Kona Aquapod

Waves may be getting bigger and badder, ocean patterns may be shifting, seas are rising and scientists are just starting to figure out why. Dr. Robert Ballard and a team of scientists go in search of answers. What we don’t know about the ocean is alarming—waves that defy gravity, uncharted deep-sea currents, even alien creatures that could move as much ocean as the winds. Ballard is on a mission to learn more about these mysteries, and learn why the ocean seems to be getting bigger, angrier and more deadly! The following is a production journal from Alien Deep crew-member. 

By Heeth Grantham, Field Producer

Bob Ballard believes humankind needs to develop barbed wire for the ocean (except he pronounces it “bobwire”).

Barbed wire, his argument goes, was the single most important technology in settling the American West.  It delineated property lines and managed the movement of livestock.  It brought order to the wild prairie and allowed people to derive more food than the land would naturally yield.

People have long tried to create walls in water.  Early inhabitants living along the coast of the Gulf of Maine created wooden stick weirs to capture herring.  Fishermen in California, striving to keep whales from dying in their gillnets, have experimented with acoustic devices that create barrier walls of sound.  Aquaculture has experimented with the use of bubbles to create a curtain through which fish may not swim.

The task facing the production team is to find an already-existing technology that not only matches Ballard’s criteria, but also looks good on a viewer’s screen.  It may well be that we’ve found our “made for TV” solution in the aquapod.  It is an elegantly simple idea: a wire and mesh sphere acts as home to a couple thousand growing fish, free floating in the open ocean.  Neil Sims and his colleagues at Kampachi Farms have added an additional layer of beauty to the concept by floating their “fish ball” in an eddy downstream of Hawai’i’s Big Island.  Just like a stick caught in the backwater behind a rock in a stream.

And, television being a visual medium, it’s a bonus that the unit floats in the beautiful deep blue Hawaiian water.  The images created by our underwater photographers are stunning, and I invariably attract a crowd in my office when I screen a new batch of footage.

Aquaculture, though, is a sticky topic.  Here in Maine we’re familiar with the competing interests of farmers and environmental groups, fish pens and land-owners.  Pollution, disease and degradation of wild genetic stock are just a few of the problems commonly associated with fish-farming.  But the world’s growing population needs protein, and we can’t afford to simply disregard new sources.

Can the aquapod deliver on Sims’ grand hopes?  Neil certainly thinks so.  I can only hope!

Tune in to the fourth hour of Alien Deep: Ocean’s Fury Sunday at 10P and don’t miss the back-t0-back premieres that begin at 7P.