Kim Hildebrandt's September Photo Journal: An Our World Underwater Rolex Scholar Journey


In the first days of September, I was at the Sealife Trust´s Beluga Whale Sanctuary and Puffin Hospital on the island of Heimaey in Iceland.

The open-water Sanctuary is the very first in the world of this kind and will- from next spring on- house the 2 Belugas Little White and Little Grey, who have previously been kept in a Marine Park in China. Currently, they are still acclimatizing to the cold temperatures, so they are still in the indoor facility of the center. I got to learn a lot about the care and health of Cetaceans by the amazing Team of caretakers, I am still stunned about the incredible journey the two Belugas have behind them and I am excited for them to move into their forever home in Klettsvik Bay.

When I attempted taking photos of them from the edge of their habitat, just holding the camera into the water, I wasn´t sure if they would come close enough. But in fact, they got much too close and investigated the camera closely! Such a good feeling to enhance the interaction that is purely chosen by the animal itself.

After my stay on Heimaey, I returned to the Icelandic mainland, and the urge to finally jump into the water myself again, brought me to Silfra: the place with the clearest water in the world. Additionally, Silfra is the only place in the world where you can dive between two continental plates: Europe and America. Thanks to Arctic Adventures, I got to experience Silfra´s otherworldly magic in two dives, and even in 2 degrees of water, which let my fingers freeze immediately, I could not stop myself from taking many photos!

Then, my journey took me to Vancouver in Canada, where I visited many institutions, including the Vancouver Aquarium, the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, Nuytco Engineering, and Shearwater Research. On Vancouver Island, I visited to learn about Underwater Minimentary Production and learned about Underwater Filming from Maxwel Hohn, who I was lucky enough to join on a Salmon Snorkel and Shoot in Campbell River. I also got to try myself out on a tethered dive in a Kirby Morgan diver helmet with DiveSafe International, and I visited the Royal Canadian Mounted Police´s Dive and Boat Unit. Another highlight was to experience Humpback Whales, Orcas, Pacific White-sided dolphins and harbour porpoises with Big Animal Encounters in the beautiful sounds around Campbell River. And, of course, I got to dive some amazing dive sites around Bowen Island and Whytecliff and enjoyed the cold water diving here tremendously. Such different marine life to photograph compared to the subjects that I photographed in Egypt and the Maldives.




After the jam-packed time in British Columbia, I then flew to breathtaking Alaska, where I was going to spend 3 weeks at the Alaska Sealife Center in Seward. Here, I assisted the center´s head vet Dr. Carrie Goertz in the pre-transport acclimation of two Sea Otters, who had been rescued and rehabilitated in the ASLC last year. Because they were rescued as pups, they, unfortunately, can´t be released into the wild but will find their new forever home in Europe. To make this long journey as stress-free as possible for them, we worked towards familiarising them with their Transport boxes and other transport-related stimuli, and I monitored their stress level by recording the Body Core temperature changes through Radiotransmitters that are implanted into their peritoneal cavity. The otters showed quick progress and I am convinced that they are now well prepared for their travels.

Additionally, I got to jump into Alaskan waters 3 times: 1 shore dive on the remains of the old train tracks which got struck by the big Alaskan earthquake in 1964, and 2 dives from a boat in Resurrection Bay. And I found myself in the most beautiful underwater landscape here surrounded by hundreds of Rockfish, Plumose anemones, Kelp and Northern Sea Nettles.

Overall, it is to say that the month of September has been absolutely incredible, bringing me to places that I have never seen before, and that have shown me a complete other world of Scuba Diving. And I am in awe with what cold water diving can offer you, and I can´t wait to explore more of it!