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Interactive video lesson plan for: Dive Into an “Underwater Kaleidoscope” of Unbelievable Beauty | National Geographic

Activity overview:

Join National Geographic underwater photographer Brian Skerry in the vibrant waters of Cortes Bank and prepare for a sensory overload.
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Join NG underwater photographer Brian Skerry in the vibrant waters of Cortes Bank and prepare for a sensory overload. "For me, diving in Cortes Bank is like diving into an underwater kaleidoscope," says Skerry. "It is this fanciful, almost surreal place where green grass sways in a wavelike formation, and what appear to be palm trees are growing out of the seafloor. You’ve got bat rays and stingrays that are feeding down in that surf grass with dolphins overhead. It really is like swimming through the pages of a storybook in a 'Seuss-ical' sort of way, and with every dive you’re meeting this fascinating cast of characters. It’s really quite stunning and unlike anything else I’ve seen."

Rare northern right whale dolphins, Pacific white-sided dolphins, Pacific torpedo rays, sea lions, and harbor seals are just some of the wildlife that call Cortes Bank home. They elegantly maneuver through the cartoonish sea plants undulating with colors so bright and lively that they may as well have been plucked from the pages of a children's book. But words can’t quite do the exquisite nature of Cortes Bank justice, so Skerry tried to capture it in photographs.

"Cortes Bank has remained somewhat unspoiled due to its remoteness, being a hundred miles offshore of California, and the weather can be quite nasty out there, but Cortes Bank currently has zero protection. So I want to make photographs that will compel readers to first know about this place and then hopefully have a desire to want to protect it," Skerry says.

Due to El Niño, Cortes Bank has fallen victim to warming waters. The change in temperature is killing off the region's giant kelp, which is an integral part of a healthy ecosystem for the area’s diverse marine life. As part of National Geographic's film, Sea of Hope, premiering January 15, 2017, Skerry is working with scientists to document rare marine ecosystems in United States waters, highlighting their beauty, wildlife, and need for protection.

"Being an underwater photographer is quite different than the work that my terrestrial counterparts do. I can't go to a remote place, sit in a blind for a month and use 600 mm lens while waiting for an elusive animal to wander by and make those pictures," says Skerry. "All nature photography is very difficult and has its own unique challenges, but I can only stay underwater as long as the air supply on my back will last. I have to get very close to my subjects, even in the places where the water is the clearest I usually have to make pictures within a couple of meters of my subjects. I have to be able to light them and that is really a testimony to the animals that allow me into their world."

Skerry has spent some 10,000 hours underwater, bringing images of the marine world back to those of us on land. "I've been diving for over three decades and I've put myself in some pretty crazy places, but I think having a degree of fear has kept me alive. If the conditions don't seem right or if you're in the presence of an animal that isn't behaving the way you would expect, you get that sort of primal sense and it's important to listen to that and get out of the water. I've been lost under arctic ice, I've been chased by sperm whales or chased out of the water by sharks. I drifted off the coast of Ireland for two and a half hours when the dive boat never saw me and I was picked up ultimately by a fishing boat," says Skerry, recounting some of his closer-calls. "I try to be cautious and listen to that little voice inside of me, and I have no qualms about standing down if a particular day just doesn't seem right, and you live to fight another day."

Check out the National Geographic film "Sea Of Hope: America's Underwater Treasures." http://bit.ly/SeaofHope

Brian Skerry is a grantee of National Geographic's Expeditions Council. http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/grants-programs/expeditions-council/
To learn more about the science and exploration supported by the nonprofit National Geographic Society, visit http://natgeo.org/grants.

IMAGES: Brian Skerry

Dive Into an “Underwater Kaleidoscope” of Unbelievable Beauty | National Geographic

National Geographic

Tagged under: Brian Skerry,Cortes Bank,Expeditions,Council,Underwater,Kaleidoscope,Dolphins,National Geographic,Northern Right Whale Dolphins,Sea Hope,Photographer,Photography,national geographic,nat geo,natgeo,animals,wildlife,science,explore,discover,survival,nature,documentary,PLivjPDlt6ApRfQqtRw7JkGCLvezGeMBB2,PLivjPDlt6ApRiBHpsyXWG22G8RPNZ6jlb,PLivjPDlt6ApTqKN6DbR-GOM5omen0Xm2a

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