•Beneath the North Atlantic

Endangered Mermaids

Sharks: Search For A Feeding Frenzy

The Silent Wrecks


Oceanic Research Group, Inc. is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to the conservation of the world's oceans and marine life through education.



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An Oceanic Research Group Film

In 1492, Columbus spotted a mermaid from his ship. Or at least he though he did. He actually saw a manatee, and the note he made in his logbook became the first written historical reference to the West Indian Manatee. We also know from this observation that Columbus had been at sea for far too long!

In February 1999, Oceanic Research Group Producers Jonathan Bird and Art Cohen traveled to Florida to start principle photography on a documentary about these mermaids. This shoot was different from previous O.R.G. projects because Bird and Cohen were working with student interns from Massachusetts Communications College. In a special arrangement between O.R.G. and Mass Comm, six students were selected to work on this film as "field interns."

Bird and Cohen were at the time both adjunct members of the faculty at Mass Comm, teaching courses in television production. The students assisted with all aspects of the shoot, learning about production by being there and getting involved. Jonathan, an expert in underwater photography, headed up the underwater shooting with his assistant cameraman, Greg Brunshidle (a film student at Columbia College in Chicago). Meanwhile, Art Cohen took control of the surface work.

Research, writing and post-production took nearly two years to complete. The final on-line edit was completed in October, 2000. The film premiered at Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park in Homosassa Springs, Florida on April 12th, 2001.

The film tells the story of the effort to save manatees from extinction. The manatee, a slow-moving and harmless plant-eating marine mammal frequents the shallows of Florida's rivers and coastal ocean. It is the victim of habitat loss, disease and accidental boat strikes. The population of manatees in Florida shrinks every year and without immediate and drastic action, manatees may be extinct within our lifetime. Yet, people all over Florida are trying to save the manatee. In our film we meet many of these dedicated individuals, from Sea World rescuers as they attempt to save and rehabilitate stranded and sick manatees, as well as researchers who document the behavior of manatees to learn new ways they might be protected. Throughout the film, viewers will come face to face with manatees in their natural habitat and follow the adventures of the people working with them every day on the water, in the water, in captivity and even from the air!

The film is represented by TVFilmBiz International which is negotiating broadcast contracts. News of air dates will be posted here as we learn them. Home video licensing is handled by Janson Video.

You can watch a 15 minute Behind-the-scenes featurette about this film here. (Requires Quicktime. 111 MB, for broadband connections only).

You can watch anytime on Amazon VOD!

A manatee goes to the surface for a breath of air.


Students shoot surface footage of Jonathan Bird and Greg Brunshidle preparing to search for manatees in a canal of the Crystal River.



With its irresisible cuddliness and gentle nature, the manatee attracts a lot of attention--which is fortunate, since with a population of just 2,600, the manatee's survival depends largely on the people currently committed to saving it from extinction. Sharing an evolutionary ancestry with elephants (of all things), the manatee, a uniquely vegetarian sea mammal that reaches up to 15 feet in length and 3,000 pounds, seeks the tropical warmth of Florida's waterways, where encroaching development, speedboats and storm drains have taken a toll on manatee population. Filmmaker, nature photographer and manatee-lover Jonathan Bird documents this utterly loveable creature and the current efforts underway to save it, from nail-biting neighborhood rescues from black widow-infested storm drains and rehabilatation at Sea World to scientific research and Floridian's efforts to educate tourists. Using a special "rebreather" device (instead of traditional scuba gear), Bird also captures rare close-up footage of manatees sleeping and nursing their calves. Warmly recommended. - Video Librarian, Nov/Dec, 2001"Plenty of close-up underwater cinematography captures the adult species interacting with each other and their offspring, and dramatic footage of a successful rescue of two manatees from a Florida storm drain illustrates the efforts of determined preservationists. For both school and public library collections." -Booklist

"Endangered Mermaids is highly recommended for older children and adults." - Florida Wildlife

Director of Photography Jonathan Bird models his oxygen rebreather,a scuba device which produces no bubbles to bother the manatees.

The rebreather is worth the effort, as it provides extended bottom time without any bubbles to frighten or disturb manatees. Here, Jonathan shoots as a manatee comes over to investigate.

The rebreather requires a lot of maintenance. Here, Jonathan reloads the soda lime in the scrubber. This is a chemical which removescarbon dioxide from the breathing mixture.


Several companies and individuals made significant contributions of their time and money during the shooting. We would like to thank a few here, although this is far from a complete list:

FujiFilm USA, which provided videotape for the project
Performance Diver, which provided wetsuits for the crew
Sea World, Orlando for access to their facilities
Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park for access to their facilities and tremendous staff
Force Fin which supplied dive fins, especially my good friend Bob Evans who is a wonderful sponser of all O.R.G. projects.
The Sisto Family for their generous location assistance and unending tolerance!
Dr. Chip Deutsch for scientific advising


update 6/5/07