MONTEREY — A new short film documenting the exploration and discovery of a rare octopus “garden” at the base of the Davidson Seamount roughly 70 miles southwest of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park has won best short film at the 18th Annual International Ocean Film Festival.
“Discover Wonder: The Octopus Garden” won the award after filmmaker John Dutton worked alongside researchers in a series of dives between October 2018 and last summer that explored life, particularly the octopus brooding grounds, the “garden,” at the base of the seamount more than 10,000 feet deep in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
The short, 9-minute film will be shown between April 15 and May 2 at the festival’s website: https://intloceanfilmfest.org.
Dutton, speaking from his Los Angeles office on Tuesday, said his passion for ocean science is very much a family affair. His brother is a researcher of sea turtle genetics and his wife is a sea turtle biologist specializing in conservation science.
“The Octopus Garden” was written, directed and edited by Dutton, produced by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and funded by the Tides Foundation. The film was also supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.
“I certainly learned a lot about the octopus while making this film, but one of the things that most resonated with me was that all of the biological processes that occur miles down at the bottom of the ocean, where the octopuses were discovered, also influence our climate,” Dutton said.
The Sanctuary Foundation also produced another award-winning film of Dutton’s titled “The Pacific Leatherback Sea Turtle.” That film is on permanent display at the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center in Santa Cruz https://vimeo.com/232756706.
The series of missions are a joint effort between NOAA, which manages the sanctuary, and the Ocean Exploration Trust. Other contributors to the effort include the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute and the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.
The film follows a team of scientists as they explored one of the rarest and deepest octopus brooding colonies on the planet, which was discovered by researchers operating unmanned underwater vehicles aboard the Ocean Exploration Trust’s 64-meter-long “E/V Nautilus.”
Several types of submersibles were used in the research, a pair of remotely operated vehicles called the “Argus” and “Hercules,” and a manned submersible called “Alvin,” which also discovered the wreckage of the “RMS Titanic.”
The amount of data generated by the research was overwhelming at times, Dutton said. Sifting through that much data to get down to what Dutton called ”the essence” of a 9-minute film took a long time.
“It took many hours to find all the nuggets,” he said.
The depth alone seems extraordinary. At 10,500 feet, or roughly 3,200 meters, the pressure is crushing. Pressure is measured in units called atmospheres. At sea level, there are about 14.7 pounds per square inch of pressure exerted on humans or 1 atmosphere. At the base of the seamount, the pressure equals about 320 atmospheres or a couple of tons of pressure per square inch.
Chad King, the lead scientist and narrator of the film, said it brought him right back into the control room of the expedition aboard the Nautilus as the discovery unfolded 2 miles below the surface.
“I’m beginning to understand the contradictory notion that every time we explore the deep sea, the unexpected can happen more often than we expect,” King said. “This film also highlights the need to explore and safeguard more of the world’s oceans, as Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is protecting something incredibly special and unique that we didn’t even realize was there.”
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