An innovative new project, streaming live scuba diving tours from the Cayman Islands, launches Saturday.
South African company WildEarth has been testing the idea for the past month and will go live for the first time this weekend.
They plan to stream daily dives, hosted by marine biologists, from the reefs off Grand Cayman. The hosts, wearing full-face masks fitted with audio equipment, will provide a running commentary to people watching at home.
“It is a virtual scuba dive,” said Megan Parker, senior producer on the diveLIVE project, as she oversaw final preparations for the launch at Don Foster’s dive center this week.
“People can submit questions through Facebook or on our live stream and our marine biologists will answer them in real time,” she said.
More than 60,000 people tuned into an initial test launch of the project in April. Since then, the company has raised $60,000 using Kickstarter – an online platform for crowdfunding creative projects – for a pilot series.
The crew has been diving daily over the past month to fine-tune the process, which involves creative application of technology. A camera operator carries a second dive cylinder, with a full two-way video and audio streaming kit built into it. The host and camera operator are connected to the surface through what producers describe as an “armored umbilical” that houses over a dozen fiber-optic cables to carry the various data streams.
There will be two dives on Saturday, broadcasting live at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. From Monday, daily dives will go out live at 7 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Ms. Parker said WildEarth had already established a loyal following through its safariLIVE venture, which broadcasts from Kruger National Park in South Africa. Some of their coverage is carried on the National Geographic television channel.
DiveLIVE will attempt to replicate the success of that project, under the water.
The next two months is a “proof of concept” phase, after which producers hope to find a television partner and spread their wings to incorporate dive sites in other parts of the world, potentially including Borneo and South Africa.
“The whole gist of diveLIVE is connecting people with our oceans to create more awareness and help people fall in love with our oceans with the hope that will lead to them caring about them a bit more,” Ms. Parker said.
WildEarth was founded by Graham and Emily Wallington in South Africa.
Ms. Wallington told the Cayman Compass last month that the safariLIVE broadcasts had developed a huge following.
“We have a huge community of people addicted to this type of thing,” she said.
She added that it had spin-off benefits for tourism and also allowed people who were physically or financially unable to travel to exotic locations to experience nature close up.
“We are not preaching to people. We are just trying to get people to fall in love with the ocean,” she added.
The live dives and launch party will be streamed through:
- YouTube: YouTube.com/diveLIVE
- Facebook: @livedivelive
- Periscope: @wildearth, #diveLIVE
- Website: www.wildearth.TV/divelive
The Cayman Compass Facebook page will also carry a stream of the live dive at 11 a.m. Saturday.