A scene from the documentary Deep Rising. COURTESY OF SUNDANCE INSTITUTE/23111075
Deep Rising is a documentary film directed by Matthew Rytz, narrated by Jason Momoa who is also the executive producer. It runs for 93 minutes. It was released in October 2023 and was premiered in Rarotonga on Tuesday, November 7 with further screenings on November 8 and 16.
Deep Rising explores the industrialised view
of resource exploitation where international organisations such as the International
Seabed Authority and corporations, organise research and exploration with the
intent to begin mining and extraction of precious metals from the deep sea
floor. These metals are necessary to power the electric battery that underpins
the green economy.
The documentary shines a spotlight on the
crucial relationship that the deep ocean has with sustaining life on Earth. The
deep ocean is the last pristine environment that is untouched by human
Deep sea mining has been under consideration
for over 50 years. The documentary opens with a television clip from 1962 of
U.S. President Kennedy talking about the resources of the ocean. We then move
forward to the present as we follow Australian Gerard Barron, CEO of startup
company DeepGreen/The Metals Company, on his journey to gather funding from
investors, gain permission from the International Seabed Authority for
exploration and win over public opinion to mine large tracts of the Pacific
Barron’s pitch is metal nodules will be lifted
from the ocean floor and when that process is exhausted, they will stop. Taking
precious metals from the ocean is part of transition away from land mining. In
order to power electric transport for the benefit of humankind, we need to
source the materials from another environment hence justification of seabed
Patania II is a 35-tonne subsea vehicle that
can operate at a depth of 4.5 kilometres and in 2020 successfully collected
manganese modules. The launching of the vessel off the side of a ship and into
the depths, with the operators exuberantly punching the air, is reminiscent of
early spaceship exploration into the unknown. Man and machinery working towards
the progress of humanity through the exploitation of our environment?
Edited around these images of human
exploitation are amazing underwater visuals of unique marine life.
Spectacularly coloured jellyfish and translucent organisms of great beauty and
weirdness that float across the screen. Sperm whales swim through frame looking
for food, “It’s a hungry place”, states the narrator. Underwater volcanic black
stacks rise hundreds of metres from vents along an ocean floor that looks
austere but in the surrounding hot cloudy plume the environment is intensely
colonised by bacteria and animals. These black stacks are also under threat
from the miners. Along with the prized nodules on the ocean floor, nodules that
have been millions of years in the making. We are at risk of destroying these
deep sea environments that we know very little about.
The situation is presented as one of David
versus Goliath. Environmental and conservation groups on the one side which are
mostly sparsely funded, questioning the decisions and actions of industrialist
groups, their adversaries. These companies who have money and therefore power
to sway governments to agree to their destructive plans. Alongside shifting
public opinion pushing us towards clean energy, oil conglomerates need to
reinvest away from dirty energy and into deep sea mining.
The documentary implores us to understand what
hangs in the balance. These nodules and stacks could deliver the precious rare
earths, a vital component in the new battery led green revolution but at what
cost? Is sacrificing this vast and little understood deep sea environment really
worth it or are there alternatives in other technologies like hydrogen?
Deep rising shows us what is at stake. The
expectation is we have to think hard and act fast about what is important now
and for the future of life on planet Earth. We are all responsible for the
state of our planet.