The ocean is a big place – approximately 93% of New Zealand’s territory is ocean – and one father and daughter team have made it their mission to inspire a new generation of aquatic adventurers.
Steve and Riley Hathaway, from Snells Beach, started Young Ocean Explorers in 2012 to tell a story.
“I think the ocean is New Zealand’s great untold story,” says Steve. “Something like 80% of New Zealand’s native species live in the water. It’s even more beautiful and amazing than our land – and everyone knows how beautiful our land is.”
The idea for Young Ocean Explorers came after Riley got her Dad’s help on a school project.
“I decided to make a video about turtles eating plastic for my year eight ‘Wai Care’ school project and got Dad to help me”, says Riley. “We showed the video to my brother’s year six class and when Dad saw their reaction – he had a lightbulb moment and realised that we could do more inspiring stories.”
In 2014 the pair produced a 10-episode TV series which screened on What Now, New Zealand’s most popular kids show. It was so popular they filmed a second series the following year. In late 2015 they released a book and DVD package, donating 2,560 copies, one to every school in New Zealand and the Cook Islands.
“In the 60s and 70s we had Jacques Cousteau, who brought the ocean alive for a generation through his exploration,” says Steve. “We’re trying to do the same for this generation of kids, so they’re inspired to explore it for themselves. We also want to give them the tools to look after the ocean – they’re native environmentalists and they get how important it is.”
One of the tools is a new interactive website – www.youngoceanexplorers.com – which hosts a treasure trove of educational videos, quizzes, maps and polls.
“From the outside, the ocean can seem like a very intimidating place,” says Steve. “We see Young Ocean Explorers as an inviting gateway that makes it less intimidating, by telling great stories.”
The father and daughter pair have been travelling further afield on their search for new inspiring stories to share.
“We’ve just been over to California, filming some iconic species over there,” says Steve. “We were filming a beautiful orange fish called the Garibaldi – it’s really interesting how similar it is to our local Black Angel Fish. They sort of ‘mow the lawn’ and clear the algae off a rock for the female to lay its eggs on, then the male will hang around and protect the eggs until they hatch. He has his job cut out for him, because eggs in the ocean are like KFC, they don’t last long if he loses concentration!”
“We’ve had so many amazing opportunities,” says Riley. “My stand out favourite places are Heron Island in the Great Barrier Reef and the Kermadec Islands. Being able to swim with more than a dozen sharks is definitely my favourite memory.”
Even though she’s only 16, Riley sets an example for us all to follow.
“It’s so important to inspire kids to love our ocean, because when they fall in love with it they’ll end up trying to protect it and that’s exactly what we need,” she says.