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Nat Geo WILD: TV Studio On a Boat

I spent the afternoon and evening on the Catamaran that will serve as the dive platform and at-sea studio last night. Now I am no stranger to expedition ships and have spent months at sea on other programs. That said, the conditions here were some of the toughest I have seen and gave me a new level of respect for the crew working out there every day.

To get to the boat you start with a RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat) ride that is more extreme than any amusement park roller coaster. You are warned to not only hold on tight with both hands (more like a death grip) but also put your feet firmly in some straps on the deck . . . not actually inspirational words. The RIB is launched from the beach and the captain circles in the water until he senses a good break in the very big waves that will permit a frenzied petal to the metal dash towards the open ocean. The time comes, he floors it, and you are off – going nearly airborne in the process several times. On some of the runs I witnessed the RIB only made it past the first set of waves and then repeated the “circle & gun” maneuver again.

From there it is about a 20-30 minute body slamming/teeth rattling ride to the Catamaran made even more pleasant during our trip by large raindrops pelting us in the face and fairly strong winds. The highlight is the scenery – countless flying fish whizzing by, dolphins racing us, and more.

I hoped for relief once onboard the bigger boat but no such luck. It is an extremely trying work environment due to a combination of sea state and overcrowding. Our backs are a bit to the wall because the weather delays have pushed the work into a condensed timeframe. Due to this, more people than normal are squeezed into a tight space trying to do things to this boat that it was never intended for – hanging large lights and transmission equipment, building a control room, preparing divers & equipment, setting up a shark cage, shooting promos, rehearsing a show, and on.

The sea state adds to the fun – it is difficult to walk without getting thrown about and many who had never been seasick before were feeling the effects. It is best on deck with an eye on the horizon but if you have to go below deck for any reason – all bets are off. It is cold & windy made all the more pleasant by the fact that most are wet from the RIB fun-ride out there.

Lesson learned from yesterday was to have people out there in shifts on specific tasks so they could work more efficiently. End result was that a lot of work got done and we are in pretty good shape. Good thing since we are just over two days from air and expecting rough weather again tomorrow.

The best news of all though, is that we are now expecting great weather for the live show on Friday so be sure to tune in – it will be a wild ride for everyone.

Bob Sitrick is a 30-year TV production and operations veteran who’s produced countless live television and online events. Bob will be our eyes and ears in the field all week long, reporting in real-time from South Africa on Shark Attack Experiment: LIVE – a two-hour special event on Nat Geo WILD airing live this Friday, November 25 at 9pm ET/6pm PT.