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10/08/2016

Aerialworx – From Wales To Whales

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Like many an adventurer before us, we have always been fascinated by the stories of whales. Our appetite fuelled by many distant sightings of basking sharks cruising effortlessly off the coast of Wales. We had always longed to see the real deal and experience for ourselves the true magnitude of a goliath of the Ocean.

Our dream became reality when Aerialworx became recruited by the award-winning, London based production company Squire to join them on their latest adventure. They had been enlisted by San Miguel as one of 20 'life-rich' individuals from across the globe to make a series of short films. Not films to promote their product, but films to promote the riches available in life. Not fame or fortune, but the ever-present riches that surround us, the riches gained through the embodiment of life. Each short film focused on amazing individuals and their passion in life!

Our subject for this film was the marine life photographer Göran Ehlmé on his latest expedition. Since his youth Goran had craved the rawness of the ocean. Cutting free from the norm and set out on a lifelong journey of discovery. Many of the places he visits are outstandingly beautiful and many of the animals he works closely with are ones few people have captured underwater before. An expert on Sperm Whales, they were just a few of the beautiful and mysterious creatures he wanted to document on his trip.

Arriving in the beautiful island of Sao Miguel we quickly acquainted ourselves with Nelson, our aptly named captain. His fine boat Bugs Bunny, equipped with two powerful engines and purposely designed for whale watching, was an ideal vessel for what we had planned. Blessed with light winds and mirror calm water we set off out into the blue sea in search of our ocean giants.

Mature whales average 16 meters in length with females and young males living together in groups. Spotting such a large creature in flat calm water should have been easy. But in such a vast ocean, hunting for a needle in a haystack would have been easier. With all eyes on the horizon we would often see the water spout of a distant whale as it reached the surface to fill its lungs with air. Our boat would race through the water to reach the sighting but all our efforts would be in vain as we would arrive in time to see nothing but a mighty tail breach as the whale dived beneath the water. Plunging for 30 minutes at a time and reaching incredible depths to feed on giant squid. Sighting after sighting teased and disappointed us until finally a stroke of luck saw a mother and calf surface close to our boat.

With no time to lose we quickly launched our drone and headed for the whales. The drone we had chosen was the DJI Inspire with the new X5 4K camera, selected for several reasons. Its compliance with aviation regulations mean it's a compact device we can take by air to just about anywhere in the world at a moment's notice. The outstanding performance of the camera, an incredibly competent camera for its size, coupled with the Inspire's ability to operate anywhere, in almost any situation, regardless of how rough the sea gets and to do it with speed and agility.

Now our drone was racing across the sky to reach the mother and calf before they sank beneath the waves. We needn't have worried, the two whales, basking in the sun, swam idly along without a care in the world, the young calf eyeing the drone with only mild curiosity. With our drone flying close alongside, taking care to avoid the occasional water spout, our efforts for the day paid off and we got footage we had only dared imagine before the pair departed to the depths.

Feeling euphoric by our first encounter we eagerly looked for more sightings. Another shout and an excited finger declared another sighting close by. We couldn't believe our luck, not one or two, but a group. Three large adults and two small calves. Our captain skilfully managed to get our boat within a short distance of them. With Göran in the water, he swam towards them like an Olympic athlete, whilst those remaining on board eagerly waited for them to meet. Once more our drone headed into the air to capture every moment of the encounter. Once more we captured some incredible shots. Dwarfed by these huge gentle giants of the sea, Göran swam amongst the group as they treated him with mild curiosity but great reverence. Then as quickly as they had arrived they were gone, once more down to great depths to feed.

Once everyone was back on board the boat we were ecstatic with endless chatter as we all relived the moment. The encounter had touched everyone's heart and left lasting memories for all involved. Göran's encounter was a truly magical moment. True testament to San Miguel's belief that you don't have to be wealthy to have a rich and fulfilling life. To learn more of our adventures go to www.aerialworx.co.uk.

Göran Ehlmé is the first individual to be discovered by San Miguel as part of its search for the San Miguel Rich List, a list of 20 'life-rich' individuals from across the globe who have unique, compelling, aspirational human stories. To find out more about the campaign, and discover other life-rich individuals, visit www.aerialworx.co.uk/project/drone-operator-azores/.

(JP)
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