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Technology on Tyuleny

How to study 50.000 seals up to six times a day

The engine of the ship Afina, our home on the From Kurils with Love expedition, was quiet. The only noise making its way into our cabins came from the sound of waves slapping against the hull of the ship. As I emerged from below deck, I saw it was misty that day. The only sense of direction I had was a vague one- we were somewhere in the North Pacific, a few hundred kilometers northwest of Japan, in a place that you would never have found on a map if not for the likes of Google maps: Tyuleny Island.

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The assistant: controlling the gear

Ryan Hill was managing the camera equipment at #fromkurilswithlove

Ryan Hill was the assistant to Chris Burkard on #fromkurilswithlove. And although the camera crew was travelling light, there still was an enormous amount of equipment to take care of. They only brought less than 20 bags with equipment. it can easily be 100 in other shoots. Looking after the equipment, among other things, was Ryan's job. Here, he gives a short impression of his work and the challenges on board.

Find photos of the mess and a list of all the equipment on board in this article.

From Kurils with Love

A hodgepodge mix and a stroke of luck

Chris Burkard's thoughts at the end of #fromkurilswithlove

#fromkurilswithlove was a coincidence, in many ways. A photographer (Renan Ozturk) does a commercial shoot for a company (Kaspersky) and they find a common interest (The Kuril Islands). The photographer finds a group of people that is as passionate about the idea as himself, and a year later they all board a boat.

Chris Burkard was one of those people and in this video he explains how this random mix of people ended up being a perfect crew.

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Tell the world or not?

Is awareness good or bad for a paradise like the Kuril Islands?

Many people in the last days asked us why we are trying to raise awareness for the Kuril Islands; and if it wouldn't be better if they stayed hidden. We spoke to Renan Ozturk about this topic before the expedition left. In this video he sums up what the local representative of one of the world's biggest environmental conservation groups told him in a meeting a few hours before this interview.

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How technology protects animals

The expedition was set up to have two scientists on board: Rishi Sugla, who is an oceanographer, and Jeff Kerby, who researches in plant life and animal interactions in extreme environments. So these two were the scientific backbone of the crew - until last minute we received a request to take someone on board who wanted to check his timelapse cameras around the islands and bring replenishments to some of his team on Tyulenyi.

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Back on the shore but the story continues

#fromkurilswithlove has reached Sakhalin, its final destination.

We are on our way back to port in Sakhalin. Maybe three or so hours to go. The crew is packing all the gear up.

There is an assembly station for all the tech toys on the rear of Afina and it in itself is very cool to watch. The places that these cameras have been, and the things they have seen and shot, words can't describe. Remember that more than 30 bags were loaded onto Afina 12 days ago.

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From Kurils with Love

Gear, gear, gear

Drowning in the masses of film equipment on board

#fromkurilswithlove essentially is a film production trapped on a boat. That means that there are enormous amounts of gear on board and they are spilling everywhere. There is a gear room in cabin number one - but quickly the gear started spilling over into any free area on the boat (which is totally not appreciated by the crew).

The actual gear room

Below is the impressive list of items we had on our carnet. The losses were low so far. We lost to DJI Mavic drones and had probably nearly 20 near misses as the guys are pushing their tech to the absolute limit. That is a surprisingly good result, taking into account that we are hauling the gear in and out of zodiacs, shooting in boats, on cliffs, carrying the stuff over slippery rocks all the time. Well - we brought 251 items an still have 249. Not bad.

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No learning without tech

Dr. Vladimir Burkanov explains how technology influences his fieldwork

Dr. Vladimir Burkanov "hitchhiked" on our expedition. It was a great coincidence that made our film makers change plans and follow his work. They also made him change his Instagram handle to @bigdaddyvladi. In this video he talks about how technology changed his work in the last 30 years.


Week one in emojis

For the celebration of World Emoji Day, let us recap the first week of our expedition with… well… Emojis


Do coincidences exist?

How an encounter results in a second mission for expedition #withkurilswithlove

Whether the unexpected encounter with Dr. Vladimir Burkanov is a case of synchronicity we can debate, but for our #fromkurilswithlove expedition team it is without a doubt a meaningful coincidence.

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Drones in the Wild

As amazing as Onekotan was - we lost gear and (more tragically) footage

What's becoming quite obvious is how, constantly close to the edge, we are of losing the technology we depend on to not only document #FromKurilsWithLove, but also to share the story as it unfolds with the world. The dependency is as tangible as its nerve wrecking. Being on a boat and near water almost constantly, while pushing the limits of the technology that is being used - even the smallest mistake can mean loss of production gear, which is replaceable, but what's worse: losing an important part of the story.

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Drone with the Wind

How massive gusts make getting the gear back a challenge

There are some elite drone filmographers on our ship. Renan Ozturk, Chris Burkard, Taylor Rees, Ryan Hill, Jeff Kerby - they let drones fly around us, above us without a break. While flying them is hard enough, landing is an even bigger challenge.

The Kuril Islands are windy. Really windy. All of a sudden, a strong gust might take control of the drone.

So, here you see Renan and Taylor, shaken by the rolling of the boat, trying to get one of their drones safely home. You can see Taylor's relief at the end of the video.

The team lost drones on Onekotan the other day - but we will tell that in another story.