Laurent Ballesta

Per gravi problemi personali il relatore Laurent Ballesta non potrà tenere la sua conferenza programmata per sabato 14 ore 17.00 presso la sala Cousteau, in sostituzione della conferenza verrà proiettato in esclusiva il documentario "Gombessa, un tuffo verso le nostre origini" riguardante la spedizione di Laurent che ha portato subacquei a raggiungere e filmare per la prima volta il famoso coelacanth (il dino-fish) fino a 120m in Sudafrica.

DOB: 05/15/1974



  • 1998 -1999 16 months as marine biologist in charge of fish larvae recruitment and colonization program for the French Polynesian Ministry of Marine Resources in Rangiroa Atoll, Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia
  • 1999 – 2011 – scientific advisor in marine environment for the french TV prime time show Ushuaia Nature on channel 1, alongside explorer and presenter Nicolas Hulot
    – 29 filming and exploring missions and participated in 23 shows
    – New-Zealand, New-Guinea, Borneo, French Polynesia, Madagascar, Russian Siberia,
    Soudan, Baja California, Mongolia, Ecuador, Galapagos Islands, Arctic, Australia, Chili,
    Botswana, South Africa, Costa Rica, Belize, Indonesia, Philippines, Amazonia, Bahamas,
    Cuba, Namibia, Iceland, Mozambique, Tchad, Russian Kamtchatka.
  • oct 2001 – leader of an eco-highlighting program of the underwater patrimony of French Polynesia
    – 40 days of expedition
    – making of posters illustrating biodiversity of the different archipelagos (Marquises,
    Australes, Société, Tuamotu)
  • march 2002 – leader of an eco-highlighting program of the underwater patrimony of the “National Park of Aqaba” in Jordan, a program funded by the World Bank
    – 50 days of expedition.
    – making of posters illustrating the different ecosystems and behaviors (coral reef,
    sandy bottom, underwater meadows, predation technics, symbiosis)
  • june 2004 – scientific mission in Rangiroa atoll, French Polynesia
    – 40 days of expedition
    – study and film for the first time the reproductive behavior of grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos)
  • 2002 – 2015 – 26 missions of deep diving naturalistic explorations in the west Mediterranean Sea (France, Corsica, Italia, Sardinia, Spain, Balearics, Tunisia)
  • Feb. 2006 – first deep dives for naturalistic observations in the channels of Land of Fire, Patagonia
  • Feb. 2007 – 2x 30 days of expedition
    – first pictures of numerous species never illustrated in their natural habitat
  • Jan. 2008 – mission to explore and photograph the deep ecosystems of Lifou island, New Caledonia
    – 30 days of expedition
    – deep technical diving: – 160m/540 ft
    – picture taken of 2 new species, an alcyonarian and a sea star
  • April 2009 – 1st « secret » expedition to Sodwana Bay, South Africa to confirm the presence of the coelacanth in the Mozambique channel, – 120m/395 ft deep
  • January 2010 – 2nd expedition to Sodwana Bay, South Africa
    – 35 days on expedition
    – very first photographs of the coelacanth by a diver
    – deep technical dives : – 120 m/395 ft
  • April 2013 GOMBESSA 1 – The coelacanth
    – 3rd expedition to Sodwana Bay, South Africa
    – 40 days of expedition
    – scientific protocols in partnership with the National Museum of Natural History of Paris,
    and scientists of University of Liège, Belgium.
    – film and photograph the coelacanth while conducting scientific protocols in situ
    – 2 new species of fish discovered
    – deep technical diving : – 120 m/395 ft to conduct the protocols
    – scientific publication in Science
    – article in National Geographic International / USA
    – documentary film « The coelacanth, a dive into our past »
  • July 2014 GOMBESSA 2 – Groupers spawning
    – 1st expedition to the south pass of Fakarava atoll in French Polynesia
    – 45 days of expedition
    – scientific protocols in partnership with the laboratory of the Criobe of Moorea to assess
    the size of grouper and shark populations (18000 groupers / 700 sharks)
    – study, photograph and film the grouper spawning for the first time at 1000 images per sec
    – 24 hours record dive with a very new decompression protocol to allow a
    whole dive of 24 hours at 20m/66 ft deep > observing a whole cycle of day and night with all changes implied concerning animal behavior and predation
    – scientific publication in Curent Biology
    – documentary film « The grouper mystery »
  • July 2015 – 2nd expedition to the south pass of Fakarava atoll in French Polynesia
    – 20 days of expedition
    – scientific protocols to assess the size of grouper and shark populations
    – film and photograph grouper spawning
    – film and photograph shark predation at night
    – evaluate the possibility to dive down in the bottom, in the fray of hunting sharks
    Oct/Dec 2015 GOMBESSA 3 – Antarctica deep ecosystems
    – expedition led by Luc Jacquet (film director of Oscar awarded “March of the penguin”) in
    the french scientific Base of Dumont d’Urville, Terre Adélie, Antarctica
    – 3 months of expedition
    – explore and photograph for the first time the deep ecosystems of Antarctica.
    – first deepest and longest polar dives in history : – 395 feet / 5 hours
    – first pictures of numerous species never illustrated in their natural habitat
    – documentary « Antarctica »
  • July 2016 – 3rd expedition to the south pass of Fakarava atoll in French Polynesia
    – 45 days of expedition
    – monitoring of scientific protocols to assess the size of grouper and shark populations
    – spotting for further scientific studies to be conducted in 2017
    – photograph and film the hunts of grey reef sharks at night.
    – the team totaled more than 200 hours of night dives and gathered unique footage
    and photographs of sharks hunting behavior
  • Feb 2017 – 15 days of expedition to conduct deep dives down to – 230 feet in Ile de la Réunion
    – series of video and stills were made to illustrate the ecosystem along the the lava flows along the Piton de la Fournaise Volcano
  • May – Aug 2017 GOMBESSA 4 – The hunt of the sharks at night
    – 4th expedition to the south pass of Fakarava
    – 55 days of expedition
    – 32 people involved in field work, 5 nationalities
    – In June 2014 during the expedition Gombessa II Laurent Ballesta discovered an unsuspected phenomenon: at night, 700 grey reef sharks hunt in a incredible frenzy, demonstrating unique predation behavior. Since then, he has been returning every year to prepare for Gombessa 4 expedition to study this nightly event.
    – the expedition focused on 3 major studies
    1 – exploring the deep zones of several neighboring atolls to describe and compare them with the reliefs of Fakarava to understand their origins with dives down to -120 m/395 ft.
    2 – analysis of the hunt of the grey sharks by 3D modelling techniques. The team will try to establish that these hunts are not anarchic, that there may be group hunting strategies, and try to describe the tactics of social organization in nocturnal predations. Use of high speed cameras up to 1000 fps, accelerometers and acoustic probes to tag the sharks, hydrophones, and the bullet time shot technique, especially developed to be used under water, etc.
    3 – study, not of the spawning itself, but the synchronization of the phenomenon from an atoll to another to better identify the factors that trigger collective spawning. Another study will consist of analyzing the sound communication of the groupers in this period of strong interaction and forced cohabitation thanks to hydrophones and surveillances cameras place in strategic locations of the pass.

2000 – Plongeur d’Or, Festival Mondial de l’Image Sous-Marine, Antibes, France
2002 – Plongeur d’Or, Festival Mondial de l’Image Sous-Marine, Antibes, France
2004 – Plongeur d’Or, Festival Mondial de l’Image Sous-Marine, Antibes, France
2013 – Hans Hass Award in recognition of contribution made to the advancement of our knowledge of the ocean
2014 – Member of the Ocean Artist Society
2016 – Doctor « Honoris Causa » of University of Liège, Belgium
2017 – Tridente d’Oro, Accaemia Internazionale di Scienze e Tecniche Subacquee, Italia
2017 – Diver of the Year, Beneath the Sea diveshow, USA
Le septième Ciel des requins gris
2006 – Animal documentary Grand Prix, Golden Dolphin (International festival of Moscow)
The coelacanth, a dive towards our origins
2013 – Gold prize Méditerranea, Festival International Image Sous-Marine et Aventure, Antibes
2014 – Prix Ancre d’Or, Festival International du film Maritime, d’Exploration et d’Environnement Toulon
2014 – Prix Abyss d’Or, Festival Abyss, Ajaccio
2014 – Prix Buffon et prix du public, Festival Pariscience, Paris
The grouper mystery
2015 – Grand Prix, Festival de la Rochelle
2015 – Gold Medal, Fête Européenne de l’Image Sous Marine, Strasbourg
2016 – Best Documentary, Ouchy Film Festival, Switzerland

2003 – De la source à la mer, ed. SVI Puplicep
2005 – Planète Mer, ed. Michel Lafon
2006 – Planet Ocean ed. National Geographic (translated in 5 languages)
2007 – Diving without bubbles, ed. SVI Publicep
2008 – Secrets de Méditerranée, 1st limited edition ed. Andromède Collection
2010 – Secrets de Méditerranée, 2nd limited edition ed. Andromède Collection
2012 – Odyssée dans les eaux d’ici, ed. Andromède Collection
2013 – Une vie dans le port, ed. Andromède Collection
2014 – Gombessa, rencontre avec le coelacanthe, ed. Andromède Collection
2015 – Gombessa, meeting with the coelacanth, co-ed. Andromède Collection/OceanPlanet
2015 – Secrets d’Oceans, ed. Andromède Collection
2016 – Adélie, Terre & Mer, co-ed Paulsen / Koballan
2016 – Antarctica!, ed. Paulsen

2002 – Aqaba’s gardens
Illustration, differentiation, and interconnections of the various marine ecosystems of the marine park in Aqaba
2004 – Heaven of the grey sharks
very first images of grey reef sharks reproduction, hasn’t been filmed again yet
2007 – Dans les profondeurs de la Baie des Anges
exploration and photography down to 200 m/655 ft deep in french Mediterranean sea
2008 – The Nautilus
observing the nautilus down to 110 m/360 ft deep and phtography of yet not described species
2010 – Ushuaia, Coelacanth Adventure in Mozambique Chanel
very first pictures and video footage of the coelacanth made by divers at 120 m/395 ft deep
2011 – The crocodile’s tears
diving with the Nile crocodile in the delta of Okavango
2013 – The coelacanth, a dive towards our origins
very fort scientific studies conducted on the coelacanth by divers at 120m/395 fr deep
2015 – The grouper mystery
unique footage of the grouper spawning and a record dive of 24h at 20m/66 ft
2017 – Antarctica, In the footsteps of the Emperor penguin
exploration of the deep ecosystems of the twilight zone in Antarctica,
the most long and deep dive ever made in the polar regions (T° : -1,8°C/27°F , 120m/400 ft, 3h45.

Laurent Ballesta graduated from a Master in Marine Biology and Ecology. At 23, he completed his studies in discovering a new species of fish to the western Mediterranean, the Andromeda Goby, Didogobius schlieweni. He is the youngest photographer to be awarded with the «Plongeur d’Or» (Gold Diver) at the «Festival International de l’Image Sous Marine» in Antibes. And the only one to have obtained it three times. He has published portfolios in major magazines of French and foreign press (Science, National Geographic, GQ, Paris-Match, Figaro Magazine, VSD, ÇA m’intéresse, Daily Mail, Stern, View, Corriere Magazine, Terres Sauvages, Sciences & Vie, etc.) and in August 2009, he celebrated his 100th page in Paris Match. Today he has nearly 150, a record for underwater photography for such a broad and popular magazine.
Being a professional diver, he was a precursor in using since 1999 a new kind of diving equipment, an electronically controlled mixing closed circuit rebreather, which offers revolutionary perspectives in underwater exploration as the dives are much deeper, last much longer and the diver is more silent and discreet.
In 2000 he founded with Pierre Descamp his friend from University the NGO L’Oeil d’Andromède, aimed to reconcile oceanology studies with artistic highlight of marine wildlife and environment. This partnership will lead to the creation of the company Andromede Oceanology in 2008.
In 2006 the Senate of the French Republic pays tribute to his work with the exhibition «Planet Ocean». This makes him the youngest photographer to have exhibited his work on the famous gates of the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris. Twenty exhibitions around the world will follow.
In 2008, he took the deepest image in the world ever photographed by a diver at – 190 m/625 ft, by the French Riviera. With this knowledge in deep diving, he led in May 2009, a confidential expedition to South Africa to realize an old dream, diving with Gombessa (the local name of the coelacanth fish) and bring back the very first pictures of the living fossile fish taken by a diver, down at – 120 m/ 395 ft. This mission led to his first «GOMBESSA Expedition», 4 years later, to conduct the first scientific protocols on a live specimen, down at – 120 m/ 395 ft. Since then, he has been asked for lectures in France and around the world to share is photographic work with the public, as well as his vision of the field and environment in which he works and travel. It gave him the opportunity to share is experience in a substantial amount of dive and photography shows around France, USA and Asia, but also in private events.
In January 2014, Laurent published his book Gombessa, meeting with the coelacanth, the only photographic collection about the Coelacanth. He presents his best images, the images of the mythical fish and its environment; and tells the story and the twists of an adventure that lasted five years. One year later the English version of the book Gombessa was published with a foreword of David Doubilet.
Laurent has lead 4 major Gombessa expeditions, in Sodwana Bay South Africa, French Polynesia and Antarctica.
This last mission in Fakarava is a promise of another book by Laurent Ballesta and a 90’ documentary film for ARTE, revealing unique animal behavior images thanks to new filming systems, such as a Bullet Time Ramp developed to shoot underwater. This expedition is in the lineage of the previous ones, and strengthens the three pillars of all Gombessa* expeditions: A scientific mystery, a diving challenge and the promise of unprecedented animal images.


  • The coelacanth, a dive towards our origins, 90’

    password: coelacanthe

  • Teaser:
  • The Grouper Mystery, 52’

    password: GRPRMSTRY

  • Teaser:
  • Short film to announce Gombessa IV

    password: faka2016

  • Antarctica, in the footsteps of the emperor penguin, Teaser

Laurent Ballesta
Andromède Océanologie