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Chasing coral and fighting global warming

The production team of Chasing Coral receives a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival.

MATHIS THOERRISEN/STAFF

The production team of Chasing Coral receives a standing ovation at the Sundance Film Festival.

By Mathis Thoerrisen, Editor-in-Chief

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  As the winner of the audi­ence award for Best U.S. Documentary at the Sun­dance Film Festival, Chas­ing Coral offers a unique look into the diminishing world of coral reefs around the world. When under­water photographer Rich­ard Vevers was out div­ing at one of his favorite reefs, he noticed a phenom­enon he had not yet encoun­tered. The colorful corals he was used to taking pic­tures of had started to turn into white, skeleton-like structures. Upon further in­vestigation, he realized that his precious corals were the victims of the phenomena, coral bleaching.

  Coral bleaching occurs when there is a significant rise in temperature in the ocean. Corals have a sym­biotic relationship with and algae called zooxanthel­lae that actually lives in the coral’s tissue. These algae are the coral’s primary food source and is what gives the coral its beautiful col­or. When the water temper­ature rises significantly, the algae become stressed and eventually leaves the cor­al, causing the coral to die without an energy source.

  According to a Catlin Seaview Survey, half of the earth’s coral reefs have dis­appeared in the last three decades. The temperature in the ocean is directly cor­related to the median tem­perature of the earth, and if the earth’s temperature keeps rising because of car­bon emissions and global warming, so will the ocean temperature.

  Vevers wanted to take action, so he teamed up with director Jeff Orlows­ki to make a film that would help spread the word about what is going on under the surface of our oceans.

  Vevers and Orlows­ki wanted to do time lapse photography of the coral during a bleaching event.

  The only problem was that no one had ever done time lapse photography un­der water before and there was not equipment de­signed for it.

  Vevers and Orlowski de­signed a brand-new fitting for underwater cameras, a sort of dome with an auto­matic windshield wiper to remove algae and other par­ticles that might stick to the glass; however, getting the cameras to take pictures in focus day after day proved to be almost impossible, and the first attempts at re­cording the event failed.

  In the end, they were forced to take the pictures manually. Divers took hun­dreds of photographs day after day, in the exact same spots to create the stunning time lapses that the doc­umentary ends with and leaves the viewers stunned.

  Chasing Coral is both a visually stunning docu­mentary and a cry for help. Vevers, Orlowski and the rest of the cast are practical­ly begging people around the world to wake up and do something about car­bon emissions so that we might save what is left of the earth coral reefs.

  With the help of passion­ate cast and crew members, Orlowski manages to turn a highly scientific documen­tary into an emotional and visual rollercoaster ride that no one should miss.

  Follow the team’s work at https://www.expo­surelabs.com/

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Chasing coral and fighting global warming