Blancpain Partner Lauren Ballesta Wins ‘earth Environment’ Annual Wild Photographer Award

‘There are a lot of’ fake icebergs ‘circulating on the Internet. Computer-generated photos and fabricated rhetoric are commonplace. However, no one has ever seen a complete iceberg, let alone took it down. Poor visibility, endless darkness, piercing sea water … Numerous difficulties drowned the secrets of the iceberg. The underwater appearance of these huge ice cubes is still unknown. After eleven days of hard journey, I couldn’t help but wonder: Is it possible for anyone to witness the entire iceberg at the same time? ‘
                                                        -Lauren Ballesta

2017 ‘Wild Photographer of the Year · Global Environment’ award-winning work ‘Iceberg Under the Tip’ Photographer: Laurent Ballesta
   Since 2013, Blancpain has served as the main partner of the project and Ballesta himself in the coelacanth expedition research project led by Lauren Ballesta. During the scientific expedition ‘Gombessa III-Antarctica!’ Of the Coelacanth Expedition Research, Lauren showed the world the first underwater part of an iceberg with photographs for the first time and won ‘ The ‘Earth Environment’ category of the annual field photographer award.

Lauren Ballesta, Blancpain’s best friend and marine biologist

The ‘Field Photographer of the Year Award’ is currently the longest established and most prestigious nature photography competition in the world. It has 53 years of history. Organized by the Natural History Museum (London), the competition aims to challenge people’s existing knowledge of the natural world through photographic works, and promote the protection and sustainable development of wildlife. Among them, the ‘Earth Environment’ category of photographs focuses on various magnificent and stunning topographical features on the earth, during the formation of nature’s magical works, or the pure wasteland style of its own.

   The photography of Lauren Ballesta’s iceberg perfectly illustrates this theme. This is the result of his hours of diving in the icy, snowy polar ocean. Blancpain firmly believes that in order to achieve the goal of global marine protection, it is important to strengthen public environmental awareness. It is therefore gratifying that Lauren has earned this honor. This is both an affirmation of Lauren’s photographic talents and a reward for his extraordinary hard work in the coelacanth expedition research project.

The Story Behind The Iceberg Under The Corner

Lauren Ballesta underwater shoot
    In an interview, Lauren said:
   ‘There are a lot of ‘fake icebergs’ circulating on the Internet. Computer-generated photos and fabricated rhetoric are commonplace. However, no one has ever seen a complete iceberg, let alone took it down. Extremely poor visibility, boundless Dark, piercing sea water … Numerous difficulties drowned the secrets of the iceberg. The underwater appearance of these huge ice cubes is still unknown. After eleven days of hard progress, I can’t help but wonder: Is it possible for people to witness the whole at the same time? Where is the iceberg?
   This idea was quickly echoed, and we have spent three weeks diving trips, exhausted at the end of each night. Finally, when we dived, we found a spherical iceberg, about 200 meters in circumference, floating on the sea. It is blocked by the glacier and completely stationary, so you don’t have to worry about it drifting away or turning over suddenly. It was worn very smooth by the current, like a giant pebble. I shared my battle plan with my companions. This is not a simple task, but it is worth a try. The next day we dived down the slopes of the glacier. At the bottom of the sea, we immediately implemented the plan: the slings sank to the sea floor, and the coils of buoys floated on the water. In this way, we built a huge grid covering various water depths, with the goal of taking about a hundred photos at the same distance from the iceberg.
   Under water, no one can see the entire iceberg. From a short distance, it extends our vision; from a distance, it is hidden in the fog of sea water. Nevertheless, after a few minutes of waiting, the true face of the iceberg appeared on the screen, and for the first time, the whole picture was seen by humans. The picture that has been dreamed thousands of times has finally become a reality. A word from RomainGary appeared in my mind: ‘If the beginning of a thing is not imaginary, it has no value in existence. Otherwise, the sea is nothing but salty water.’’

   Prior to the Antarctic Iceberg filming project, Lauren carried out a completely opposite project in the Indian Ocean region-filming the sea floor ecosystem and unrecorded mysterious marine life after the volcanic eruption.
   Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean has the world’s most active volcano. This provides Lauren with unique conditions for studying the formation of a new ecosystem. In 2007, a large-scale volcanic eruption occurred here. At that time, volcanoes formed mushroom clouds similar to those of the atomic bomb explosion. A large amount of magma spewed down and flowed to the bottom of the sea at a depth of 800 meters. When these hot magma flowed into the ocean, the places they passed were completely destroyed and countless oceans. Creatures were killed and the sea floor was covered with a thick layer of volcanic rocks.
  
   Although looking around, it was deserted, but between the rocks, Lauren found signs of life. Fauna and seaweed and other highly adaptable animals and plants have resumed living on volcanic rocks. Soon after, coral reefs gradually appeared. After the volcanic eruption, various creatures such as fish settled on the volcanic rocks of the sea floor, and a young and vibrant ecosystem was born. This is a major discovery by Lauren and his party.

   This deep-sea trip has given human beings a better understanding of the process of life recovery after extreme natural disasters, and has enriched our scientific understanding of the underwater world. For Lauren, these fruitful results made him feel that the risk he took when diving at the foot of the volcano was not much. Lauren said: ‘Every time we invest resources and carry out scientific expeditions, we can discover new phenomena, new species, new ecosystems. They have never been involved before and have never appeared in written records. Of course, this is just the beginning. ‘

Lava flowing through the reunion sea floor

Rare fish species photographed by Lauren Ballesta for the first time