Chilmark filmmaker debuts “Journey to Shark Eden”


When “Water Is Life” producer William Marks went looking for a film to screen at this weekend’s water festival, “Journey to Shark Eden” stood out. Written, directed, filmed, and produced by Chilmark residents Adam Geiger and Colette Beaudry, the film dramatically revises what is known about the aquatic food chain.

Commissioned by National Geographic, “Journey to Shark Eden” succeeds by exploring the some of the world’s most pristine coral reefs, located in the tiny archipelago known as the Line Islands in the central Pacific’s Republic of Kiribati. What expedition leader Dr. Eric Sola — who dubbed the archipelago Shark Eden — and his team of scientists discover overturns much conventional wisdom about how and why coral reefs thrive and the role sharks and other predators play in this interrelated ecosystem.

Mr. Geiger and Ms. Beaudry first spent two weeks in Tahiti in the preliminary part of a project that took seven months to complete. Ms. Beaudry worked as producer and underwater lighting operator, but Tahiti’s reefs turned out to be too degraded for the research team’s exploration goals. She stayed behind with the family’s two children for five weeks, when Mr. Geiger joined the research ship, Hansé Explorer, on March 27, 2009, and voyaged to five of the Southern Line Islands to examine an area of the ocean almost completely untouched by humans.

“It’s a real honor to see such untouched places on the planet,” Mr. Geiger said in a recent telephone interview. “The ability to go to a place where no one has ever gone [is incredible].”

Working with Dr. Sola was an exciting experience for Mr. Geiger, an experienced diver and licensed U.S. Coast Guard captain who has made films for Discovery Channel, NOVA, PBS, NBC, and Animal Planet, as well as National Geographic, through his and Ms. Beaudry’s Vineyard production company, SeaLight Pictures.

Diving out of very small boats in the Line Islands, Mr. Geiger, his film crew, and the research team contended with eight- and nine-foot swells that translated into surges at 60, 70 and 80 feet below the surface, often making the underwater cinematography dangerous and challenging.”Sharks are not a particularly aggressive species,” Mr. Geiger says. He was often diving with as many as 100 of them. “What it boils down to for the most part is that people put themselves in danger, going out at dusk or in murky water, when it’s mistaken identity. You have to have your senses about you.

“Hopefully ‘Shark Eden’ is a good mix of education and adventure,” Mr. Geiger says. “People need to understand how important the oceans are to all life on the planet, and that we need to change our ways.”

SeaLight’s next project by Ms. Beaudry is “Hitler’s Secret Science” for Discovery Channel. A look at some of the weapons and technology invented by the Germans during World War II, it will air Sunday, May 9. Meanwhile, Mr. Geiger, who calls himself “a summer kid who has called the Vineyard home for 49 years,” is doing research for a National Geographic series on the Sinking of the Bismarck.

Brooks Robards divides her time between Northampton and Oak Bluffs, and regularly writes for The Times.