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Byron Shire
February 8, 2023

Life aquatic: Franck’s big underwater adventures

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Under the Poles. Photo Franck Gazzola

Nell Schofield

Diving under the ice caps and photographing the mysterious twilight zone was the culmination of a childhood dream for Byron-based Franck Gazzola.

Like many of his generation, he was brought up watching documentaries by the legendary French oceanic photographer and conservationist Jacques Cousteau.

The story of how Gazzola left a successful corporate job to document scientific quests around the world is one of self-belief and bloody hard yakka.

Finding your passion

‘Finding your passion is good. Giving it a purposeful meaning is everything’, Gazzola says.

Gazzola has only been diving for six years, four of which were as official photographer on the Good Hope expedition, a scientific journey from the Arctic to the Antarctic and across the Pacific Ocean.

His team found the deepest mesophotic coral at -172m; a discovery that is giving marine biologists hope for a possible solution to the die-back of the Great Barrier Reef.

Gazzola also documented a dive under the North Pole in -1.7oC degrees waters and -25oC atmospheric temperatures.

Feeling your drysuit freeze instantly with no hot shower in sight might sound like your worst nightmare but for Franck, it was exactly where he wanted to be.

His image of their 60ft boat, caught in the sea ice for the wintering, under the Aurora Borealis, is truly something to behold. 

But when he witnessed a member of his expedition get attacked by a shark – two hours from the ocean’s surface, his dream was seriously challenged.

Gazzola was risking his life a mere month before his wife was due to give birth to their first child.

Risking life

He was also about to embark on his riskiest mission yet, a four-day stint as one of three aquanauts in The Capsule, a 4x3m underwater observation unit that could easily be knocked over by a whale.

So why does he go to such great lengths for adventure? He says, ‘I do it for the people who dream big for the greater good’.

‘But ultimately, I do it for my daughter and her generation who face much bigger challenges than I did when I was growing up’.

Franck Gazzola will deliver a talk at TEDxByronBay on Saturday June 26, and is one of 12 speakers set to bend your mind.

The event runs from 10.30am till 4.30pm, Saturday June 26 at the Byron Theatre.

For tickets, visit TEDx Byron Bay.

♦ Nell Schofield is from TEDxByronBay.

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