‘Tofua’a’ – the first cinematic underwater adventure from Mercedes-Benz
Stuttgart. Mercedes-Benz made it possible for Australian marine biologist Lucas Handley to experience a breathtaking encounter with humpback whales and their calves off the coast of the island nation of Tonga in the South Pacific. The leading researcher and free-diver was investigating the potential of the non-verbal communication – above and below water. For Handley, who regularly dives with sharks, it was the first time he had come close to these gentle giants of the ocean. He travelled around the island’s sandy and often unmade roads in an old, virtually indestructible C-Class. The project gave rise to the film Tofua’a, with the two cameramen Jon Shaw and Scott Last documenting Handley’s work in a series of sensational images.
Tofua’a is a Tongan word meaning whale – a fitting title for the film. Every winter, humpback whales weighing up to 36 tonnes come to the picturesque archipelago – with its crystal-clear waters, pristine sandy beaches and peaceful atmosphere – to deliver their calves. Prior to this they have been in the deep waters of the Arctic Ocean building up the fat reserves necessary for the physically demanding birth ahead of them. Above water the humpbacks’ movements are truly acrobatic: they burst through the surface, shake their tail fin and hit the water with their flippers. Below the surface their unique non-verbal communication is a source of fascination. Their curiosity about humans is also striking. All this formed the focus of Lucas Handley’s research and was captured on film with breathtaking imagery.