Ever wanted to glimpse the seldom seen underwater world of the kelp forest without getting wet? Now you can follow intrepid park rangers on a virtual swim as they broadcast live from the protected waters surrounding southern California’s Channel Islands.
A ranger wearing a special microphone-equipped dive mask descends into the kelp forest off Anacapa Island, 14 miles offshore from Ventura, Calif. Animated and knowledgeable, they pursue predators and prey as underwater photographer captures each moment.
Watching a diver handling a swell shark and hearing her chat, in real time, about why its tummy is bloated like a balloon affords immediacy and intimacy you just don’t get from splashy TV programs or IMAX presentations.
You can’t help but get a thrill when the camera catches a glimpse of bright orange as it pans across the waving kelp fronds, and you and the ranger both realize at the same moment that you’re seeing a male Garibaldi, California’s state marine fish. When she notices the splotch of red in the algae behind the fish, she explains that those are his eggs, and his aggressive lunges at the camera are his warning to move away.
Adding even more spontaneity to the experience, the ranger is equipped with a bone phone so she can take questions from eager audiences back on the mainland: How can you hear us underwater? Are you cold? Why do people cut the fins off of sharks?
Now is a great time to catch Channel Islands Live Dive as they celebrate World Oceans Day, June 8. Special broadcasts are scheduled for the following times:
These Live Dive broadcasts will be transmitted from underwater to West Coast aquariums from Alaska to southern California. Audiences at these locations will have the rare opportunity to interact with park scuba divers in real time.
The rest of us can watch and listen in via the Internet. You can also watch dives recorded earlier this week.
Protected kelp forest off Anacapa Island, one of southern California’s five Channel Islands. (Courtesy National Park Service and Ventura County Office of Education)