Marine biologist’s account hooks audience
She stood on rocky cliffs and dived among tiger sharks on her journey documenting our coastline from the border of Namibia to Mozambique.
Marine biologist Eleanor Yeld Hutchings, a member of the crew that filmed two seasons of Shoreline, an SABC documentary, enthralled guests at the SA Maritime Safety Authority and the Sustainable Seas Samsa Sea Pledge initiative in Durban with tales of her adventure.
She said filming the series was an opportunity of a lifetime and allowed her to write her PhD.
“It was my own journey of discovery around the shores of South Africa. We have amazing coastal ecology… situated at the bottom tip of two great ocean current systems.
“This has resulted in four bio-geographic marine provinces highly productive fisheries and sub-tropical reefs,” she said.
“There were three other presenters. They focused on archaeology, history and the human interest aspects of the coastline.”
Hutchings said they had exciting and scary moments during their travels including diving with the tiger and black tip reef sharks of the Aliwal shoal and some hair-raising boat trips on stormy seas.
“Life-changing experiences for me were Malgas Bird Island near Saldanha Bay and the Mngazana mangrove trees.
“The leatherback and loggerhead turtles nesting on the beaches of Sodwana Bay in northern Natal are an amazing phenomenon. I held a baby octopus on my fingertips.
“I learnt more about the specifics of the coastal ecology in one year of filming than in all my years in university.”
She said one of the scenes included filming from a mountain ledge near Port St Johns.
“Our intention was to portray the coast as it is. It was long hours of filming. We would film 60 minutes for every minute shown on TV.
“I broke down my experience into the weird, the wonderful and the grotesque.
“Weird were the mangroves where everything is adapted and specialised – they’re a place where crabs are sensitive to even a leaf falling from a tree.”
“Wonderful were the turtles nesting on the beach.
“Grotesque were shark parasites – I found 272 parasites on a shark.
“But our oceans are at risk from overfishing and pollution. We may even lose the African penguin in the next 10 years. Our mission is to get the message out there and educate,” said Hutchings.