How to be an Ocean Hero

Shannon L. Switzer Swanson is an award-winning photographer, published writer, and National Geographic Young Explorer whose work focuses on ocean conservation. There are many definitions of a “hero.” Each of us has our own personal opinion of the qualities a hero must possess and the people we personally consider to be heroes. I don’t know about you, but the idea of a hero as a … Continue reading How to be an Ocean Hero

Five for Friday: Dare to Explore Hawaii

National Geographic Kids recently announced the winners of its Dare to Explore Oahu contest.  Four lucky students were selected from over 1000 contestants to join Digital Nomad Andrew Evans on a week-long trip to the Hawaiian island of Oahu.  
The winners are:
  • Sarah, 13, of Florida
  • Anya, 13, of Ohio
  • Liam, 10, of Wisconsin
  • Ella, 9, of Indiana
To enter competition, the kids were asked why they’d like to explore the capital island of Oahu, and what they thought they would see there.  Learn more about the Dare to Explore Oahu winners here.

View from He’eia State Park, Oahu, Hawaii.
Photo courtesy of Phong Phan, MyShot.
In recognition of these young students’ achievements, let’s do our own exploration of Hawaii-virtually!

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Gadgets And Gizmos Aplenty

Shannon Switzer is an award-winning photographer, published
writer, and National Geographic Young Explorer whose work focuses on
ocean conservation.

The first time I took a non-disposable camera with me underwater, I was studying abroad in Australia on the Great Barrier Reef. I had a point-and-shoot Olympus that was confined to land. After my first dive on the reef, I got an itch to share what I had seen with my friends and family back home. A few days later, I bought a dive housing for my little camera. I loved my set-up. I took pictures of surly sea snakes, turtles, impossibly bright nudibranchs, anemone with their defensive clownfish residents, and candid portraits of my friends looking suave in their dive gear.  

MeWith1stSLR&Housing.jpgSix months later, when I returned from Australia to finish my senior year in Santa Barbara, I started bringing my camera and housing with me into the surf, shooting friends and strangers alike catching waves. I would shoot for hours, until my body was numb to the core and my claw-hands could no longer fire the shutter. A year after that, I bought my first SLR camera and a new (expensive!) housing to go along with it. Since then my equipment has continued to evolve (and get more expensive), but the same sense of excitement that brought me to the water then with camera in-hand is what continues to bring me there now.

Shannon carries her first SLR camera underwater housing while diving above. Photo by Morgan Hoesterey.

For this reason, I find all of the camera gear on the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE expedition fascinating and mind-boggling. On the sub itself, there are two “booms,” which are basically long metal poles. One positions a powerful spotlight and two 2-D cameras that combine to capture 3-D footage, and the other, known as the “manipulator arm,” positions two cameras, which are used independently from one another. One is a wide-angle lens that corrects magnification of objects in the water, and the other films macro footage of small sea creatures. They both serve as an extension of James Cameron’s body, which he moves using hydraulics while he’s confined in the sub. According to Dr. Joe MacInnis, who is on site with the team, these cameras not only record 3-D footage and take high-quality stills, but they also act as Cameron’s eyes to the sea floor. Without them, he is essentially blind.

30502.jpgThe inside of a research submersible vehicle, which today is the only way to explore the deep oceans. Numerous instruments, lights, and cameras are visible on the exterior frame of the submersible. Photograph by Emory Kristof.

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Celebrate DEEPSEA CHALLENGE with National Geographic Education!

Filmmaker (Titanic, Avatar, Terminator) and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron has become the first person to complete a solo journey to Challenger Deep, the terminus of the Mariana Trench, and the deepest known point on planet Earth at nearly 7 miles below sea level.

Although it’s more like 2 leagues than 20,000, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE mission has the potential to bring mysteries of deep-ocean worlds to light for scientists, students, and dreamers alike. This incredible moment in the history of modern exploration is being reported by major news organizations around the world today (see stories on the New York Times and CNN), and the National Geographic Education team could not be more excited to share in the fervor.

As the educational outreach arm of the National Geographic Society, the organization sponsoring DEEPSEA CHALLENGE along with Rolex, we have developed a complete suite of materials to help teachers bring this scientific expedition to conduct deep-ocean research into their classrooms.  Here is a quick overview of the Nat Geo Education materials available.

DEEPSEA CHALLENGE - National Geographic
The main DEEPSEA CHALLENGE education hub features maps, multimedia, reference materials, and more.  Below is a list of five favorite resources:

Learn about important milestones in underwater exploration, including the sinking of the Titanic and the inventions of Jacques Cousteau, through photos, illustrations, and maps.

  • Marine Ecosystem Illustrations

Explore the flora and fauna of ocean environments–from coral reefs to the deep sea–with these collections of beautifully detailed illustrations for grades 3-5 and 9-12.

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One Giant Leap

Shannon Switzer is an award-winning photographer, published writer, and National Geographic Young Explorer whose work focuses on ocean conservation.

Right about now, I imagine James Cameron and his DEEPSEA CHALLENGE team are
kicking back with several bottles of bubbly to celebrate their
monumental accomplishment. In this world, whose far-flung corners seem
to shrink closer together every day, it’s increasingly difficult to have
new “firsts” in exploration. So when one is achieved, it’s important to
pause and acknowledge it. Successfully engineering a sub to withstand
16,000 pounds-per-square-inch of pressure and dive solo to the deepest
spot on the ocean floor is one of those special occasions that calls for
celebration. The real success, however, is yet to come.

PreDive_04_MM8108_20120326_23028.jpgFilmmaker and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence James Cameron gets a handshake from ocean explorer and U.S. Navy Capt. Don Walsh, right, just before the hatch on the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER submersible is closed and the voyage to the deepest part of the ocean begins. Walsh took the same journey to the bottom of the Mariana Trench 52 years ago in the bathyscaphe Trieste with Swiss oceanographer Jacques Piccard. Cameron is the first person to complete the dive solo. The dive was part of DEEPSEA CHALLENGE, a joint scientific expedition by Cameron, the National Geographic Society, and Rolex to conduct deep-ocean research. Photo by Mark Thiessen/National Geographic.


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