Behind-the-scene notes from National Geographic expeditions

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Video of Mike wrestling with a loggerhead turtle
  Wrestling with
  a Turtle   

Photograph of Heithaus wrestling a loggerhead turtle in the water

Photograph of getting the loggerhead turtle onboard

Photograph of Heithaus attaching the Crittercam to the turtle

Photograph of the loggerhead turtle's head

In depth, exclusive, information about the shot of Tiger Shark filmed in Western Australia
Photograph of shooting by helicopter

Aerial Shots

The topside film crew hired a
Hughes 300 helicopter and pilot for two days of aerial shooting. Helicopter time doesn’t come cheap, so preflight planning is critical. Every plan had a backup plan. Every backup plan had a backup plan. In the final shot the planning paid off, with a shot of scientist Mike Heithaus stalking his subjects.

RealPlayer video:
See footage from the aerial shoot.

Thorny Devils Thorny devil lizard

To illustrate the primordial splendor of the outback, producer Greg Marshall had planned to begin a scene with a shot of a local lizard species, the thorny devil, on a
seaside ledge. He then wanted to pan up to capture scientist Mike Heithaus and crew blasting by in their boat.

The day they arrived, Greg told the crew to keep their eyes open for thorny devils—often found on nice hot roads—for use in the shot. The crew looked for days, but to no avail. Finally, some thorny devils were found, not on an outback road but in the home of a local farmer, who agreed to lend some lizards. The plan seemed simple enough: Just let the thorny devils crawl through the frame. The problem was in the execution.

After the sound recordist yelled “Rolling!” and the cinematographer yelled “Rolling!” and the producer bellowed “Go! Go! Go!” the thorny devils just sat there, still as the surrounding red clay. Stop! “Greg radioed Mike” as he roared by in his boat. This sequence was repeated for the better part of a day. In the end our reluctant stars got screen time in the final film—just not the action shot Greg had hoped for.

Loggerhead Sea Turtles Loggerhead Sea Turtle

Scientist Mike Heithaus was three meters (about three yards) underwater,
struggling to wrestle a huge loggerhead turtle, a tiger shark staple, to the surface for a Crittercam fitting. With the loggerhead biting—clank, clank, clank—into the back of our listing fiberglass boat, Mike fought to get the animal on board. With the stroke of a huge fin, the two were sucked back deep beneath the boat.

Eventually the loggerhead was lashed to the back of the boat, and Mike pulled out two or three packs of chewing gum and began handing out pieces to the crew, saying, “Start chewing. It’s time for some high-tech Crittercam adhesive!”

the camera was mounted, via chewed gum, to the turtle’s shell, Mike gently ran cool seawater over its head. In a moment the loggerhead, the most endangered turtle in Shark Bay, was back in the water, filming for Mike’s study of the Shark Bay ecosystem.

RealPlayer video: See Mike
wrestle a turtle onto a boat.

Lizard and turtle photographs above by Mark Holmes.

© 2000 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved.

Photograph of Marshall planning the helicopter shoot

Photograph of Gerasimenko securing the camera

IPIX 360-degree photograph of the helicopter cockpit
  Helicopter Cockpit   

Photograph from Wayman's helicopter point of view

Photograph of the helicopter and boat

Photograph of the helicopter's approach

Video of the helicopter footage
  Shooting from
  a Helicopter   

Photograph of a thorny devil lizard

Photograph of framing a shot

Photograph of recording a shot

Photograph of Marshall radioing

Photograph of shooting the lizard

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