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Frédéric Buyle Born 4 March 1972 Place of residence Brussels, Belgium Height 6’1” Weight 179 lbs Hobbies Collecting art, skiing, sailing Role models Anyone who lives his own life and not that of another Occupation Underwater filmmaker and photographer Projects IMAX film “Great White Shark 3D” “The Click Effect” www.nektos.net As the outlines of the huge tiger shark in the water become visible beneath him, Frédéric Buyle casts a hard look at his camera, takes a deep breath and dives. Without fear he swims toward the shark as if it were an old acquaintance. “Every shark has its own personality, some shy and timid, others curious,” says Frédéric Buyle, who everyone simply calls “Fred”. In his wetsuit, with goggles, flippers and his camera, the 44-year-old pursues whales, sharks or mantas into the depths, photographs them in their element. Buyle is a freediver. His photos develop with bated breath. As a small boy Fred sailed the whole summer long on his parents’ yacht and saw his first shark at the age of seven while snorkeling. An encounter that has thrilled him ever since. Today the oceans are Buyle’s workplace. Yet the Belgian has more in mind than providing breath-taking visuals. With his pictures he wants to ensure that the world gains a greater awareness of how wonderful, how vulnerable all of its marine life is. And he’s met with success: The “New York Times” published his impressive photos of sperm whales; Buyle’s film “Great White Shark 3D” on the white sharks off Guadalupe appeared in 2013 and reached an audience of millions. Free-diving is the most natural way to explore the underwater world. No technical equipment, no noises, simply inhale and dive. But free-diving is also a rapidly evolving competitive sport in which it remains to be seen when the limits of what a person is able to dive will be reached. In 1996, when the young Fred Buyle went to the world championship in deep-sea diving as part of the Belgian national team, he was—at a depth of 51 meters—one of the top athletes in the “Constant Weight” field, which is diving assisted only by flippers. Today the world’s best athletes reach depths of more than 100 meters. To accomplish such high-performance feats under their own steam, divers have to be able to do one thing above all else: reduce their body’s oxygen consumption to a minimum. They achieve this through a deeply relaxed, almost meditative state during the dive. As the water pressure increases more and more with every meter of depth, the lungs of the diver are increasingly compressed. No matter how they may have inhaled, eventually they reach the point at which the air in their lungs is no longer sufficient to generate buoyancy, and the diver sinks to the deep. “Freefall” is what the free-divers call this thrilling stage of the dive. The little bit of air must be sufficient to establish the balance of pressure in their ears when the eardrum bulges inward due to the water pressure. Therefore, at a certain depth the divers move their air from their lungs into their mouths, with which a precisely apportioned pressure can be exerted on the ears. The greatest risk during free-diving is not the marine life, it’s the diver him- or herself. After all, anyone who remains underwater longer during an excursion into the depths is in danger of losing consciousness when surfacing. Without a partner close by, the diver drowns. “Freediving is a safe sport. If there are accidents, it’s almost always due to the fact that the basic rule of safety was not adhered to, and the diver was alone in the water,” says Fred. Buyle already bid farewell to the pursuit of ever greater depths in diving in 2002. That was when he exchanged the record-beating quest for the camera; he now gladly puts his free-diving skills in the service of science. “In 2005, a marine biologist contacted me for the first time. He wanted to tag hammerheads, which proved difficult with scuba divers.” Since then Fred has been helping oceanographers approach their objects of study. He stalks sharks in order to tag them, or dives in order to take tissue samples from devil rays as they glide past. “I am only the link connecting the scientists to the animal,” says Fred. “The researchers decide what I’m supposed to do.” However, his jobs lead him into exciting marine regions and ensure him unique photos. 84


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