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Earth Tales Interview

Documentary Film Maker Sam Brown

Welcome to EARTH TALES! A series of interviews and ‘Tales from the Earth’ from inspirational people whom are making a stance in the travel world and animal kingdom. We’ll be interviewing poignant people from travel & wildlife photographers, film and documentary makers, explorers, conservationists, biologists and adventurers.

In our 3rd EARTH TALES Interview - we are delighted to be speaking to explorer and documentary maker - Sam Brown.

You may recognize Sam from the incredible Channel 4 program “Mutiny on the Bounty” where nine men recreate the perilous 4000 mile voyage by sail boat led by Captain William Bligh in 1789 following the famous mutiny on the H.M.S. Bounty.

Sam’s adventures don’t stop there, his adventures include filming grizzly bears in Alaska, Inuit hunters in Arctic Canada and gold mining in West Africa. Sam trekked through the Amazon, survived on an Island off the coast of Panama for forty days, sailed across the Pacific in a little wooden boat, from Tonga, through the Great Barrier Reef all the way to Timor. This year Sam filmed a big expedition to Papua New Guinea - retracing the route of the first explorers to map the region in the 1930s.

What a life of an adventurer! We couldn’t wait to ask him more about his weird and wonderful tales from the earth……..

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BW: Your experience on Channel 4's documentary 'Mutiny on the Bounty' was so extraordinary and inspiring, how did you come about doing this and what motivated you to do it? 


I was shortlisted to work on the Mutiny project because I had worked as a cameraman on a few different survival series before and I had survived them and actually enjoyed the challenge. Also, I’m a bit of a history nerd and had known the story of the Bounty since I was a kid. I knew it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I would never forgive myself if I turned down the opportunity.

BW: How much personal and mental prep did you have to put in before setting sale? 


Its hard to do much preparation for this kind of job because so much of it is psychological rather than physical. I learned to sail and went on a sun holiday to try and get a bit of a base tan so my Irish skin wouldn’t burn too badly in the sun. In the two weeks before we set sail I ate as much food as I could fit in my stomach so I had a bit more body fat to live off when we were at sea.

BW: At times, It must have been a very solitary experience, what went through your mind at your most isolated times? 

It was a huge mental battle at times. We were starving, dehydrated and sleep deprived for weeks on end which can really mess with your head. There were a few people on board who I could always turn to at my lowest points and we would discuss friends and family back home and make grand plans for when we finished. I thought about my dog a lot and I made a big list of all the junk food I was going to eat.


BW: What was your most enjoyable moment and do you have any crazy stories to tell from the experience? 


Our time on Vanuatu was by far the most enjoyable time. A beautiful place like the garden of Eden. Eating fresh fruit and fish and vegetables; swimming in the sea and hanging out with the kindest and most genuine people I have ever met. On the boat, I witnessed at least seven out of my top ten sunrises and sunsets. And when passing whales or dolphins took an interest in us - that was pretty special too.

BW: Has the experience changed you and if so, has it inspired your life since then?


That is actually a very hard question to answer. I’d say that my time on the boat taught me a lot about myself but I don’t know if it changed me necessarily.

BW: Whilst sailing in the Mutiny - how did it feel being surrounded by mother nature and wild animals without any contact to civilization? 

Sailing for days under the stars with no human contact whatsoever was a magical experience and one that is very difficult to do in today’s world. I loved the tranquility and the solitude. But I was very relieved to get back on dry land and see people again.

BW: What is your next big project and where will you go? 

I’ve just finished working on two projects. An adventure series for Discovery Channel called Parker’s Trail and a Feature Doumentary about civilian-led disaster relief efforts called “Cajun Navy”. I’m going to have a few months off now in London and I have no idea where my next project will take me... somewhere warm I hope!

BW: What are your most extreme adventures and have there been any memorable moments you have come into contact with wildlife? 

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I’ve bumped into several grizzly bears filming in Alaska and the Yukon down the years. I’ve dived with humpback whales and sharks in Mozambique and I’ve had more than my fair share of crocodile encounters in Panama, Africa and the Great Barrier Reef. No cool scars or missing limbs though.

BW: Tell us about the 18th century pirate ships you scuba dived on. Can we believe that pirate ships are really real and what did you discover exploring them? 

That was the only time I’ve worked on an Archaeology series before. It was incredible watching professionals piece together the past underwater and recover artifacts that have been preserved for hundreds of years. We found some really cool stuff down there. 


BW: You have been traveling intensively for the last 7 years. One of your adventures was surviving on an island off the coast of Panama for 40 days. Tell us about that experience? 

Apart from the rain and the hundreds and hundreds of sand fly bites, I really enjoyed the experience! Learning to hunt and fish and to appreciate everything that I had. It made me realise how much we take for granted in the modern world and how much we have lost touch with nature.

BW: The great barrier reef is a goal of ours. Can you tell us what it was like to sail across the Pacific in a little wooden boat, from Tonga, through the Great Barrier Reef all the way to Timor?

It was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life but I am so grateful for the opportunity to do it. Its very hard to put into words! I still dream about it.

BW: What inspires you to travel so much? 

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I’ve always been restless and curious and I’ve always loved animals and exploring the outdoors. Growing up in Northern Ireland my grandparents used to read me stories about these far off places that I could only dream of and I suppose that planted the seed. I find that I am at my most content if I am on an adventure or preparing for the next one.

BW: For any of our readers who would like to travel as much as you, how would you suggest to sustain a living and traveling so much? 

Good question! I am very lucky that I’ve ended up in a career (documentary filmmaking) that pays pretty well and takes me around the world. I know some people who save up half the year and then go on a big adventure. If you have a passion for wildlife or nature, then I suppose I’d recommend looking for a career that will expose you to those things.

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