Porpoises in Peril

Broadcast production company: Parthenon Entertainment for National Geographic + NDR (Norddeutscher Rundfunk), Hamburg

Synopsis: A documentary about the smallest, and most elusive, members of the whale family.

My role: Director

Comments: After making the Norway programme with Florian Graner, I was asked by Parthenon to direct a key sequence of their planned documentary about porpoises.

In the Bay of Fundy on the east coast of North America, just on the border between the US and Canada, lies the island of Grand Manan.  The nutrient-rich waters of the bay, resulting from the meeting of the warm Gulf Stream and the cold Labrador Current, create a haven for marine life, including one of the world’s biggest concentrations of cetaceans.  Herring fishermen on Grand Manan have for generations built fixed fish traps, or weirs, close to the shore.  Unfortunately one of the bycatches in these weirs is the harbour porpoise, one of whose main breeding grounds is the bay.

Every year a team of marine biologists spend the summer on the island, working with the cooperation of the fishermen to rescue trapped porpoises.  When a rescue takes place it happens very quickly — and it’s chaotic and unchoreographable.  So it’s best to have two cameras to capture the action from different points of view, and give you the best chance of creating an effective edited sequence.  I went there with Florian and another cameraman, with the hope of recording one rescue, or maybe more.  It was the last full day of our planned two-week stay before a trapped porpoise was found — such is wildlife filming.

The clip shows an edited version of the resulting sequence.