When marine filmographer Dave Anderson’s drone took a tumble into cold seas, he didn’t even think twice about diving in after it. It was a grave risk, considering that he was all alone and miles from shore. However, he believed the footage captured by the remote-controlled aircraft was worth the risk.
We are extremely lucky to have an ocean. So far, Earth is the only planet found to have one, at least in liquid form. And without our vast body of water, none of us would even be here. Not only did the first life evolve within it, but the seas also provide half of the oxygen we need.
With only 5 percent of its expansive waters explored, most of the ocean remains unknown. “Every time we go off on an expedition,” Fred Gorell, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told Mashable in an October 2014 interview. “We see something new, or something believed to be new.”
In fact, so mysterious are our seas, scientists believe we have only discovered a small minority of the species living beneath the waves. We still have a lot to learn even about the creatures we have found. Fortunately, advances in technology make this ever easier.
To this end, many marine biologists use the webcam as a research tool. They can place these gadgets at strategic spots in the ocean to observe marine life without disturbing the environment being studied. Furthermore, they can even attach cameras directly to aquatic animals, providing astonishing insights into their lives and environments.
The drone is another modern innovation that ocean researchers put to good use. It has many advantages over conventional planes, for instance, that it is much cheaper. A drone can fly in any weather, and because it is smaller and quieter than a plane, it is less likely to disturb sea creatures. Drones are also quicker and can be more easily maneuvered than boats, and operators, rather than pilots, can fly them.
Moreover, scientists aren’t the only people who can capture interesting drone footage. In Dana Point, California, Captain Dave Anderson runs a whale and dolphin watching tour company, called Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safaris. On top of that, he is a photographer, marine conservationist, author and expert on ocean wildlife, who uses drones in educational film making.
In this respect, in early 2014 he managed to film a stunning “stampede” of dolphins along with some migrating grey and humpback whales. The video proved riveting viewing, and so far users have given it more than 14 and a half million views on YouTube.
In the dramatic footage, thousands of dolphins are seen leaping in and out of the water in behavior known as “porpoising.” “This is the most beautiful and compelling five-minute video I have ever put together,” Anderson says in the YouTube clip’s description. “I learned so much about these whales and dolphins from this drone footage that it feels like I have entered a new dimension!”
Notably, the common dolphin is the fastest marine mammal, swimming at up to nearly 40 miles an hour. Porpoising is believed to be an efficient way for the animals to move, since air offers less resistance than water. The behavior is still being studied, however, and may have other purposes we don’t know about yet.
It’s no shock that Anderson’s drone captured footage of dolphins off Dana Point. The NOAA says that the southern California’s seas contain more dolphins than anywhere else on the planet. There can be as many as 10,000 of the animals in a pod, adding up to 400,000 in that area. Not only that, but the waters also host several whale species, including the most blue whales you’ll find in one area.
So it was no surprise Anderson’s footage, filmed off San Clemente, included three gray whales. At that time of year, the animals migrate to Baja California to mate and give birth to their offspring. In summer they are found living in the waters off the Arctic, but when it gets colder they swim south in the most impressive migration for a mammal.