This strange underwater contraption is revolutionising underwater filmmaking

One of Love Nature’s videographers has this week been sending back some incredible underwater shots from inside one of the strangest underwater contraptions we’ve seen so far. Great Blue Wild cameraman Kay Burn Lim was diving deep inside ‘The Explorer—a self-propelled mobile shark cage that allows camera operators to track Great White Sharks as they swim, hunt and ultimately slay their prey in the pristine waters off Guadalupe Island, off the coast of Mexico’. We couldn’t let this opportunity go by,  so we had to ask Kay Burn a few questions about this massive mobile cage, and what it’s like filming a Great White up close and personal in it.


Photo by Fernando Perez /

Hi Kay Burn, so tell us again, what’s that weird-looking contraption you’re in in?

It’s a manned roving submersible cage. Designed and used to get close up with great whites for research and filming purposes.

What animal species do you record from within it?

It was designed mainly to film sharks. However, you could also use this vehicle to operate safely in areas which are known to have Great Whites. Filming sea lions or elephant seals where Great Whites are known to hunt for example.  

Are these a new invention?

It’s fairly recently made as far as I know. It has been used before in a few different productions, one of which has aired recently on Shark Week.

How does it move?

The cage seats two. The cameraman up front and a pilot behind. The pilot steers the submersible cage and we are both able to communicate via a communications system in the full-faced masks. The boat is also able to talk with us.

Photo by Fernando Perez
Photo by Fernando Perez /
Photo by Fernando Perez
Photo: BAM

How does it float?

The entire cage is almost neutrally buoyant in the water. Using small lead blocks, we add weight to ourselves accordingly before entering. The cage maintains it’s depth in the water when the motors are off. We change depth via propulsion.  

Was this your first time in one?

Yes! It was a trial for the subsequent shoot two months later. I was very lucky to be able to test it over two dives this trip!

Are they difficult to control?

Doing anything while diving isn’t easy per se. There is a lot of task loading. I wouldn’t know too much about the handling as I wasn’t piloting the vehicle. I have to say that the pilot made it look so simple with his excellent skills. He could put me right within touching distance of a moving Great White and maintain the position!

Did you see many Great Whites?

Yes I did! There were a few. We managed to get close to some and watched others from afar. It was an incredible experience to see them at depth and to be able to follow the Whites as they swam along.

I have been diving outside the cage with Great Whites before but this was the first time I was able to travel alongside them as they swam. Very cool!

Did they come close to the cage and sniff you out?

Not quite. But great whites are curious creatures with little or no fear. I saw some turn around and head straight towards me only to turn about five metres away. They don’t seem bothered by the cage and the propulsion units. Most sharks of other species are a lot more skittish and will disappear in the other direction.

Were you scared?

Only a little concerned when the one White turned around and came head on towards me from a distance. I was on the comm set saying ‘It’s coming at me…. It’s coming at me….. It’s not turning…. It’s not turning!’

I will never forget that moment. We played ‘chicken’ with a Great White….

Photo by Fernando Perez
Not in the The Explorer, but another up close shot of Kay Burn and Great Whites. Photo by Fernando Perez /
Photo by Fernando Perez
Photo: BAM

Did you get any good shots?

My time in the cage was very limited as it was a trial, but yes, we got some good clips.

What else have you been shooting recently?

I was in Lembeh, Indonesia conducting a video light workshop prior to the trip. It was more macro work which I love doing as well. It took me five flights over two days, a bus ride and a 22 hour cruise to get to Guadalupe!

When / what shows will we be able to see your work?

The episode that I am shooting is for Season 3 of Great Blue Wild. I would assume that the season should air sometime mid 2017-2018.

Thanks for the update Kay Burn!

You are very welcome.

Photo by Fernando Perez
Kay Burn with The Explorer above the water. Photo by Fernando Perez /