Filmmaker presents diving adventures at Carnegie
by Wes Mayer
Natali Tesche-Ricciardi, a documentary filmmaker whose works have aired on National Geographic, Animal Planet and the Discovery Channel, presented three films of her underwater adventures to a large audience at the Newnan Carnegie Library Friday.
Tesche-Ricciardi, who was born in Germany, began diving at the age of 12, and she began assisting her father, documentary filmmaker Sigurd Tesche, in underwater filming when she turned 14. Tesche-Ricciardi moved to the U.S. after high school, attended The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York and received her bachelor’s in broadcast journalism from Georgia State University. She also lived in Coweta County for a time, but now lives in Marietta.
The majority of Tesche-Ricciardi’s time is spent traveling the world, however, exploring and producing films about wildlife above and below sea level. She is working on two films for National Geographic now, one on life in the Alpine lakes in Europe and the other on the family life of the hippopotamus.
The films she showed at the Carnegie were all about exotic underwater animals and her diving adventures, though. Before each film, Tesche-Ricciardi gave a short presentation of each animal and let the audience of children and adults ask questions after the films.
Tesche-Ricciardi’s first film was about octopi, or octopuses, “Search for the Giant Pacific Octopus.”
Octopi have many interesting traits, and the film discussed many of them. First, they are masters of disguise with the ability to use their coloring to blend into environments. They can also squeeze into most tight spaces because their beak is the only hard part of their body – if they can fit their beak through a crevice, they can easily slide themselves through. They use this talent to escape predators or other dangers.
On top of this, octopi have the famous ability to shoot a jet of ink at anything who endangers it, which helps them escape. They can also use their beaks to bite prey and inject a paralyzing poison.
But octopi are also very strong, according to the film. Each sucker on their tentacles has the power to hold up to 35 pounds, and with hundreds of suckers all over their body, octopi can potentially hold multiple tons of weight. Some giant octopus’ arm widths can reach more than 11 feet.
During the film, Tesche-Ricciardi and her fellow divers also got to witness baby octopi hatching from thousands of eggs which hang from the ceiling of the mother’s den. According to her video, tens of thousands of octopi will hatch, but only two will survive to adulthood. The mother also dies after her young hatch because throughout the 11 months, until the babies are born, the mother constantly defends the eggs, blows air on them and brushes them with her arms to prevent sediment build-up. She does not eat during these months.
Tesche-Ricciardi also showed a video, “Ninja Shrimp,” about her adventures with mantis shrimp, very territorial and predatory animals with compound eyes that allow them to see 10 times more colors than humans.
There are two types of mantis shrimp, she said, smashers and spearers. Spearers use their piercing front arms to stab and grab prey, but smashers have more clubbed front appendages. These smashers actually have the same acceleration as a bullet, so these shrimp are rarely found in aquariums because they can potentially break through the glass.
In the film, Tesche-Ricciardi showed these shrimp in action, with one actually popping another to protect its den, fatally wounding it.
The final film was about an internationally endangered animal, the seahorse. The film, titled “Seahorses: Wanted Dead or Alive,” explored both sides of the animals – how aquariums are attempting to breed them in captivity, and how some countries catch, kill and sell them in markets as gifts or delicacies.
Tesche-Ricciardi also was able to dive and find seahorses in the wild, in a small lagoon in France, Etang de Thau. There, seahorses are relatively easy to find, with three every 1,000 meters, according to the film.
There are 57 known species of seahorse, ranging from less than an inch to more than 14 inches, and new species are continuing to be discovered every year. The video also showed how incredible seahorses are at blending into environments and hiding from prey.
After the films, the audience was able to see some of Tesche-Ricciardi’s diving gear and ask her any more questions about her diving adventures.