March 2016 on the Great Barrier Reef

Just Fine Indeed

Captain Trevor Jackson

“Honey, it’s for you! It’s some guy that says he’s from the BBC”…..I stumbled out of bed and made my way across to the phone. “Hello?” Sure enough, despite my internal protestations of ‘why on earth would the BBC be calling me?’ …it was in fact…they….

Well to be more specific, it was a producer from Atlantic Productions in the UK and they were making a BBC/Attenborough documentary about the Great Barrier Reef, “Could we ask you a few questions?”

I had to shake the cobwebs out a bit so I asked the guy to call back and took ten minutes to compose myself. “Sir David Attenborough is making a doco about the GBR and they want to ask me some questions”, I said out loud. I don’t know if I was talking to myself or to my wife but I took a second to take some deep breaths. There are famous people and then there are famous people…the real famous ones can be often be identified with just one name, like  Mandela, Ghandi, Ali, Churchill, Hillary… well you get the idea, and to be perfectly frank, one would have to say that ‘Attenborough’ also fits into that category.  And his mob were about to be back on the phone quizzing this crotchety old dive boat skipper about the very subject of their doco….a few more breaths.

The phone rang again and we were away. Four or five hours on the phone to London, 6 months and 140 emails later, “a few questions” had evolved into “appearing on screen” and I was in a Townsville restaurant with a film crew drinking all expenses paid vino and discussing the following days filming. We were heading out to shoot some topside stuff, where I would be waxing on about the wreck of the SS Yongala and how she had reinvented herself after Cyclone Yasi. I was in the company of real pros, Mike Pitt, one of the world’s finest underwater cinematographers, filled me in…”We are going to do about 3 hours of interviews tomorrow. If we are lucky, and they don’t chop the sequence altogether, you might be on screen for about 20 seconds in the final cut. I know it doesn’t seem worth all the hassle, but think about this: Attenborough came out to the GBR back in 1957 and traversed the reef from south to north. Now he’s back, nearly 60 years later to retrace his footsteps, and create a documentary series that will become the definitive benchmark on the subject for the next hundred years. There’s no expense being spared. All of us here at this table are helping to create that. Sir David is 88, he may retire soon and that will make this, his last major work. That 20 seconds, it will be something to be proud of”.

It has been said that everyone gets their 15 minute of fame at some time in their lives but I have to say…given the company, and how cool the final product is….20 seconds will do me fine, just fine indeed!


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