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Thunder Bay sanctuary gets international attention

June 30, 2009
Patty Ramus


News Staff Writer

The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary will gain international exposure after a show on Discover Channel Canada airs this fall.

Article Photos

During the first week in June, crews from Discovery Channel Canada traveled to Alpena to document ongoing research of Lake Huron sinkholes by scientists including Steve Ruberg of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Great Lakes Research Laboratory in Ann Arbor and Bopaiah Biddanda, research scientist with the Grand Valley State University's Annis Water Resources Institute.

The crews spent two days in Alpena gathering underwater footage and interviews for a daily science and technology show called "Daily Planet." The show features interesting or unique science or technology stories from around the world.

"It's a fantastic opportunity to reach an international audience - in this case an audience we share Lake Huron with. Local divers have been visiting the sinkholes for years and this is a chance to bring their find to a wider audience," said Russ Green, sanctuary deputy superintendent. "That the sanctuary encourages and supports multidisciplinary research is also a big part of the story."

Fact Box

Discovery Channel Canada crews film scientists conducting research on Lake Huron sinkholes in early June. The research will be featured on an episode of "Daily Planet" in the fall.

According to Story Producer Rob Davidson, Discovery Channel Canada staff became aware of the sinkholes and the research in early May. Discovery Channel contacted Green and the researchers with its interest in getting material for an episode. Crews normally spend the summer getting material for shows which air during the rest of the year.

"The first story will be about the sinkholes, about the research that's going on. The second story will hopefully update the research," he said.

Davidson said the first day was spent at a shallow sinkhole while the second day focused on a deeper water sinkhole. Crews spent time on the research vessel Laurentian to get a sense of what the scientists were doing and conducted interviews. Discovery Channel got some assistance from marine sanctuary staff in obtaining underwater footage.

Because of federal regulations, if Discovery Channel had hired its own diver, a separate charter would have to be hired because the diver wouldn't be certified to dive off a NOAA boat. To save on production costs, Discovery Channel was willing to let Green shoot some underwater footage with a high definition camera and housing it provided, Davidson said.

Green said he has shot shipwreck video before but this was different because the footage was focused on divers at work, as they placed scientific instruments on the lake bottom and obtained sediment cores and water samples. This was representative of the scientific research that's been going on at the sinkholes for the past three years, he added.

"The aim was to capture enough footage so that the video told the entire story of what the divers were doing underwater," he said. "It was a good opportunity to use the documentary crew's high-end video camera and I was happy to contribute to the effort."

Davidson said he didn't have the exact date the episode would air, but it likely will run in September or early October. People can watch Daily Planet episodes by logging onto the show's Web site at planet or downloading them on iTunes.

Patty Ramus can be reached via e-mail at or by phone at 358-5687.



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