National Geographic : 1992 Jun
On Television Bubble Helmets Sound Ocean Depths SV ow about a nice close look?" - Mike deGruy asks fellow marine biologist Martha Holmes, after placing a crown-of thorns starfish on her helmet. "It's extraordinary. Must be what a coral sees when it's under attack," Martha says, 35 feet down on Aus tralia's Great Barrier Reef. This conversation, natural as it seems, is possible only because of an advance in diving technology-the modified bubble helmet. Fed by scuba tanks, this acrylic dome en ables divers to transmit crystal-clear speech by cable in water as deep as 100 feet and as far as 650 feet from the boat. Suppressor devices filter sounds of breathing; weights coun teract the helmet's buoyancy. "Bubble helmets let TV viewers see the divers' expressions. Clear sight and clear sound bring the ex perience of diving close to the audi ence. Now if we could only transmit the smell of the sea," says Robin Hellier, producer of "Sea Trek." Co-produced by the BBC and the National Geographic Society, the five-part "Sea Trek" is the first series to feature two-way commu nication between divers. DeGruy and Holmes also use snorkels and a deep-sea submersible to explore five distinct ocean habitats. In the cold waters that well up around the tropical Galapagos Islands, they look at contrasts- penguins at the Equator, for example. A stroll through Califor nia's kelp forests (above) uncovers the fish and sea otters that live amid these 15-story plants. In the Caribbean, the divers probe the lunar-like depths off the Cayman Islands. Their visit to Australia coincides with the mass spawning of the corals, a spectacular annual display of synchronized reproduc tion. In Hawaiian waters they work with scientists studying humpback whales. Thanks to the bubble helmet, divers and viewers alike can now share close encounters with crea tures of the sea. "SEA TREK" AIRS ON JUNE 7, 14, 21, 28, AND JULY 5 ON EXPLORER, CABLE NETWORK TBS, 9 P.M. E.T. NATIONALGEOGRAPHICEXPLORERAIRS ON CABLENETWORKTBS, SUNDAYSAT 9 P.M. ET. NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSPECIALSAIR ON PBS; CHECKLOCALLISTINGS.