Seal cam at Fisherman's Wharf opens new world under the sea

You’ve seen inside the Kardashian clan, Gene Simmon’s family jewels and Paris Hilton’s privilege.

It was only a matter of time before Sammy the seal took the spotlight.

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Since October, an underwater camera installed at Fisherman’s Wharf has been feeding live footage to online users who tune in. More than 35,000 viewers from 110 countries have taken a peek at Sammy and other sea creatures below the surface, said Mike Irvine, founder of SubEye Technologies, who built waterproof housing for the camera.

For Irvine, it’s about sharing his love of ocean life.

“[Marine biologist] Sylvia Earle had this one saying, and I’m not going to do it justice. But it’s about giving people the opportunity to see what’s going on. Because, if they don’t have that opportunity, how are they going to have a chance to care about it,” he said.

Irvine said he wanted to document underwater life after meeting Earle at the International Marine Conservation Conference in Victoria in 2011.

SubEye — which also includes Chris Forrest-Wong and Matt Bartlett — installed the camera in partnership with Eagle Wing Tours, Cold Water Divers and the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority.

In addition to the seal camera, there’s a “critter camera” capturing crabs and other creatures on the ocean floor. A “shipwreck camera” is also in the works, and will show how a sunken vessel has been transformed into an artificial reef.

SubEye isn’t the first to put a camera underwater, but Irvine said his goal is to do so in a more cost-effective way.

While SubEye is about developing technology, the companion Fish Eye Project is about outreach. Irvine has hosted “live dive” demonstrations for students at Esquimalt High School and at World Oceans Day.

So far, it doesn’t seem that the seals have noticed the underwater cameras — nor have the river otters, jellyfish, fish or other creatures. If all goes well, the cameras will give people around the world — as well as locals — a view of the worlds thriving just below the surface, without disturbing them.

“Victoria is situated right on the Pacific Ocean. It’s part of our cultural identity, whether we realize it or not,” Irvine said. “We’ve got a rich biodiversity around Vancouver Island, one of the best in the world.”

Live feeds are available at subeye.ca or eaglewingtours.com.

asmart@timescolonist.com

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