optitek mount. I’m not sure but I think we are the only ones who have a set up like ours.

Nauticam PL housing for the RED Epic is staged outside Aqaurius.

We are shooting with the Zeiss 15mm ZF mount lens (a loaner from Ryan at Nauticam USA), the Nikon 10-12, and the Sigma 17-70mm. Each lens has its strengths and weaknesses but I have to say that the Zeiss 15mm is my favorite, it is super sharp behind the nearly 10 inch dome, and easily covers the MX sensor.

More to follow…..

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3