13 November 2012
Monty Halls is best known for his adventure and wildlife programmes — where his passion for the natural world has taken him across the globe and deep into the oceans. With occupations as diverse as TV presenter, explorer, eco-tours leader, diving writer and marine biologist, it's easy to understand what a crucial role the weather must play in his work. And why climate change concerns him so much.
Growing up initially in Malta, the toddler Monty was never out of the water. A life-long interest in marine biology followed, culminating in him gaining a First Class degree in the subject from the University of Plymouth at the age of 29 - having already served eight years in the Royal Marines.
It was while studying at Plymouth that he went on his first proper expedition to Belize to photograph a rare species of crocodile. Inspired by the trip, Monty set up his first company, Full Circle Expeditions which, in turn, attracted the interest of Channel 5 who ended up filming one of his round the world trips.
One thing led to another and soon Monty was presenting natural history programmes, including Great Ocean Adventures where he dived with Giant Humboldt Squid - and BBC2's Monty Hall's Great Escape where he lived on Scotland's Western Isles for six months, recreating ancient crofting techniques.
Having such a close working relationship with the weather, it's little surprise he considers the elements 'massively' important when filming - especially when out at sea.
"The viewer might be thinking - what a lovely sunny day for the crew. The reality is, rain and wind above the surface causes big currents and limited visibility under water. You might be sitting in the boat for weeks waiting for that 'fair weather' opportunity."
In fact, coping with extreme conditions is an occupational hazard for Monty. Whether he's rolling around on fishing boats in Force 9 gales, out on manoeuvres with the Marines in northern Norway at -40 °C, or surviving debilitating temperatures of 52 °C in California's Mohave Desert.
To keep track of the weather Monty regularly uses forecasting websites. But he's also come across more traditional methods, such as the ones used by some of the local fishermen he's met. These include following the movements of sandhoppers - tiny amphipod crustaceans that can, apparently, detect low-pressure systems. The theory goes, if they move up the beach and into the village, a storm is brewing.
When it comes to Climate Change, Monty is in no doubt about its impact.
"There have been some radical changes this past ten years. Everything seems out of kilter. Lambing happens much earlier. And I've seen peregrine chicks blown from their cliff top nests by unseasonal easterly winds."
He also is dismayed at the devastation of the coral reefs. "They're like the fountain of life - super sensitive to any slight increase in water temperature and ocean acidification. The coral's delicate calcium carbonate skeleton is being fatally weakened. In fifty years time the Great Barrier Reef could cease to exist."
Monty believes that action needs to be taken at a G20 level and that the world's largest industrialised nations can't afford to wait to make significant reductions to CO2 levels. "The wiping out of thousands of coral species won't just result in billions being lost in tourism; there will be huge economic problems for local fishing communities."
So what's next for Monty? His immediate plans are to continue with his current career - growing his Great Escapes business that consists of a shop and training centre in Dartmouth. He also has a new diving exploration series planned.
It looks unlikely Monty will put his adventurous spirit to one side any time soon. In fact, when asked what he would be doing if he had opted for a more routine occupation and his response is, "I'd enjoy skippering yachts - I can't imagine doing something that didn't involve the sea."
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