The diving Bells
Interview with underwater photographers Gary and Meri Bell
Underwater photographer Gary Bell, with the help of his wife Meri, is bringing some amazing hidden treasures to the surface for all the world to see. Not treasures from a sunken shipwreck, but treasures of prized underwater photographs of some of the most beautiful creatures and plants on earth. ‘What we really love to do is to dive and capture on film God’s beautiful creation’, Gary says.
Wife Meri agrees. ‘People who don’t dive really have no understanding of what’s underwater. So the only way to show them is by taking pictures.’
Gary’s pictures of the undersea side of creation are superb. He has been voted Australasian Underwater Photographer of the Year for the past three years, and was one of the judges of the competition this year.
Gary’s alluring photographs have appeared in major underwater magazines, and several books around the world. They have an extensive picture library and also contribute to international photo libraries.
As strong Christians, Gary and Meri find it hard to understand that so many people think evolution is responsible for God’s underwater wonders.
‘There’s just no way these things could have evolved’, Gary says. ‘The design, the colours, the way things work and fit so perfectly together—it’s truly incredible.’
And they are quick to cite examples of what they believe clearly points to design by the Creator.
‘The cleaner wrasse for instance’, says Meri.
This is a fish that sets up a kind of personal grooming service for other fishes. It opens up an underwater shop, and before long larger fishes congregate to allow the cleaner wrasse actually to swim inside their mouths and gill covers to pick off parasites and debris.
‘The cleaner wrasse helps clean off all the bits and pieces so the other fish don’t die’, Meri says. ‘They all work in together in a symbiotic relationship which, I believe, is impossible to explain adequately from an evolutionary point of view.’
And then there are all the brilliant colours. They say the invertebrate life is particularly colourful—sponges, tunicates, sea slugs, molluscs …
‘The colours are incredible’, says Meri, ‘considering you can’t see many of the beautiful colours underwater without a flashlight.’
Gary agrees. ‘There seems no evolutionary reason for brilliant colours that can’t be seen. Some things just seem to be there because God has created them for beauty.’
This large oriental sweetlips, which Gary photographed in the Seychelles, lets the little blue-streak wrasse come in and clean parasites and residue off its teeth, then lets it go again without eating it.
The ‘cleaning symbiosis’ benefits both species, but evolutionary mutation/selection can’t explain it. If the small fish inherits a mutation (mistake in the genetic code) which programs it to fee inside a big fish's mouth—snap! End of evolution! A mutation in the big fish causing it to let the small one swim out again is useless (actually detrimental) unless the small one already has the tooth-cleaning program.
Both species have to be simultaneously programmed— which logically points to creation.
Gary and Meri first met on Heron Island, a resort coral island off the east coast of Queensland, Australia, in the southern Great Barrier Reef.
Meri had been travelling in the Middle East, where she had done snorkelling in the Red Sea. She returned to Australia and did a dive course before getting a job on Heron Island. There she spent her free time every day diving around the reefs.
Gary, a diver since 1971, had also come to the island to work, and to privately compile a series of marine life pictures in the area. Their mutual love of diving and God began a friendship which later resulted in marriage.
‘It was amazing’, recalls Meri, whose parents were missionaries in Japan. ‘I thought it was going to be almost impossible to find somebody who loved God and loved diving too—especially in the resort world, where you hardly ever meet Christians.’
They find that belief in evolution is one of the most common barriers to faith among the scientists and others they meet in the diving industry. They strongly believe that more people need to hear the creationist side of things.
‘I’d love to see every school student have access to Creation magazine’, Gary says. ‘I also think creation should be taught much more in churches.’
They were introduced to Creation magazine when they attended a talk by Ken Ham. Meri says, ‘I thought “Wow! Why didn’t we find out about this before?” It’s helped us tremendously.’
Gary has a goal to produce a book some day—a quality picture book sharing the dazzling beauty of underwater life they have seen. Already they have spectacular photographs from diving in Indonesia, Grand Cayman Island, Papua New Guinea (‘our favourite’), most of Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, the Philippines, and the Seychelles.
Travel and equipment are very expensive. So to help offset the expenses of underwater work, Gary recently added above-water photography to his talents.
They would probably travel anywhere if it entailed diving and underwater photography. They don’t even dismiss the light-hearted suggestion that they dive in Scotland for a picture of the Loch Ness monster.
Gary thinks the Loch Ness monster should not be dismissed too quickly. ‘When you work underwater a lot you realize there are many things science doesn’t explain very well.’
He says discoveries of previously unidentified water creatures are common. Much less work has been done on marine life than on life above water.
‘It’s not hard to come up with a new species underwater because there is so much down there. People are coming up with new species all the time.’
Have they ever been bothered by sharks?
‘We’ve seen plenty of sharks’, Gary says. ‘But we always feel at ease in the sea.’
Meri adds that sharks are magnificent animals. She says shark attacks are extremely rare, and are usually a mistake on the shark’s part.
‘The sea is so beautiful’, Gary says. ‘And it’s a place everyone should love and appreciate—like a rainforest or anything on land.’
But for those who haven’t had the opportunity to see that vast and majestic underwater side of God’s earth, the ‘diving Bells’ are dedicated to showing it through their photos.
Gary sums it up: ‘I feel that what we do is just a small contribution to trying to educate people to care for the environment—and to show them a beautiful part of God’s creation.’