In February I was lucky to be asked to play the role of Crocodile expert in a documentary produced for Japanese National Television. We did our filming along the Grumeti River in the Serengeti
This of course meant kilograms of paperwork need to be obtained: film permits; offroad driving permits; walking permits etc etc. But it was all achieved and we spent many days creeping back and forth through the riverine bush along the river bumping into hippos and sneaking up on sleeping crocodiles. It was a lot of fun and Shiro, Tsuzumi and Hideo were wonderful people to work with in every way.
There was one major highlight of the trip.
Well perhaps it was not such a high point for the crew.
It started when Tsuzumi proudly produced a large aluminium box, unlocked it and opened it with a great sense of ceremony. This was the unveiling of the HMS Grumeti and there she lay nestling her box amid shaped foam padding. The boat was about 36 inches long and custom made by a professional racing-boat maker in Japan. It was radio controlled and all the machinery was hidden inside the body.
Their was a special mounting bracket for a small but very professional high definition camera in a waterproof case. There was another segment for counterbalance weights to be added to compensate for the weight of the camera and to allow for the lense angle to be adjusted. Their were antennae, foam inserts and a number of other professional looking pieces of kit.
Oh, it is also imortant to know that the propeller was cut right down. The makers boats are designed for racing so this one would previously only go fast …. too fast. So thats why they cut the propeller way back and slowed its top speed down dramatically.
So sure enough we took it down to the river early one morning and found ourselves a large, murky, isolated pool. Surely there would be a nice big croc in here.
Down to the waters edge. Into the water (gingerly). away from the water and its huge crocodiles (hurriedly). And then a small trial run with camera whirring at just above water level. These were going to be awesome shots for sure. Eye level with the water – moving slowly; seeing just what a crocodile would see. We brought it back and checked. Yes perfect. So out it went again for the real thing.
And then he came. A huge crocodile, fast and scary, with a small efficient bow wave in front of him. He hesitated for a second and then decided that our boat really looked tasty while our brave little camera filmed away seemingly unaware of what was about to happen to it.
“Is it going to eat our camera?????”
“get it out of there … faster …. faster man!”
“Thats as fast as it can go.”
And SMACK. Bits of fibreglass, foam, counterweights, camera and electric motor flew and that was the end of that. Wouldnt it have been interesting if we could have retrieved the camera and seen its last footage.
Of course the main camera on land was back in the vehicle so the whole disaster could not be filmed. These photos were used in the documentary though. It was a great success with over a million viewers and a replay due to popular demand.