Diver Reveals Crystal Serenity's Undersea Landscapes

Hofman diving

By MarEx 2016-09-18 22:09:48

Crystal Serenity completed its history voyage through the Northwest Passage on Friday, and the vessel’s undersea specialist, Justin Hofman, spoke to MarEx about the cruise’s underwater experiences:

My title has ranged from Undersea Specialist to Marine Biologist but it should really be Ocean Ambassador. I think it’s incredibly important to include an underwater experience for expedition cruise guests, regardless of the location. 

As humans we are so focused on what is happening above water that we have been missing out on countless opportunities for exploration and insight into the mysteries of the deep. Not to mention, there are so many amazing things happening underwater that it’s guaranteed to find a compelling story to captivate a shipboard audience.

The Canadian Arctic has vast landscapes of muted tones. Grays and browns stretch as far as you can see. The only real color comes from deep blue water and an azure sky. To find any sort of color you must either get on your hands and knees during the brief summer months and look for tiny tundra flowers, or don 100 pounds (45 kilograms) of diving equipment and immerse yourself in the freezing water. Most guests have no desire to do this, but crazy people like myself live for just this opportunity.

Using the newest heated dry suit technologies and ultra-high resolution cameras, I was able to capture a world that human eyes very rarely get to see. During Crystal Serenity’s transit through the Northwest Passage, the dive team explored several different ecosystems, each a piece of the complex Arctic ecosystem we were all cruising through. We encountered giant scars left over by shifting icebergs, bearded seals, and bottomless fjord walls all while capturing digital video and photos for a later presentation back on Crystal Serenity

We also deployed a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to explore waters deeper than most divers can go. Piloting the ROV to over 250 feet deep, it really feels like entering another planet filled with unusual invertebrates in surprisingly high abundance.

There is a general misconception that cold, polar waters are devoid of life, and I am here to educate and surprise curious travelers. Guests are often totally unaware of the beautiful colors and proliferation of life found in the ocean’s coldest waters, and with new camera and ROV technologies it’s becoming easier (and more comfortable) to educate cruise guests every year. 

“I had no idea…” is such a frequent comment after a presentation that I literally wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard it. Combine these presentations with their own firsthand Arctic wildlife and cultural encounters, and you now have empowered hundreds of full-fledge ambassadors of the Arctic. These are the things that make the cold water, numb toes, and painful fingertips all worth it. 

Using state-of-the-art equipment and a lifetime of passion, we are able to inspire curious travelers to care a little more about our planet and the people on it.  

Images: Justin Hofman / Expedition Voyage Consultants

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.