Following Dr David Gruber’s discovery of the bio-fluorescent hawksbill sea turtles near the Solomon Islands, film-director Klaus Obermeyer was inspired to witness these special creatures himself. Together with a team of 45, Obermeyer began his mission to capture the bio-fluorescent turtles with Canon’s new ME20-SF low light camera.
It was a gamble – these creatures had only been documented once before – but an opportunity that not many will experience in their lifetime. The hawksbill sea turtles are a critically endangered species; illegal trade, loss of habitat, and susceptibility as bycatch are wiping out this precious species that are so vital to marine ecosystems.
Nevertheless, the team flew into Munda with hope and faith in the wonders of the Solomon Islands.
For two nights, Obermeyer descended into the depths of Mbigo Mbigo, a dive site famous for its amazing clarity and unmatched coral formations and turtle population. Blue light and a yellow filter were needed to bring the bio-fluorescent world to life. As if on cue, a turtle found its way to them on both nights.
“The experience of seeing the turtle for the first time was incredible! The beauty of the glowing bio-fluorescence, combined with the elegance and otherworldly beauty of the turtle was mesmerizing,” Obermeyer recalls.
In his correspondence with National Geographic, Alexander Gaos, director of the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative, shared that bio-fluorescence in animals is often used for finding and attracting prey, or as a defence mechanism. It could also be a form of communication. Gaos suggests that the hawksbill sea turtle could be fluorescing to camouflage with its habitat.
Little is known about the reason for fluorescing due to the lack of documentation, but hopefully, as they start to peak the interest of divers, researchers, and photographers from around the world, we’ll find out more about how to save this precious species.