National Geographic : 1984 Jan
On Assignment IN HIS FIRST ENCOUNTER with a whale as a novice scuba diver off California in the 1950s, Al Giddings took one look and raced for shore. "Back then," he recalls wryly, "many thought that whales might attack." Now one of the world's most respected un derwater photographers and filmmakers, Giddings is mesmerized by the leviathans. Last August in Alaskan waters he rendez voused with the research vessel Varua (be low), whose excited crew had chanced upon eight humpback whales feeding voraciously on krill. Amazingly the whales lingered for three days, allowing Giddings to make not only spectacular motion-picture footage, but also still photographs that appear with the Southeast Alaska story in this issue. His work has accompanied seven other GEOGRAPHIC articles, the Society's book Ex ploring the Deep Frontier,and TV Specials on sharks and the Galapagos Rift. Giddings almost lost his life in 1969 diving on the wreck of the liner Andrea Doria. Work ing below 200 feet, he absorbed so much dis orienting nitrogen that he nearly ran out of air while trying to locate the line leading to oxygen decompression hoses suspended at 30 feet. Director of underwater sequences for a number of movies, Giddings faced a humbler hazard during filming of The Deep. "I was doing a close-up of Jacqueline Bis set," he says, "and something kept swimming past the lens, though she was only a foot away." Finally he turned the camera around and spied the problem. While 23 expensive ac tors and technicians waited, Giddings sur faced. An assistant opened the housing-"and out flew a $3,000 fly." BUOHBY KUSEMARYCHASINEY, U(EAN IMAGES, INC.