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Big Wave HD – BBC South Pacific: Oceans of Islands

The BBC’s new Natural History programme, South Pacific: Oceans of Islands has captured some remarkable “big wave” footage. Filmed from beneath the surface in super slow motion and high definition, the camera captures features that have never been filmed before.

The film reveals the hidden power of a four-metre-tall monster barrel wave and also shows the first images of underwater spiralling vortices created by the wave’s action.

The particular swell is just off the coast of Pohnpei in the Caroline Islands, part of the Federated State of Micronesia and is well known in the international surfing community. These remarkable waves are created from storm swells that have travelled more than 5,000km to break on their shorelines.

Australian cameraman Bali Strickland, renowned for filming expert surfers at some of the best surfing sites in the world, had to float in the water as the wave passed over him.

He filmed the wave using a £66,000 ($100,000) high-speed camera that captures the action at 20 times slower than normal speed, and in high definition.

The kit required a special housing unit designed and built by German specialist high-speed cameraman and technician Rudi Diesel.

Until this film, no one had ever tried using this type of camera underwater before.

Check out the YouTub video clip for yourself – and watch the wave barrel closing over Australian big wave surfer Dylan Longbottom, who rode the wave to illustrate the scale and power of the water.

Clearly visible are long underwater vortices created by the moving wave, a feature the BBC team believes has never before been caught on camera.

Huw Cordey is the series producer of South Pacific.

“So much is revealed by slow motion,” says Mr Cordey.

“We saw these vortices on one shot, which I don’t think anyone has noticed before. It opens up this huge insight into the birth of a wave.”

The vortices only appeared once, despite the team filming more than 10 waves, he added.

“Maybe it’s when the wave gets to a certain height or size. It wasn’t a scientific experiment, so its difficult to judge. But its interesting we only saw it the one time.”

South Pacific: Oceans of Islands will be broadcast on BBC Two from Sunday, 10 May 2009 at 2030 BST or watch again on BBC iPlayer.

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