Underwater Robot Captures Video of Cold, Deep, Dangerous Waters to Document the Rare Greenland Shark
VideoRay announced today its third mission with Discovery Channel Canada when it plunged into deep Northern Quebec waters in Canada in an attempt to document the elusive Greenland Shark. These exceedingly rare, two to five meter-long cold-water sharks are ordinarily found in water several hundred to 2200 meters deep. But in June 2003, Dr. Chris Harvey-Clark and Jeff Gallant uncovered a unique location where sharks were found in dive-able depths. The pair returned to the site with a VideoRay in August, an 8-pound underwater robot equipped with a video eye that could descend to depths of 500 feet. Here, they would try to document the shark.
“ The combination of extreme depth (60 meters plus) and very cold seawater temperatures (2-6 degrees C) made the follow-up expedition rely heavily on the versatility of the VideoRay to extend our underwater range and bottom time,” said Harvey-Clark. “We were very pleased with the performance of the VideoRay as a research tool.”
According to Harvey-Clark, “the VideoRay is ideally suited for this type of activity because it is small, light, easily deployed, and highly maneuverable.” He used the VideoRay stationed on deep baits set to document Greenland Sharks, instead of sending divers into the cold waters. Harvey-Clark commented on the depth hovering ability that kept the sub in control in current.
For filming the documentary, “The VideoRay gave us two things that would have been difficult to achieve otherwise,” says Harvey-Clark. “First, we can get a “fly on the wall” third party underwater point of view of myself and associate Jeffrey Gallant as we went about the business of underwater research and filming. Perhaps almost as important when you are telling a story to a mixed television audience, the VideoRay became an engaging character itself in the show as the week of filming underwater progressed. The Ray was like a quirky little underwater R2D2 following us around, lighting subjects for us with its headlights, and generally squirting around underwater on an interminable hunt for interesting things to see—sometimes getting up to a little mischief along the way.
“ VideoRay has always performed flawlessly well and given us the eyes we needed underwater in cold, dangerous and inhospitable circumstances,” says Harvey-Clark. “In one memorable sequence Jeff filmed I took a break from filming, set my camera on the bottom and basically just horsed around with the VideoRay for a few minutes, sort of like playing with a puppy. It added an element of fun and comic relief to what was otherwise a very serious quest for a mysterious, possibly dangerous animal.”
In 2000, Discovery Canada used the VideoRay on a production to document salmon sharks in Alaska. Once again, sharks were part of the mission. Harvey recalls, “In that case the stakes were different, because nobody really wanted to get in the water with 10 foot long, stoked up mini-great-whites charging around under the boat at 30 knots shredding salmon.”
In 2001, the pair used a VideoRay to document the search for Skalugsuak, the Greenland shark hunt in the Saguenay River near LaBaie, Quebec. The filming included diving at night under ice in minus 35-degree temperatures.