Posted by: Celine Cousteau | March 10, 2013

Filming & Conservation: Patagonia- Melimoyu Bay- Part 1

Melimoyu Bay, Chilean Patagonia –  600 miles south of Puerto Montt (as the crow flies)

Part 1

It is pouring rain for the 4th day in a row. Through the windows I watch trees swaying, a gust of wind rattling the roof now and again. Rain jackets hang dripping, rubber boots ready by the door, and my short sleeve shirts didn’t make it out of the closet. This precious time is used for reading/researching, writing, editing footage, transcribing interviews…much needed time I am thankful to have. But let me not omit the first 2 days of beautiful sunshine that were spent diving, hiking, and of course filming! Aaah.

Beautiful sunny day...Melimoyu, Chile

Beautiful sunny day…Melimoyu, Chile

To arrive in Melimoyu by small plane is an opportunity to instantly grasp the immense beauty and isolation of this area. Before I even landed, I was plotting my return. Created as a nature reserve by Patagonia Sur, this is one of 3 properties people can visit. I am here to explore and document the story of the conservation efforts around the Melimoyu Bay. Blue whales skirt past in search of food, Magallanes penguins nest on Isla Locos surrounded by fur seals frolicking in the surf, the emblematic Darwin frog and Magellanic woodpecker are celebrities in the neighborhood, and the puma retains lengendary status by simply leaving a paw print without being seen.

We are amongst the first to dive here: Pablo Zavala, an accomplished Chilean underwater photographer has traveled over land and water for 23 hours with dive equipment to start the underwater exploration with his assistant Memo Bravo Muñoz. Rafaela Landea has been waiting years for this occasion, and then there’s us- Çapkin and I here to film the stories. Rafaela is the founder of MERI, Melimoyu Ecosystem Research Institute, a non-profit dedicated to fostering science through international collaboration to promote and conduct research about the unique flora and fauna of the area both above and below water. MERI is the main focus of my filming here and Rafaela is my protagonist. Despite the rain, we head outside to look for frogs with Felipe Zepeda, the resident MERI scientist, and we film an interview with Susannah Buchan, a British PhD student partnering with MERI to study blue whales acoustics and ecology at the Universidad de Concepciõn, Chile.

A lucky day for Darwin frogs

A lucky day for Darwin frogs

There are more than 39,683 acres of land over which we could potentially wander. The Melimoyu volcano watches over us with it’s snow capped poncho and the waters within and beyond the bay beckon to be explored – we certainly don’t lack for subjects or ideas to film. But until the rain stops, we must embrace our fate, record the sounds of nature, conduct our interviews under shelters and listen to the frogs sing in this incredible paradise made possible by the same rain and powerful winds that keep us from standing outside to film. And so I turn to my cup of tea and glowing computer screen to write, edit, and transcribe footage. Already more than one story is in the making and I am confident I will return to this unique place in the future for more filming. In the meantime, I continue to sip my honey touched Lapsang Souchong and glance outside, smiling.


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