The Young Sea
Award-winning filmmaker Mattias Klum exhibits the beauty of the Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is host to an enchanting underwater world. Held in the crook of Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, its waters are privy to unique ecosystems comprising both marine and freshwater species. By capturing the hidden beauty of the amazing array of life within this remarkable region, filmmaker and photographer Mattias Klum delivers a timely reminder of our role in the survival of these fragile ecosystems, as the Baltic Sea comes under increasing threat from human activity.
Beneath the surface lives a beguiling menagerie of aquatic creatures: the bizarre asymmetric European flounder; the peculiar pipefish, like a stretched-out seahorse; and the mesmerising moon jellyfish. The annual climatic fluctuations makes this a dynamic environment, and the sea's residents are adapted to respond to these changing conditions. Roach spawn in huge numbers in late spring, the shallows appearing to boil with their shimmering bodies. This excess of life inevitably attracts predators, such as the sinister pike. "Drifting towards a pike under the water’s surface is a bit like encountering a shark lazily patrolling a coral reef. It’s an awe-inspiring ruler of its system."
It is not just aquatic species that thrive in the Baltic. The startling horned grebe makes its home along the shores, but relies on underwater life for nourishment, thriving on a diet of fish and shrimp. Its prowess at diving not only facilitates this lifestyle, but is also indispensable for escaping would-be predators. In fact, the horned grebe's feet inspired the first propellers. Steep islands also provide a sanctuary for seabirds, such as guillemots and razorbills, proficient at both flying and diving, dazzling onlookers with their eye-catching monochrome plumage.
Yet, like much of the natural world, this sea is in trouble. "Despite being surrounded by some of the world’s richest countries, the Baltic is one of the planet’s most polluted seas." Nutrient runoff from agriculture can deprive areas of water of oxygen, leading to large 'dead zones' - in the Baltic, such zones account for up to 30% of the seabed. But there is more positive news for some species, thanks to devoted conservationists. The white-tailed sea eagle teetered on the edge of local extinction half a century ago, but the banning of certain harmful chemicals helped to bring it back from the brink. This demonstrates that success is possible, even with seemingly insurmountable environmental issues. "Humanity faces enormous challenges, and it’s easy to lose hope, but the truth is that every individual can make a difference."
Over the course of the seasons, this documentary explores not only the individual curious creatures that reside in the Baltic Sea, but also the connections between them and their environment - and with us. It seems essential that we recognise the world for the holistic system that it is if we are to stand any chance in the future, and the Baltic provides the perfect example of this. "The Baltic Sea is unique in all the world, with its brackish water and its beautiful archipelagos. It’s time that we start seeing our sea as a valuable, life-giving resource."
Reviews and More
"Mattias Klum is one of the most important natural history photographers of our time." - National Geographic
For an interview with Mattias Klum for the National Geographic, see here.