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Expeditions One And Two: Papua New Guinea
Production Journal: April 4, 2008. Today we really got lucky. I think we captured our best sequence so far—after nearly breaking all records for bottom time. It's been a long day. This morning we took t he camera into the Mangroves. Sky was overcast. We need sun to shoot in the Mangroves but wanted to get in there and practice our camera moves when disturbing the bottom would not be an issue. As we were swimming back to the boat someone yelled down to us that Digger had found three Flamboyant Cuttlefish and that they were mating. We immediately donned re-breathers and were back in the water in five minutes. I climbed out 5.75 hours later.

Howard and his crew began their undersea exploration in January 2008 with the first of two separate visits to the islands of Papua New Guinea in the Southwestern Pacific Ocean. It is an area known for its beautifully lush coral reefs and the remarkable biodiversity of creatures that make the reefs their home.

Their first stop was Rabaul, on the island of New Britain. But, en route, they received word that a volcano was erupting on that exact spot, forcing them to adjust their agenda from day #1. Noting that their trip to Mexico for "Deep Sea 3Dā€ had included an unscheduled greeting from Hurricane Javier, Howard took the blast in stride and captured the serendipitous volcanic action as their boat retreated from the island. "The good news is that the film now includes footage of the eruption and a hail of ash,ā€ says Michele.

Instead, the crew decamped to nearby Linden Harbor, on New Britain's south coast. There, 15 days of diving, with Howard and his crew logging nearly 80 hours underwater in the largely unexplored reefs, yielded excellent exposure to a variety of rarely seen animals. Among them were a large Crown Jellyfish; a Wonderpus Octopus; and a new species of Lionfish, discovered only two years ago in Indonesia, happily feeding on smaller fish amidst the coral while the camera rolled.

Howard observed and filmed a devoted Frogfish couple courting; found an aggressive Tiger Mantis Shrimp—a species twice the size of its California cousins— spearing its dinner and quarreling with a Cardinalfish; and captured footage of an aptly named Crocodile Fish lunging directly at his lens in pursuit of an agile Blue Chromis (that got away), an action that is especially striking in 3D. During the second Papua New Guinea trip, to Milne Bay this time, he recorded a blue-spotted Stingray vigorously burying itself in the sand, and a rare glimpse of an Epaulette Shark, "a small shark that walks on the ocean floor using its fins,ā€ found only in the Milne Bay area.

But the highlight of that trip was the discovery of two small male Flamboyant Cuttlefish courting a female. Says Howard, "It's a very romantic dance. No one on board had ever seen a female of this species so large and never witnessed their courtship. To say that the cuttlefish colors are brilliant is an understatement; they are constantly changing.ā€

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