Arts and Entertainment

'Beneath the Salish Sea' returns to The Clyde

A kiss by a seal is an unexpected underwater encounter for Freeland resident and underwater explorer Florian Graner. - Photo courtesy of Florian Graner
A kiss by a seal is an unexpected underwater encounter for Freeland resident and underwater explorer Florian Graner.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Florian Graner

RECORD STAFF

When The Clyde Theatre in Langley premiered Florian Graner’s stunning underwater documentary “Beneath the Salish Sea” in 2010 sell-out crowds caused the first traffic jam many had ever seen on First Street.

“It was so amazing that Tucker Stevens shot a little video of it,” said Lynn Willeford, co-owner of Langley’s only cinema.

Three years later Graner, a South Whidbey resident who is one of the world’s top underwater cinematographers, has completely reworked the original film, adding exciting new footage. Photo courtesy of Florian Graner | Florian Graner treads water on an expedition close to home, with the Seattle skyline in the background.

He’ll return to answer questions and talk about the new version of the film after each showing of “Beneath the Salish Sea” at 1 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday, March 16 and 17, at The Clyde.

The personable Graner has a doctorate in marine biology with a specialty in marine mammals. He fell into underwater still and action photography when a producer for the BBC series The Blue Planet was taken by his work.

In the past 10 years, his Sealife Productions has photographed sharks in Norway’s deepest fjord, coral reefs in the Red Sea, otters and spawning squid in California, orcas in the Arctic, porpoises in Japan, great whites in Mexico, gray whales on the Pacific Coast, seals in Germany, and unique species in both the Amazon River and Siberia’s Lake Baikal. He is currently working on an eight-part documentary for National Geographic on the wildlife of the Olympic Peninsula.

Graner, who has the sleekness of a seal himself, moved his family here six years ago because it seemed like a great place to raise kids and be able to jump into the waters right off your house.

“I started diving off Beverly Beach because it’s our home beach and I like to know where I live,” Graner says. “And I found that there’s amazing stuff living here. I never imagined Holmes Harbor would be so rich.”

The fact that the harbor is teeming with life is something he wants the people of South Whidbey to understand.

“With all the negative press about the state of the Sound, people easily resign themselves to thinking that nothing can be done anymore. That idea is both wrong and dangerous. There are beautiful and functioning ecosystems in our inland waters. I hope this footage will help people reconnect with them.”

Lynn and Blake Willeford of The Clyde heard about Graner’s work in 2009 and invited him to put together a short documentary to show there.

“We were curious about what lay beneath the cold gray waters that surround us, and thought others would like a peek too,” Lynn said.

Fortunately Graner owned the rights to plenty of the footage he’d shot of life in the Salish Sea, the body of water stretching from the southern end of Puget Sound northward to Canada’s Desolation Sound.

“I am so glad Lynn and Blake approached me,” he said, “I had long planned to make a documentary with this footage but sometimes you need a good reason to really sit down and do it!”

The images in “Beneath the Salish Sea” are extraordinary — a huge basking shark approaching with its mouth agape, a giant octopus walking rhythmically across the sea floor, a brightly-colored nudibranch enticing plankton into its mouth like a sea-going version of the Venus flytrap, orcas spy-hopping, seals playing in the gracefully swaying eel grass, porpoises, gray whales and dramatic images of the wild coast where the Salish Sea meets the Pacific.

The premiere of the updated “Beneath the Salish Sea” will be at The Clyde Theatre in Langley on Saturday and Sunday, March 16 and 17 at 1 p.m. The film is unrated, but suitable for all audiences, and runs 1 hour 30 minutes.

Florian Graner will be on hand to answer questions after each showing of the film. Usual admission prices will apply. For more information about the event, email info@theclyde.net

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