Michael V. DeGruy, 60, world renowned award-winning nature cinematographer and marine scientist, died Friday, Feb. 4 in a helicopter crash in Australia, according to information from National Geographic as reported by the L.A. Times. DeGruy and Australian television writer-producer Andrew Wight, 52, who reportedly piloted the aircraft, both died when their helicopter crashed soon after takeoff from an airport in Nowra, near Sydney, Australia.
DeGruy graduated in 1975 with a degree in zoology from N.C. State University, where he was an All-America diver. In 2010 he was honored along with Dr. Prabhu Pingali as Distinguished Alumni of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, for their commitment to the land-grant principle of service to community, state and nation.
Familiar to audiences of the Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week” telecasts, deGruy was a native of Mobile, Ala. Described as “one of the world’s greatest underwater cameramen” by Andrew Neal of the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC), deGruy filmed and produced multiple documentaries for the BBC, Discovery Channel, PBS, National Geographic and TBS. He won the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award for cinematography in 1991, 1994, 1995 and 2002. He received the EMMY award for cinematography in 1996 and 2002 and was named Best Presenter/Host at the International Wildlife Film Festival in 2004.
Owner of The Film Crew, a Santa Barbara, Cal., production company, deGruy was director of photography for The Life of Mammals, Tempest from the Deep, Last Mysteries of the Titanic and Mysteries of the Shark Coast, and he hosted the televised programs, Perfect Shark, Amazon Abyss, Sharks: Size Matters and Shark Roulette.
In 2005, he directed the undersea photography for the James Cameron film “Last Mysteries of the Titanic.”
In a statement released by Cameron and National Geographic, Cameron called deGruy “one of the ocean’s warriors. A man who spoke for the wonders of the sea as a biologist, filmmaker, and submersible pilot, and who spoke against those who would destroy the sea’s web of life. He was a warm, funny, extremely capable man and one of the world’s top underwater cinematographers. His passion for exploration and for the wonders beneath the sea was boundless.”
Often his endeavors, such as his film on scalloped hammerheads, included significant research discoveries. DeGruy was the first person to see a megamouth shark alive underwater; his other “firsts” included filming the angel shark and the large cuttlefish.
At N.C. State, as a varsity athlete on the diving team, he won eight Atlantic Coast Conference championships in the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard, and he was a two-time All-America selection. After graduation, DeGruy pursued his doctoral degree in marine biology at the University of Hawaii, but after three years of Ph.D. work, he decided he wanted to film the creatures he was learning about. A nearly fatal encounter with a gray reef shark in 1978 inspired his fascination with sharks — and skates and stingrays — and his desire to develop his career as a specialist in underwater, wildlife, volcano and aerial filmmaking.
DeGruy is survived by his wife, Mimi, son, Max, and daughter, Frances. A memorial service is planned for Sunday, Feb. 12, in Santa Barbara, according to his website: http://mikedegruy.com/—Terri Leith