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Alert Diver is the dive industry’s leading publication. Featuring DAN’s core content of dive safety, research, education and medical information, each issue is a must-read reference, archived and shared by passionate scuba enthusiasts. In addition, Alert Diver showcases fascinating dive destinations and marine environmental topics through images from the world’s greatest underwater photographers and stories from the most experienced and eloquent dive journalists in the business.


DIVE SLATE CASHES LEDGE From left: A scientist measures kelp to document its health. The biomass of kelp at Cashes Ledge is 50 times greater than that of other sites in the region. A sculpin hides in plain sight along a sponge-encrusted outcropping. Cashes is a magnet for marine mammals, including gray and harbor seals, and it may be a breeding ground for the North Atlantic right whale. “I FOUND MYSELF BENEATH THE KELP, FILMING ITS SOOTHING DANCE BACKLIT BY THE BLUE-GREEN SEA.” screen, and before I knew it I found myself beneath the kelp, filming its soothing dance backlit by the blue-green sea. I was rolled and tossed among its long golden-red stalks in harmony with their ebb and flow. In a blink it was time to ascend. Wide-eyed and transformed I surfaced, and for the first time ever I felt a need — an obligation — to help protect a place. I asked Witman and his collaborator, Robbie Lamb, for bullet points about why, from a scientific point of view, Cashes should be protected. One thing in particular stuck out to me: Cashes Ledge currently has 500 times the fish biomass of any other nearby coastal site. That’s a figure that should be incredible to anyone who has dived in New England and wondered where the fish are and, most important, where fish will come from in the future. When I first dived the ledge and saw all the tiny mussels and fish under the kelp, I thought of a nursery, and in many ways that is what Cashes is for its resident species. Perhaps a more important question is why so many adult fish remain there. Certainly the lack of fishing over the past 15 years has helped, but in other areas with the same type of protection the results are not the same. What sets Cashes apart is its extraordinarily high density and sheer biomass of kelp — 50 times that of other nearby coastal areas. It is continually fed by cool, nutrient-rich water generated by a standing wave that occurs with great regularity at the site. This wave has been called a productivity engine; it creates constant upwelling and changes the water from cool with good visibility to warm with reduced visibility. It can be a strange and disorienting yet marvelous part of diving here. As the kelp thrives, it provides food and protection for the many fish that LEARN MORE call it home. Then during its seasonal die-off, the detritus feeds species deeper in the water column. Marine mammals of all sorts flock to the ledge, and there is evidence that it may even be a breeding ground for the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale. On any given day on the ledge you might encounter five or six different whales, schools of dolphin and even basking sharks. At the end of diving days we often wondered what was more unbelievable: the growing schools of cod and pollock playing in the kelp or the whales and dolphins feeding all around us on the surface? As magnificent as Cashes is, it still has a long way to go. The fish populations are nowhere near where they were when Witman started studying them in the 1980s. Cod, which fed the United States and Europe for centuries, barely has a foothold on the ledge, especially when compared to historical numbers. The NEFMC ban has proven that Cashes has the ability to rebound, but scientists the world over have shown that permanent areas of protection are essential if we want fish populations to thrive, especially in the context of heavy fishing pressure. CLF continues to urge legislators for permanent protections at Cashes Ledge. One of the biggest challenges it faced in the past was trying to protect an area that no one had heard of. With incredible foresight and in the spirit of older journalistic traditions of using science and imagery to create a movement, the efforts of Brooks, Witman and Skerry on behalf of CLF are slowly making headway in the push for protection. Because of their tireless efforts and with a little help from the images and story our team created, many For more information or to learn how to help Cashes Ledge, visit the following: people are now aware of Cashes Ledge’s exquisite beauty and vital importance for our future fisheries. AD 22 | SUMMER 2016

“The first time I met a sperm whale, it just blew my mind. But I was not able to adequately describe the experience to my wife and my children. You have to live it. Since virtual reality is always point-of-view, you are in the middle of the action. You are the actor.” — Fabrice Schnöller, researcher/diver, The Click Effect FRED BUYLE/NEKTOS.NET SHOOTING THE CLICK EFFECT By Sandy Smolan Over the past 25 years I have made films in just about every imaginable environment: the Sahara desert, the mountains of Peru, Nepal’s hinterland, remote villages in East Africa and others. But until recently I had never directed a film underwater. Last year I was invited to the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University for an introduction to virtual reality (VR). The demonstration, in which viewers put on a headset to see a fully rendered 360-degree film image, made me completely believe I was suspended 30 feet in the air when I was still standing on solid ground. Being in VR felt exactly like being in the real world, and I was stunned by what I had experienced. I immediately realized that this technology had the potential to become a powerful form of storytelling, and I couldn’t wait to make a film in this new medium. Around the same time, I read James Nestor’s book Deep: Freediving, Renegade Science, and What the Ocean Tells Us About Ourselves and realized that the story of two freediving researchers studying the language of whales and dolphins would be perfectly suited to VR. Shortly after reading Deep, I partnered with Nestor, the Los Angeles-based VR startup company Vrse (now called Within), freedivers and researchers Fabrice Schnöller and Fred Buyle, and the Sundance Institute to produce The Click Effect, a VR film that allows viewers to make a deeper connection to the beauty of the world and to some of the world’s most intelligent creatures: dolphins and whales. The film follows Buyle and Schnöller as they freedive deep beneath the ocean’s surface to record the “click” ALERTDIVER.COM | 23

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