Friday 23 February 2018

New TV series exploring our seas took two years to make

Starfish at
night off the
shores of
Starfish at night off the shores of Galway
A free diver with a dolphin and a jellyfish off the Burren coast
Filmmaker Ken O'Sullivan

Gordon Deegan

IT IS an amazing underwater world featuring sharks, dolphins and cold-water reefs -- and it's right on our doorstep.

The seas around Ireland can be freezing cold, but they are still teeming with life.

The largely unknown world will be explored in a new six-part TV series.

Yesterday, filmmaker Ken O'Sullivan described the shooting of the 'Farraigi na hEireann' (Seas of Ireland) series as "a labour of love".

The Co Clare producer said that filming and editing the six-part series has taken more than two years, involving 200 hours of underwater footage.

He said: "We wanted to film the sea through the seasons. We dived and shot off almost every coastal county in Ireland with most of the filming taking place in the Atlantic coastal counties of Clare, Galway, Kerry, Mayo and Donegal."

Mr O'Sullivan said that the sub-zero temperatures of the past two Irish winters created the perfect conditions for filming in the water.

He said: "We had calm seas and brilliant light, which was great. The series brings us on a journey through the beautiful oceanic world, encountering an enormous diversity of wild and colourful creatures.

"We meet playful dolphins, giant basking sharks and exotic jellyfish, and travel into the deep Atlantic via a robotic submarine to see the recently discovered cold-water coral reefs in Irish waters."

The weird and wonderful sights caught on camera include sea anemone, moon jellyfish and coral known as Deadman's Fingers.

"We know this is the first time the underwater world has been filmed in an Irish context," he said last night.

The series follows the food chain from plankton right up to whales and dolphins.

Some of the deep-water filming was captured by an unmanned submarine, provided by the Marine Institute, using high-definition cameras.

But for other shots the team used special housing units to cover the delicate equipment and protect it from the water.

"There's no such thing as a special underwater camera. You have to buy a special housing, which, in many cases, costs more than the camera itself.

"Operationally, this type of job is at the masochistic end of camera work," laughed Mr O'Sullivan.

He added: "The sea has always been a great provider for Irish people, from bestowing food and medicine, to the making of fields on the previously barren Aran Islands.

"We examine the changing nature of our relationship with the sea and its creatures through the eyes of older fishermen and marine biologists."


Mr O'Sullivan said 'Farraigi na hEireann' is the first Irish ocean wildlife series to be broadcast.

The series was produced by independent company Seafever Productions, which Mr O'Sullivan operates with his wife, Karina Costello.

Mr O'Sullivan said their costs in putting together the mammoth underwater production had been offset by funding from the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and by TG4.

Their company produced its first feature documentary film, 'Sea Fever', in 2007. It won the Best Cameraman award at the Moscow Sports Film Festival in 2009.

'Farraigi na hEireann' will be broadcast on TG4 every Tuesday from September 20 at 8pm for six weeks. Commentary on the new production is in Irish, with English subtitles.

The production company is now working on a new documentary on humpback whales for a UK company.

Irish Independent

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