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Aerial Surveillance over the Palau marine sanctuary was initially proposed in 2013. A series of tests were conducted with various technologies. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles were the first. The high initial cost ruled them out together with unfavorable vessel detection ability.
The Republic of Palau next tested the Sea Dragon system. A military grade combination of radar and gyro stabilized cameras. A twin engine Cessna variant is fitted with the surveillance equipment and used as a complete package with a pilot and trained observer.
During the initial trial, Sea Dragon scored a huge success by finding and documenting fishing vessels transshipping. This is illegal in Palau. It demonstrated the need to continue patrols far off-shore.
The system however had issues. It wasn’t a practical solution for long term surveillance despite it’s initial success. It has however found use in other parts of FSM.
A simple, cheap and reliable solution had to be found.
This is where Pacific Mission Aviation stepped into the ring. Part of their work is providing medevac solutions to the outer atolls of Yap and FSM. For this they need an aircraft with a greater range than a standard single engined Cessna. A twin engine Beechcraft modified Queen Air was chosen due to it’s reliability and long range of over 1000 Nautical miles.
The below film documents actual missions that took place during November of 2017.
In addition you can also check out an earlier behind the scenes post written during the development of this project .
Please check out the website for Pacific Mission Aviation here
The future of surveillance
The conclusion from all these tests is that simplicity is fundamental.
However, as we continuously approach our time horizon, developments occur. I’m talking about the recent U.S plan to install military radar stations in a variety of locations in Palau. One of these installations will be in the SW islands. They aim to give the U.S a better idea about military ship movements in the area. The US and Palau also propose to use this to locate and identify fishing vessels. With this level of tech in place it will probably become impossible to enter Palau’s EEZ undetected. We certainly have an interesting few years ahead of us.
Keep checking back as we continue to document the surveillance efforts over the National Marine Sanctuary.
Fish aren’t traditionally perceived as having personalities, but they’re anything but the dumb automatons that our ancestors would have us believe.
Underwater organisms don’t have the facial musculature that we as primates have evolved. Quite simply they haven’t needed it, therefore they haven’t acquired it through natural selection. However they have been evolving and surviving on this planet for over 500 million years.
And they do communicate to each other.
How do fish sense each other?
In a Darwinian world where survival is paramount, the lateral line has become their first defense and sensory organ. This first level of communicating allows the individual to feel what’s around it. The layer of sensory cells that run along the flanks of most fish, detect the pressure changes in the surrounding environment. This system has evolved to the point where fish react with an almost simultaneous motion to an external stimulus.
How do fish school in such dense numbers without colliding?
Fish have a sensory barrier around them, a kind of bubble that they can perceive. This bubble is squashed as objects or animals move around the individuals perception. They can sense their immediate surroundings in this fashion.
Some fish such as the freshwater knife-fish even generate electric fields. These fields are influenced by their surroundings, especially other animals, and the knife-fish react to that reflection of their own electric field and use it to locate prey.
Sharks have an extremely sensitive network of electroreceptors that can detect the smallest electric fields from other animals.
Vision is also important in the depths of the ocean especially in the upper Euphotic zone (where photosynthesis can occur). Most of the longer, lower energy wavelengths are lost quickly, absorbed by the water column. Red light disappears first, then orange, then yellow… leaving only blue as you descend to the furthest depths of the Photic zone (The depth that light can penetrate through water).
How do fish display their intentions?
Contrast over actual color makes a big difference at depth and aquatic animals can use that to their advantage to display their intentions. Humbolt squid for example can change their entire body from red to white and back like you can flick a light switch. They do this at depths far beyond red light can be seen (200m-700m) so appear in this twilight world as if they are going from black to white like individual morse code signals. What they are saying to each other is beyond our understanding.
Closer to the surface we have fish species that utilize many more frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum including the ultraviolet wavelengths.
On a more day to day scenario, most SCUBA Divers and snorkelers who pay attention will have noticed that some species of reef fish can have drastically different colourations. Take the Big eye crescent tail as an example.
When it’s calm an individual will be a deep red, when stressed it can bleach to a silver. Similarly when fish such as the Big-nose Unicornfish visit cleaning stations they can display complex patterning only for it to fade to black once the fish swims away.
When fish think about sex
During spawning aggregations many fish species undergo drastic color changes that signal their readiness to participate. The bumphead parrotfish are pretty obvious during their aggregation as their heads bleach white from the usual green.
In the Caribbean, Nassau groupers migrate in groups to their annual spawning grounds and are often led by an individual who sports a drastically different body patterning. Once at the spawning site they all adopt an even more extreme color change. For further reading see this article.
Bohar Snappers have a variety of different colorations during their spawning aggregations, sometimes two small white spots appear on their dorsal area, others adopt a bleached blue hue rather than their usual russet red. Others adopt a mixture of the two with a red belly, a white stripe down their flanks and a bluish dorsal area. As I pour over the many spawning rushes I’ve filmed of this species I cannot see any distinguishable pattern in whether a female adopts a certain body color prior to her egg releasing rush. A pattern may emerge after further observations though.
See this clip of a small group interacting in preparation for spawning. The female with the broken dorsal fin is being nudged by a number of males. Maybe this nudging is meant to initiate her egg releasing rush. Maybe it’s the males trying to ascertain if she is ready or not….?
For a really in depth look at this behavior and other similar color changes seen during spawning, Tony Wu has written an excellent series of articles that are well worth a read.
Additional articles and films of Palau’s spawning aggregations can be found here.
Underwater acoustics is not just the tool of marine mammals, many fish are also extremely vocal. Have you ever swum over a reef and heard all the clicking noises? This is a medley of fish and crustaceans each with their own message. Usually the message is “this is my territory, keep out”. Sound is an extremely useful form of communication in the aquatic environment as sound travels much further than light. A fish can remain hidden whilst letting an intruder know that it’s encroaching. Groupers often growl or rumble from within their hiding place. The behavior across a multitude of species was documented here and demonstrates the rich complexity in coral reefs.
Can we talk to fish?
So in conclusion, whilst fish and other aquatic organisms like cephalopods might not be able to convey their intentions through facial cues like we can, they are extremely in tune with and aware of their environment. They are able to send messages that even other species can understand. The fact that we might not be able to understand them is perhaps our failure rather than theirs.
Have you had any interesting interactions with aquatic wildlife? I’ve not begun to get started with the marine mammals here, whole different kettle…..so there’s still a load more to talk about. Feel free to leave a comment in the section below. Do you know the difference between a head nod and a shake in Moray Eels, can you predict when a Stingray is about to lift up and depart from it’s resting place? So many more topics and examples for the future.
The Republic of Palau continues to provide great opportunities for Media Production. I would like to share some of the highlights from the past year and our hopes for the future.
New media techniques and projects in Palau
Over the last 12 months we have continued to diversify our filming techniques. Aerial filming with Drones and Aircraft mounted action cams have provided great footage for our clients.
Exciting 6K B-roll from Time-lapse techniques have also added to production value.
We have embraced 360 VR and continue to develop this new and exciting form of media. Mosaic panoramas provide a new and artistic form in addition to producing very high resolution images for printing.
Underwater filming in Palau is still incredible. New behaviors and environments were documented in greater detail this past year. Our cameras can output 4K Raw footage. This means we get the very best colors possible in UHD.
Wildlife and conservation topics are still very close to our hearts. A large project on migratory shorebirds was completed in the Autumn. This milestone project raised local awareness for the need to protect certain coastal environments in Palau.
Plastic Pollution is an incredibly damaging aspect of our world in this century. This film was our first venture into raising awareness of this issue
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your continued support into 2018.
Together we can make Lightning Strike Productions grow further and provide more innovative and educational media for Palau and Micronesia.
Stock Footage is often vital for a production to stay within budget and after 10 years of diving and filming in Palau we have accumulated a huge library of HD and UHD stock footage for just that purpose.
Previously in Palau, uploading at 3kb/s was about all we could hope for on a wobbly internet and this made sending any large files almost impossible. Palau now enjoys high speed internet from an undersea fibre optic cable and with this we have been uploading stock footage to our agents with unprecedented speed.
Are you thinking of filming on location in Palau? Are you looking for a reliable and professional camera operator somewhere like Palau?
We have been filming in Palau for over 10 years. In this time we have filmed everywhere, from the far north to the far south.
Palau has a huge variety of healthy and almost pristine ecosystems and as a result Palau provides a huge wealth of opportunities for stories. It’s visually stunning with tropical islands, coral reefs and plentiful iconic species.
There are numerous conservation stories available. Tuna Fisheries, Marine Sanctuary enforcement, Mangrove protection, near shore fishing migratory shorebirds, all important.
We have WW2 wrecks and their de-mining and recovery of remains. Extensive underwater caverns and of course the many marine lakes with their millions of Jellyfish.
Additionally the other side of the coin is also available. Stories on illegal fishing and the black market trade in protected species. The need to balance tourism and development with conservation. Tuna economics, Climate Change, Ocean acidification, renewable energy, coral bleaching….
There are stories waiting to be told and new technologies waiting to tell them with and since we are based in Palau we can start production quickly.
Lightning Strike Productions has also worked with numerous broadcast entities in Palau over the years. Clients include the BBC, CNN, Arte, Thalassa 3, ABC, Channel 9 Australia, Animal Planet and Discovery Channel. It’s also a regular contributor to online news media through it’s stringer services.
Our cameras, both underwater and drone mounted output Raw footage ensuring the very highest in 16 bit quality.
In addition, starting this year at Lightning Strike we are starting to do all of this with 360 VR .
For a run down of subjects and readily available portfolios and galleries please see here.
Palau Stock Footage library
As a result of filming here for over 10 years we have a huge stock footage library available. When we catalog media for reference here at Lightning Strikes, it’s often with keywords like: Environment, Sanctuary, UNESCO.
Almost all our work has something to do with the environment. Illegal fishing, underwater, coral reefs, sharks, Manta Rays, tourism, coral bleaching, global warming, tuna…..
In conclusion Lightning Strike Productions has the experience and the expertise to film any subject in Palau.
If there is any subject you can’t find or you would like to talk to us about licensing options or something specific please contact us.
Filming the Unique fish spawning aggregations in Palau is a challenge.
Who to dive with?
In March 2017 I accompanied the very experienced Dari Divers on a filming dive down to Peleliu to document the spawning aggregation of Sailfin Snapper. The schools at this time of year number in the tens of thousands. We did three dives and were able to witness some incredible numbers of fish. When you get the timing right expect to see lots of sharks and one of the most incredible natural displays in the animal kingdom.
During the day the huge school hangs out in a secluded part of the reef. This is about 1km away from the corner where they spawn. During the night before spawning they swim there and wait until dawn. At the turn of the tide and on an unseen signal, they commence their extraordinary spawning ritual.
The list is long and being added to all the time as new discoveries are being made, Check out Dari Divers and book your trip with them to ensure you get a front row seat to some of the most incredible and unique diving in the World.
Please check it out and see for yourselves. It lists hundreds of photographers from around the world and is a great resource for finding talented media producers in a huge variety of locations
Photography services for Palau and Micronesia
Please contact us for more information regarding our photographic services. We shoot everything from underwater wildlife to weddings, Aerials to Antennas, Wide to Macro, slow motion to time-lapse, RED to GoPro, 600mm lens to Virtual Reality…..
When it comes to Aerial Footage and the stock companies that represent me and my work in Palau, I can be very picky about who I send material to. After all, I am sending them my artistic content and there needs to be both a level of trust and commitment to the future representation from them in their site design and business plan.
So it’s not often I can say that I have decided to sign up with a new agency and have them represent my Stock Content.
The resource for quality Aerial Stock Footage from Palau
Aerial Entertainment Studios though is one and my initial submissions have impressed them enough to add me to their Exclusive team of artists.
Location scouting for a new project: Over the first two weeks of June I was commissioned to find locations that fit in with a storyboard for a production due to be shot here for the Palau Visitors Authority.
I can’t divulge many details about the plot line right now of course only to say that it will be a tourism educational film to be shown on flights into Palau.
Filming took 6 days with crews from the US and Australia including local entities with a team from Lightning Strike providing Aerial Drone, Underwater and Behind the Scenes filming services.
Telling the story
Part of the storyboard has an Aerial pov, so I was happy to oblige with a few days of drone flying at some of the most photogenic sites in Palau.
This major production is now in the editing stage with the release date to be confirmed. When it is released it is going to cause a real stir as it will be the first of it’s kind. Watch this space and be sure to check back to see it’s progress!
Now that production is finished and the campaign has been rolled out, check this link to find out more about the Palau Pledge and see the finished film.
If you have a project in mind that needs locations in Palau check out these links.
Please feel free to contact us and we can discuss plans for pre-Production.