Subject: The wreck of the “MV Kudhi Maa” was sunk in the Maldives next to the island of Machafushi. This 52m/170ft long Japanese cargo vessel was intentionally sunk in 1999 to benefit scuba divers. Wrecks have a remarkable ability to attract wildlife and become thriving ecosystems, thanks to their unique characteristics. These man-made structures (most of them are sunken ships but sometimes barges, airplanes and other structures are found on our ocean’s floor), captured through the lens of the underwater videographer, serve as magnets for a wide array of marine organisms, including sessile animals, invertebrates, and vertebrates like fish.
The process of colonisation on wrecks is a fascinating one, as revealed in underwater video footage. Initially, bacteria and microorganisms establish themselves on the wreckage, in combination with oxidation due to the immersion in salt water, breaks down all materials and creates a foundation for larger organisms to follow. This initial stage sets the scene for the subsequent colonisation by sessile animals such as barnacles, sponges, hydroids, corals, anemones, bryozoans, tunicates, and molluscs, which firmly attach themselves to the surfaces of the shipwreck.
Through underwater videography, we witness the transformation of wrecks into vibrant habitats. The hard substrate provided by the wreckage offers a prime environment for a diverse range of invertebrates. Underwater videographers have captured mesmerising footage of sea fans, sponges, and soft corals flourishing on the shipwreck's surfaces. These invertebrates, in turn, become homes to numerous shrimp, crabs, and small fish. The vivid colours of these sessile lifeforms combined with the intricate structures of these man-made vessels like cranes, mast, railings just to name a few, create a captivating underwater spectacle.
The presence of sunken shipwrecks does not go unnoticed by fish populations. Underwater videographers have recorded schools of small fish, including damselfish and wrasses, utilising the wreckage as a nursery and feeding ground. The three-dimensional structure of the shipwreck provides shelter and protection from predators, making it an ideal habitat for these juvenile fish. While larger predatory fish, such as groupers and barracudas, take advantage of the shipwreck's layout as an ambush site for their prey, the outskirts of the wreck is often patrolled by fast pelagic and semi-pelagic species such as jacks.
Sunken shipwrecks serve a vital role beyond providing homes for marine organisms. They also function as artificial reefs, particularly in areas where natural reefs are scarce or damaged. The diverse range of organisms that colonise the wreckage supports the growth and reproduction of fish species, contributing to the overall health and diversity of the marine ecosystem.
From the initial stages of bacterial colonisation to the vibrant communities of invertebrates and fish, wrecks offer a captivating spectacle for both marine life and those who have the privilege to witness their beauty through underwater videography.
Technique: Exploring wrecks can be an exhilarating experience for underwater photographers and filmmakers alike. The decaying remnants of these once majestic vessels in combination with the abundance of marine life provide a unique setting that allows scuba divers to capture captivating images and footage.
The massive metal structures of wrecks and the wildlife that call this place home create a dramatic backdrop, offering a sense of scale and mystery. The intricate details, such as rusted hulls, twisted beams, and scattered debris, tell stories of past voyages and the forces of nature that have shaped them over time. This rich visual tapestry allows underwater photographers and filmmakers to convey a sense of history and evoke emotions through their work.
One of the key advantages of photographing or filming wrecks is the opportunity to experiment with visual depth and light. The dark and confined spaces within the wreckage often create a striking contrast against the surrounding water, enabling artists to play with dramatic lighting techniques. Sunlight streaming through the openings and gaps in the vessel’s silhouette can cast captivating beams and shadows, adding depth and intrigue to the captured images or footage.
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