powered by AFI
This film documents Viennese marine researcher Han Hass's expedition in the Red Sea off the coast of Port Sudan, Africa and his attempts to record underwater sounds of marine animals. His crew includes secretary Lottie Berl, sound engineer Edward "Eddie" Wawrowetz, assistants Gerald "Gerry" Weidler and Leo Rohrer and cook Hasan. Arriving at the port to prepare for the trip, Hass approaches local ship owner Abdul Wahab about renting his vessel for the expedition. Mahmoud Amir, who successfully brokers the deal, later joins the crew on their voyage. Many people in the Muslim city are superstitious of the man who can "walk underwater." Meanwhile, learning that the expedition's photographer is too sick to join them, Lottie asks Hass if she can take his position. Despite Hass's initial reservation, he finally agrees to Lottie's request. Early one morning, they begin their journey by snorkeling in the tranquil inshore waters. Hass has chosen to conduct his experiments in the Red Sea waters because of the good visibility created by sunlight that penetrates to depths of over 100 feet. The waters are also high in salt content, providing the explorers with strong buoyancy. Later, as they travel along the coast, Hass examines and classifies coral from the reef, which crowds the channel. Over the course of hundreds of years of growth, the reef has forced the once-flourishing Turkish and Arabian ruled trading port out of business. On another day, Hass prepares the camera for underwater work by placing it in an airtight container and pressurizing it. Hass, Lottie, Gerry and Leo then put on respirators with thirty-minute air supplies designed by Hass. The leader then advises them about the respirators and the effects of the increasing pressure they will feel in their descent. While Hass and Dottie dive, Leo and Gerry spear hunt for eel and grouper, which the crew enjoy for dinner that evening. On another day of research, Hass and Lottie place the hydrophone near different fish and record the sounds of angelfish, soot fish, glassfish and a school of sardines. Having tested all the equipment and prepared the crew, Hass orders the ship's captain to take them to deeper waters. After two days of travel, Hass finds a reef that he believes is safe for his crew to investigate, despite Mahmoud's warnings that the deep waters are filled with evil sea spirits. On their first dive, Hass, Lottie, Gerry and Leo find a mid-nineteenth century slave ship. Another day, they descend to the base of the coral with plans to lure a killer shark by testing the theory that sharks, which have poor eye sight, identify their prey by their radar sensitivity to vibrations. When they harpoon a grouper, the vibrations of the struggling fish attract a large killer shark that strikes the bait. Wanting to test whether human-created sound will affect the fish, they set up the hydrophone near schools of fish and play various sounds including sirens, gun shots, screams and explosions at full volume, but the fish have little reaction. Hass, who has theorized that regular pulsations would affect fish, then plays "The Blue Danube." Everyone is amazed as, pair by pair, fish approach the hydrophone and circle the source of the sound in larger and larger schools in a "gay, measured waltz of the deep." The next morning, in even deeper waters, they lower the hydrophone and hear an approaching fish, a giant manta ray. Seeking to shoot the first photographs ever taken of the creature, Lottie moves in for a close-up. Suddenly, as a gigantic whale shark distracts Hass, Gerry and Leo, a second manta ray approaches and knocks Lottie unconscious. When they discover their partner missing, Hass, Leo and Gerry frantically search for signs of bubbles from her respirator. After finding her unconscious in the reef, they bring her safely to the surface. On the homeward bound journey, the group celebrates the successful expedition and toast Hass and Lottie's plans for marriage.