100 Feet Deep in a Mexican Sinkhole, This Incredible Scotch Ad Nods to a Dying Chinese Tradition

by Owen James Burke


“What really works in an image is when people cannot tell what’s real, and those lines get blurred.” – Photographer Benjamin Von Wong.

A photographer, a veteran freediver, and a team of 13 divers convened 100 feet deep in a cenote (sinkhole) near Tulum, Mexico to shoot what will likely go down in history as the world’s coolest booze ad.

100 feet, or 30 meters down, below the aqua-blue, gin-clear waters of the cenote lies a deadly layer of hydrogen sulfide, which happens to give off the visual effect that the water above it is pure O2.

The photograph, which is for scotch producer Ballentine’s, pays tribute to the dying culture of the Chinese cormorant fisherman. This ancient fishing method involves the fisherman tying a noose-like knot around the bird’s neck and sending it down to dive for small fish. When the bird surfaces, the fisherman deftly yanks the line and loop tight, pulling the bird back in before it has a chance to swallow its catch. He’ll repeat this until the boat’s full, and then the cormorant gets its meal. Cruel? Yes. But, effective and ingenious? You betcha.

Watch the behind-the-scenes video above. -OJB

The cormorant has long been a slave to the Chinese fisherman, as written and illustrated in this 1933 children’s classic, The Story About Ping, a hapless, adventuresome duck. -OJB


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