Face-to-Face With Ocean Giants

For all the familiarizing photos we get to see of the once-unknown but still strange and wonderful creatures swimming the ocean’s depths, it’s hard for most of us to imagine what it’s like to actually interact with these animals, to read their movements, sense their gaze, or guess their intentions.

A gray reef shark in New Caledonia. Photo by Manu San Félix.
A gray reef shark on the Pristine Seas expedition in New Caledonia. Photo by Manu San Félix.

Living on land, interacting with mostly only humans and our closely related mammalian pets, we are unaccustomed to the frozen expression on a reef shark’s face and the wild undulations of the arms of an octopus. To truly become familiar with them, we’d need to spend thousands of hours scuba diving, living for months or years on or near the sea, practically becoming marine creatures ourselves.

Thankfully, some humans have made that leap, and the experiences they’ve had coming face to face with these otherworldly animals have changed them forever, and helped inspire them to dedicate their lives to understanding and protecting life in the ocean. As leader of the Pristine Seas expeditions, National Geographic Explorer Enric Sala has been to some of the most remote areas of the ocean and swum in the midst of greater numbers of sharks than anyone thought one location could hold. Tierney Thys has floated alongside the bizarre mola-mola and come to know this gentle giant on its own terms.

Join them both for our next Google+ Hangout, Friday, February 28 at 5:30pm ET (10:30pm UTC), and ask them directly what it’s like to visit the closest thing we’ve found to an inhabited alien planet.

In the videos below, get to know Enric and Tierney, and get a taste of their experiences under the waves with some of Earth’s most incredible animals.


How to Participate in the Hangout

You can be a part of our next Google+ Hangout. Send in your questions for these National Geographic Explorers and they may be asked on air. Submit your questions by…

  • Uploading a video question to YouTube with hashtag #LetsExplore
  • Posting a question on Google+ or Twitter with hashtag #LetsExplore or
  • Commenting directly on this blog post

Follow National Geographic on Google+ or return to this blog post to watch the Google+ Hangout Friday, February 28th at  5:30 p.m. EST (10:30 p.m. UTC).

Other Hangouts From National Geographic:

Hangout With the Adventurers of the Year
Hangout With Buzz Aldrin and Conrad Anker
Hangout With Explorers on All Seven Continents



Meet the Author
Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of nationalgeographic.com for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.