This past week I wrapped up my internship by spending time with the staff of Backscatter in Monterey, California. The week was full of diving in kelp forests and getting up close to animals I just worked on my macro-photography skills with the Olympus TG 4 camera donated by Backscatter. I was amazed by all the forms of life, from the tiniest snail to the most flamboyant decorator crabs!
Most of my dives were with Robin, the face of Backscatter in most camera review videos! He was an excellent partner whether he was pointing out an interesting creature, or snapping a quick picture of me in action!
He even took me to the Pacific Grove Hyperbaric Chamber – one of the only chambers in California! I got a quick rundown of how they operate (all on a volunteer basis!) and even learned a bit about how dive medicine has advanced over the years!
Of course, my post wouldn’t be complete without a quick rant about marine debris! While I was surprised at how immaculately clean the beaches were, my heart was saddened to find plenty of fishing line, hooks, and weights caught in the kelp or between rocks near the seawall. But don’t you fret, your pal Krista had a decent haul from her dives!
Among all the diving I did this past week, the shop was also preparing for their annual Monterey Shootout competition. Every summer, photographers of all ages and skill levels come from all over the US in hopes to capture great photos and participate in the competition. Along with the madness registration, there was also preparation for seminars (of course, I owe some credit to Jim, who gave me endless tips and tricks to get the perfect shot during one of them). In addition to this, we also had to prep the shop for the Backscatter party after the competition closed. I helped prep food and even entertained Jim’s twins as they acted as the paparazzi for the event! Unfortunately, I was unable to stay for the awards ceremony because I had to catch a flight to Alaska where I will be spending my fall semester studying marine mammals! However, I cannot finish this post without mentioning Becca Boring, who truly deserves a huge thank you from me for coordinating my wild week. She always made sure I knew what was going on and treated me to the classic Californian “In N’ Out” burger! She also set me up with George Peterson, the director of dive programs of the Monterey Bay Aquarium! I got to explore behind the scenes and learn more about opportunities for young divers starting their careers at aquariums! Lastly, I’d like to thank Berkley White, the owner of Backscatter for providing me with a platform to begin my photography hobby this summer as well as inviting me to join the team for the shootout!
I have spent the past few days in Canada with Julie Ouimet and Michel Labrecque to start working on my video presentation for next year’s Boston Sea Rovers convention. It is absolutely bizarre that this summer is coming to a close and my adventures as “the intern” will be ending soon. But before I get emotional about it, here is how my last few days have been! It started with a trip through customs where I explained my situation – that I was visiting people who were like family friends through a scuba diving club, but I had never actually met them before, and I wasn’t really positive where they lived because I would be staying at a hotel while they were doing some renovations. Once I said that aloud, I realized it probably sounded very suspicious. Needless to say, I went through secondary customs.
For the next three days, we organized footage taken throughout my summer, and while I began building a storyline Julie began cutting my footage while Michel began editing my photos. That is when we heard the ominous sound…of geese. You see, Julie explained, once geese begin to arrive, we only have about six weeks until snow falls, and this is earlier than normal. Hoping it was a lost goose, we continued color correcting until “HONK HONK HONK,” MORE GEESE. Following the flock of honks, we looked outside, sighed, and went straight back to work. Somehow, we managed to finish most of the video, with the exception of music and a few missing photos. On Friday night, we celebrated with Michel’s homemade poutine – a messy heap of French fries, cheese, gravy and beef!
The next morning before my flight, we did a bit of sightseeing in Quebec City for the New France Festival. There we saw the Citadel of Quebec and watched as people dressed in costume sold goods on the street. We even got a chance to see the Montmorency Falls, but unfortunately did not have the time (or stamina) to hike to the top and see the view from above. I would like to thank Julie and Michel for being so welcoming to me at such short notice, and showing me tips and tricks on how to shoot, edit, and present photos and videos.
Anyways, this past week I spent time with some excellent divers! My week started with a flight to Orlando, where I was greeted by Amy and her daughter Aallie at the airport with a big welcome sign. Round two of the welcome committee was at home; when I came through the door a big howl came from their dog Bogey, and Amy’s other daughter Maren baked some delicious smores treats! After settling in, we went out to dinner with Amy’s friend, and previous coworker, Terrence. Initially, Terrence had recruited Amy to volunteer with the Cambrian Foundation, which conducts data collection projects all over the world for a variety of different agencies. However, these days – when he isn’t busy discovering new species in deep caves – Terrence is the training director for the National Association of Underwater Instructors (NAUI). I would be joining him at NAUI’s headquarters in Tampa for most of the week. Though we planned to dive the next day, we were unable to do so due to some of Amy’s gear malfunctioning, so we brought Alie, Maren, and their friend Asia to snorkel in Devil’s Den. Initially, I was disappointed to miss out on a diving opportunity, especially because I had to reschedule a dive with Mike Lodise from Backscatter AGAIN just a few days earlier. However, I was excited to return to one of my favorite dive spots in Florida. I fell in love with Devil’s Den during a weekend trip with my school’s local dive shop, Patriot Dive Center. I was fascinated by the bottom topography of this young sinkhole and got to experience a taste of what it is like to dive in overhead conditions. I was able to appreciate the beauty of Devil’s Den even more, and I could tell the girls were having a great time. While Aallie practiced clearing her ears as she dove to the bottom to prepare for when she gets scuba certified, Maren showed off a very unique skill – she caught some fish bare handed! Though we had to head home so Amy could check on the local lakes and ponds before the tropical storm hit, we had a great time!
The next day started early, as we met Terrence so I could join him and his son TJ (who is already an incredible diver) at the NAUI office. Though the plan was to spend the week with him and earn my cavern diving certification, Terrence was called for business in Connecticut the following day. But like all good divers, he had a contingency plan! I would spend time with NAUI’s training manager, Jim, who would teach me for my search and recovery certification! After a brief tour of headquarters, we went right to work. I helped Diane at the front desk go into the archives to search for diver certifications for people who needed a replacement or were on a charter and forgot to bring their card. Most of the certifications had been digitalized, but there were still files and files of divers from the 70’s and 80’s that are still on paper. Due to plenty of difficulties, such as name changes due to marriages, uncertainty of the certification year, or even uncertainty of what organization they were certified with, I was unable to find any of the divers’ certifications. That night, I was introduced to Danelle, Jim’s wife, and their nine cats (81 lives people!). The next day, I began editing course manuals, checking for misspelled words, and even adding more information to the underwater naturalist book. I also went through several other course manuals like underwater archaeology, dry suit diving, and even ice diving! My job was to make sure each course coincided with the NAUI standards manual. It was interesting to see how these course manuals come together. Due to rough conditions, Jim and I were unable to go shark tooth diving on Friday, so instead, we visited the Florida Aquarium, and even got a behind the scenes tour! I watched as volunteers fed gars, and also saw how much space is used to filter the water in each exhibit! For my last full day in Florida, Jim and I went to Lake Denton, where he was my instructor for my search and recovery specialty course. I was ready to search for the cinder block that Jim “lost” in the lake. I was sure I would be able to spot it – the real problem was that apparently many people lost cinder blocks in the lake as well! Luckily, his was easily identifiable as it was the only block that was not covered in algal growth. After successfully finding, rigging, and lifting the block with a lift bag, our dives were done. After washing our gear, we spent the afternoon at Busch Gardens! Though the weather wasn’t the greatest, Jim and I still managed to ride front row on most of the coasters. We ended our night with Jim getting soaked by the log flume ride and me stuffing my face with a victory ice cream. I can’t thank Jim enough for giving me this opportunity and Danelle for baking the most delicious coffee cake I’ve ever tasted.
This past week I spent some time in Woods Hole in both the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). On Monday, I met with Roger Hanlon, a professor and sea rover, who conducts research through filming various behaviors of cephalopods. Cephalopod translates to “head foot” are a class of marine mollusks which includes octopus, squid, cuttlefish, and the nautilus. Roger has dive locations he prefers for documenting their behavior worldwide, but his research is conducted at the MBL. Upon arriving, I got to tour the building, seeing the dive locker, the filtration systems, and plenty of sea creatures. After a brief history of previous research, Roger introduced me to his two undergraduate summer interns, Marisa and Valerie. They were trying to document a rapid coloration change in cuttlefish known as the “passing cloud.” For this to happen, certain chromatophores (skin pigments) must open and close, making a dark area roll down the body, much like the shadow of a cloud.
We spent almost every day from nine to five running trials, hoping to catch individual chromatophores changing in this pattern, and recorded about a minute of decent footage – which believe it or not, was a success in Marisa and Valerie’s opinion! During my time in Woods Hole, I also got to go on two trawls on their research vessel, the Gemma! Though the first squid trawl was cut short due to an issue with the hydraulic system, the second trawl pulled up many creatures, from the tiniest plankton to a horseshoe crab! I also spent an afternoon with WHOI’s dive program, where Kim Malkoski works. There I was safety support for Kim while she taught a student some navigation skills, and even watched a diver assemble a rebreather as he prepared for an afternoon dive scraping barnacles off the research vessels in port. Afterward, I got to take a tour of both the R/V Atlantis and the R/V Neil Armstrong. There I met Alvin, the submersible that discovered the Titanic! My experience at Woods Hole was certainly one for the books, and I wish Marisa and Valerie the best of luck as they continue their research! In addition, I’d like to thank Roger Hanlon and Kim Malkoski for showing me the research facilities in the area, and the Malkoski family for hosting me!
Today I joined 80 other divers for the New England Aquarium Dive Club’s “Great Annual Fish Count.” After helping volunteers set up the registration and food tables, I joined Vin and Ted at Popplestone Beach in Gloucester. After a rocky entry, we descended in hopes to find fish that we could enter in our count for the REEF database. REEF is an organization of divers who are committed to marine conservation through public outreach and citizen science. It was only a few minutes that passed before we saw a school of pollock! After a long search, we finally found a winter flounder hiding on the bottom. As we were ending our dive I stumbled upon fishing line all tangled at the bottom. Ghost fishing (abandoned traps, hooks, and lines) is a huge issue, and can cause animals to get trapped with no hope of getting out. After retrieving the line, we got out of the water and went to Stage Fort Park to join the other divers for a barbeque. Then we all took a group photo, and waited to see if our ticket would be one of the lucky ones to win a prize in the raffle. Though mine wasn’t pulled for a free charter, I still made out pretty well – I got a shark poster signed by Johnathan Bird and even a scuba tank that was repurposed as a lamp! The event was a huge success, and I can’t wait to do it again next summer!
This past week I spent time with Dan Dolan, a long-standing friend of the Sea Rovers, at the New England Aquarium. The first day, we dove right in – literally. After a brief tour of the diving area, we set up our gear, and hopped into the 200,000-gallon Giant Ocean Tank! We went to the bottom and saw all the animals and their favorite spots in the tank. I got to give Myrtle, the 530-pound green sea turtle, shell scratches (which she openly welcomes) and even got to pat Marilyn the moray eel. It is VERY important to note that in their natural habitat, you should absolutely not pet animals, they can be wild and therefore unpredictable and may interpret a human approaching as a threat! Some of the other fish, such as grunts and triggerfish, were treated to a sand bath. When I picked up sand from the exhibit floor and lifted it through the water column, fish swarmed towards it. Dan later told me that they enjoy it as the particles can remove parasites from their scales (which are a rarity with the excellent care they receive!). After our dive, I helped with some cleaning in the food prep room, then I got to feed Myrtle! Myrtle enjoys fresh veggies from a local farm; though she mainly eats lettuce, she also enjoys brussel sprouts and receives a variety of squid and fish to ensure she gets protein. Once her afternoon feeding was done, Dan taught me how to use their air compressor to fill tanks!
For my next day at the aquarium, I joined Heather in the penguin department. We started the day off with food preparation. Each day, the penguins receive a different type of fish so that they get a balanced diet. The day I was in the penguin department, we served up some silversides. Soon we were in the tank scrubbing the little blues exhibit (other volunteers were cleaning the Rockhopper and African penguins) with virkon, a disinfectant used throughout the aquarium. After a quick poo and algae scrub, the penguins were ready for their morning feeding. I was in charge of recording how much each penguin ate. It was a special time in the aquarium, as the little blues were going through molting season. During their molts, penguins shed their coats, which sometimes changes their appetite. In the afternoon, we pulled food for the 2:30 feeding. This time I would be monitoring the feeding habits of the African penguins. This feeding was a bit more chaotic, as the African penguins have the largest exhibit, so there were many more animals to keep track of. However, the volunteers and interns that I worked with could identify each penguin by the coloration of the bands on their fins. After a few tries, I was able to feed some of the penguins! After that feeding, and more algae scrubbing, we wrapped up the day by cleaning up behind the scenes.
On Tuesday, I worked behind the scenes of the temperate galleries. The temperate galleries house the mangrove, salt marsh, and grouper tanks, so I worked with a wide range of species. After a morning feeding, we got to work on some cleaning. I was in charge of cleaning the protein skimmers. A protein skimmer works by using only the tank’s water and bubbles to remove dissolved organic compounds which look just like sea foam. After, we continued feeding the animals on exhibit which included groupers, herring, and ropefish! The next day was spent in the animal health department. Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on how you look at it), it was a slow day. After feeding the two patients, an axolotl and a triggerfish we began digitizing old case files. In the afternoon things picked up a bit and we treated two blue chromis who had eye complications. These fish were particularly special because they were part of the first successful generation of blue chromis to ever be bred in an aquarium! Luckily, the treatment from the day before seemed to improve their conditions, so they were likely to return to their display within a day or so. While most of the animals that visit the animal health department and leave happy and healthy, some cases decline rapidly or pass due to health complications at old age. Such was the case of parrotfish we performed a necropsy on that afternoon. For every animal that dies in the aquarium, the animal health department performs a necropsy which includes taking scale, gill, and organ samples to determine the cause of death. This way, they can use the information to treat animals that may have come in contact with it.
On Thursday, the day I was the most excited about, I got to spend time in the marine mammals department! It began with preparing food for the harbor seals, California sea lions, and northern fur seals. Each got a variety of squid, mackerel, and of course their vitamins! After prepping, we headed to the harbor seal exhibit for a training session. Most of the seals, like the penguins were molting, so some did not participate in training. I watched as an employee asked Trumpet to perform some tasks such as showing us her belly to check for scratches and teeth so they could be brushed. She also waved to the crowd gathering outside the exhibit! Once a session is over, we prepare a toy for enrichment. That day we chose an ice block with fish inside it – which they seemed to really enjoy! Shortly after, I was shown something very special in a holding tank. Just born a week before I arrived, baby Ron was still a secret being kept from the public. I watched in awe as he listened to his mother’s vocalizations. Every mother has a specific vocalization known as a pup call that is used only for their young. It wasn’t much longer until we headed out to see the sea lion and northern fur seal training. They performed tasks such as porpoising, in which they jump out of the water like a dolphin, impersonated their neighbors the harbor seals, and even demonstrated their flexibility through target training. For this exhibit, enrichment came in the form of water guns. Some of the seals liked to chase the stream as it entered the water, others used it to clean their teeth, and of course, there were the sea lions who found that a nap was just what they needed after working. After lunch, we went back to the harbor seal exhibit, where I watched Cayenne work with a trainer. She showed off her moves as she danced in the water, and then gave me a kiss on the cheek! After a few more sessions with the northern fur seals, the day was coming to a close. After cleaning the food prep room, the enrichment toys, and pretty much every surface that we touched. We said goodnight to the animals, especially Ron!
That Saturday, I returned to working with Dan in the G.O.T. and this time my family came to watch me dive! While I enjoyed my dive, they got a great workout running up and down the ramp to follow me as I went through the tank. After my dive, it was time to feed some of the animals; my family got to meet Myrtle and feed her fresh lettuce and brussel sprouts! After Myrtle and the other fish ate, we grabbed some lunch then went back to work. The rest of the afternoon consisted of filling tanks and cleaning the dive locker and shower.
For my last day with the aquarium, I joined volunteers at the off-site facility in my hometown, Quincy, where the quarantine and rehabilitees reside. Half of the building houses the sea turtle rehabilitation tanks. Each year, sea turtles journey up the coast, but many get caught in the hook of the cape. When the weather cools, it causes their body temperatures to drop so they are “cold-stunned” and wash ashore. That’s where the team at the aquarium comes in. Rehabilitating hundreds each year, they provide excellent veterinary care to species such as the kemps ridley, loggerheads, and green sea turtles.
The summertime is a slow season, but there were still several turtles that needed care before they could be released. After feeding the turtles, there was plenty of preparation for turtle season to be done. We started by making bands to place on each turtle’s fin to easily identify them in the water. We also prepared kits for placing tags on the turtles’ back which collect data about where the turtles migrate. Lastly, and certainly not surprisingly we had plenty of cleaning to do! After clearing out a few lockers of medical supplies, we scrubbed the floors and vacuumed the tanks. Once this was done, it was time for the volunteers to log data, so I joined Dan and Dawn at a local restaurant. We talked about his adventures diving, his experience volunteering for the New England Aquarium, and his moment of fame when he filmed a short clip in the movie “Ted.” I am extremely grateful towards Dan for arranging my time at the aquarium, and I hope to return to volunteer with them soon!
On our way back from the sub races, Vin dropped me off to stay with the curator of large-fish exhibits and the dive safety officer of the National Aquarium, Holly Bourbon, along with her husband Billy and Wally the dog. I spent the first day with them catching up on my blogs, and reviewing footage from the sub races.
After that, we spent some time outside in the sun reviewing our plans for the week. We even figured out that Billy worked in my hometown for a while and spent time in the same social circles – what a small world! The next day, Holly, Billy and I visited Fort McHenry, where we met some of their friends from Massachusetts. We even saw the ship The Spirit of Baltimore II, which had just returned from Boston for the parade of sails! We toured the fort where the national anthem was written and was immersed in the history by volunteers dressed as soldiers who were playing instruments and firing off cannons (they were blanks, no worries!).
After that, we went downtown to Camden Fields to watch the Orioles play baseball against Tampa. It was a great game to watch, especially because we were in the shade and out of the heat, and the Orioles won 7 to 1! That night, I discovered that the Bourbons are HUGE Carl Hiassen fans! For those of you who don’t know of any Hiassen works, I suggest you immediately stop reading this blog and get your eyes glued to one of the classics like Hoot. We discussed how Hiassen’s children’s books were a large influence on my passion for conservation, and they let me borrow one of the books from their collection!
The next day we started our work at the National Aquarium. Unfortunately, the day did not go as planned. After the sub races, I got a sinus infection (thanks a lot immune system!) so I was unable to dive. But there was still plenty to see! I spent the day walking through the various exhibits with a huge grin. From black tip reef sharks to dolphins, to sloths I could have spent a whole day on one floor of the aquarium. Of course, there was a bit of aimless wandering through the aquarium as I tried to get my bearings, but eventually, I found Holly’s office and we spent some time in the dive room until the day was done.
The next day I spent the morning with Ashleigh in the offsite animal care center. Since it was a popular time for vacation, we were a bit short on volunteers. We started the day off taking temperatures of each tank and watched each animal to monitor their behaviors which can often indicate if they are progressing in their recovery. Afterward, we began food preparation for each of the animals – ranging from sharks to snakes. Food varied from fish flakes, fresh vegetables, and several different kinds of worms. Luckily all the patients happily ate – a good sign of a healthy critter! By the time we finished up with morning feedings, it was noontime, which meant I was off to the aquarium to spend the afternoon with Allan working behind the scenes in the different galleries! All the food for afternoon feedings was prepared in the morning by volunteers, so I helped Allan and some volunteers feed many of the animals in the smaller tanks. Some of my favorite animals I fed were the anemones, the electric eel, and Tullulah the octopus! As part of their enrichment for Tullulah, as most cephalopods are very intelligent, she often receives her food in jars and uses her tentacles to unscrew the lid to retrieve her food. She showed this trick off the day I was there, she was happy to receive a nice afternoon snack! After work, Holly, Billy and I went out to dinner, where of course I HAD to try the crab. Needless to say, it was delicious!
The next day, Holly and I got in the Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit for a check out dive to see if I was proficient with my diving skills. She tested my buoyancy, had me clear my mask, and remove and don my scuba gear. Afterward, I joined some volunteers to watch them feed some of the animals on exhibit. I even had a few come nibble at my fingers! From hogfish to moray eels, to the cownose ray “moldy butt,” named so because of the coloration patterns on her back, each animal was attended to during the feeding. After breaking down our gear, one of the divers presented me with some ray teeth he found on the bottom of the exhibit!
That Thursday, I took a break from the aquarium, and journeyed to D.C. where I got to meet some of the employees at the Ocean Conservancy thanks to Ted Maney’s close relationship with the organization! I spent the morning speaking with some incredible individuals, who gladly talked with me about important issues such as marine debris and how to convince citizens and politicians that certain policies must be passed to protect our oceans!
Afterward, I joined a few employees for lunch at Sweetgreen, a salad and grain bowl restaurant committed to sustainability (all utensils are compostable)! I spent the afternoon sightseeing, I practically stumbled onto the White House lawn on my journey to the Museum of Natural History! While I only had a short time at the museum because I had to catch the train back to Baltimore, I certainly did not waste any time – I went straight to the first floor which is where Ocean Hall (I mean are you surprised that’s where I spent my time?) is located. There I saw a 45-foot replica of the North Atlantic Right Whale (a native to New England, with only about 450 individuals left), a giant squid, and – my personal favorite – an artistic representation of a coral reef made entirely out of ocean plastics!!!
On my last day at the aquarium, I joined some volunteers feeding the black tip reef exhibit. In fact, one of the volunteers was a familiar face from school who was also a member of the Plastic Ocean Project group that I am involved with! We first fed the zebra sharks – who are spotted, not striped despite their name – and then put out lettuce heads for Calypso a 500-pound green sea turtle as a distraction while we fed the black tip reef sharks. They are target trained with a white buoy; when they hit the buoy, or come close to it, volunteers toss them fish and sometimes squid. I enjoyed seeing this type of conditioning used because of my background in psychology!
After feeding these animals, we made a quick trip to the food prep room to wash the bins that held the shark food. Then we went behind the scenes of shark alley to feed some of the larger sharks, such as nurse sharks and sand tiger sharks. Each day, these sharks get fish fresh off the docks, but even still a few of the sharks are picky eaters that will only accept certain species. I was surprised by how gentle these creatures were when it came to feeding. It certainly was not a vicious attack that you often see on TV. These sharks were a perfect depiction of the graceful animals that are in the water. I’d like to thank Holly and her family for hosting me, nursing me back to health, and showing me the ins and outs of working at an aquarium!
This past week I joined Vin and Kim Malkoski, and Kim’s boyfriend, Sean, for what one could definitely call “an experience”. After eight hours of driving, DJ’d by Vin himself (who knew he was a Lady Gaga fan?!) we finally arrived in Bethesda, Maryland to kick off the fourteenth biannual International Submarine Races (ISR) sponsored by the Foundation for Underwater Research and Education (FURE). Originally hosted in open water, the sub races began in 1989 at Riviera Beach in Florida, but have since moved to the David Taylor Model Basin – a ¼ mile long, 22 feet deep tank at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division.
Now at this point, you may be asking ‘but Krista, what on earth do submarines have to do with scuba diving?’ Here’s the catch: these high school and collegiate human powered subs are not dry, in fact, the pilot and pit crew (maybe pool crew?) all operate their submarines using scuba!
We spent the first day in Bethesda recovering from our road trip, which was spent preparing me for an insane week that would inevitably lead to poolside rants among the dive staff. The next day we went to the base and set up for the event. We also dedicated a solid two hours in the tank removing debris from the past two years, so that the submarines would have a clear course. Then, the real work began.
Most of the contestants are fairly new divers, which is where my job came in. Since Vin is responsible for keeping an eye on all divers, ensuring that all diving is safe, and taking care of injuries if needed, my role to be an additional set of eyes for him, along with Kim, Neil, Sean, Roberta (Bobbie), and a few others. We were responsible for making sure each diver submitted their paperwork, ensuring that no divers had any health concerns that would prevent them from safely diving. In addition, Sean and Kim scheduled check out dives with the competitors to ensure they were up to date on their skills. It was great shadowing them as they helped divers review their skills. It reminded me that becoming a divemaster or instructor requires a lot of responsibility, and sometimes patience! Yet during that week, I knew for certain that I wanted to take on that role someday. While it was a lot of fun checking divers in making sure all gear was working before entering the water, I would be lying if I said the week didn’t involve lots of yelling at people for various safety reasons. ‘NO running, put on a PFD’, and lastly (and DEFINITELY Bobbie’s favorite) ‘You’re seriously doing that in front of me?’ Overall competitors were responsible, though occasionally we commandeered neglected dive gear, and the energy on base was very positive. The best demonstration of this would have to be how the divers came together to help a Mexican team, from the University of Veracruz, whose submarine was traveling the east coast instead of being delivered to the naval base. The submarine arrived on the last day with only a few hours left to race, all the teams helped assemble their submarine and they were able to race for the 14th international submarine races. I am extremely grateful to the Malkoskis for inviting me on the trip, to Bobbie for being a roommate that was tolerant of my shenanigans, and certainly to Charlotte George ( the liaison between the Navy and ISR), and Jim Corey for announcing the races and keeping the spirit of the races alive.
Recently I spent the past few days with previous intern Rick Simon at his farm in Connecticut. After a late night sitting in on his Advanced Nitrox and Tech class, I was greeted by the not so enthusiastic welcome committee of Rick’s four dogs, who clearly were not informed that a guest would be intruding their home. The next day started at 6am – unfortunately not by a rooster crow – to complete chores on the farm.
Then we went to Rick’s shop (Manta Industries) where he makes his dive reels. It was at that time I realized: I was going to have to tie the dreaded bowline knot. It is one of the most important knots in boating and diving, but the story of the bunny would not stick in my brain (in case you were wondering the bunny comes out of his hole, under the log, then back into its hole). After re-learning the art of a bowline knot, Rick helped me assemble my very own reel (probably for his own amusement watching me fumble with some tools)! After filling some orders, we went diving in a quarry so Rick could film our dive and we could assess my skills. Unfortunately, on our first descent attempt, I was too light and could have used another two pounds…two pounds that were not in my dive bag (another reminder to divers, always have extra weights). The only option was to use a 20-pound weight belt, which we both knew was much more weight than I needed. Because of this, my buoyancy and trim were way off. Frustrated by my mistake, I went through my air much faster trying to compensate for my heaviness. Rick decided to test my limits by silting up the bottom to mimic zero visibility conditions, but I stayed calm and descended to a spot with better visibility. The next day we went out with Rick’s boss Jay to dive the Heroine, a wreck from the 1920’s at roughly 80 feet. Much to Rick’s surprise, I consumed much less air at 70 feet than I had the previous day at 20 feet. Concentrating on slowing your breath really is important when it comes to conserving air!!! We headed towards Fishers’ Pier to avoid the rough seas for our second dive and spent an hour searching for golf balls. After finishing diving for the day, Jay invited us back to his house to see his dive hat collection! It was interesting to see how technology has changed for commercial divers throughout the years. I am grateful that Jay took us out diving, and even more grateful that I do not need to wear a 40-pound dive hat! I hope to dive again with Rick soon and when I’m ready, get started on some technical diving!
This past week I spent time with Ted Maney, at Salem State University, collecting data from an ongoing research project which included counting sea urchins and other mobile fauna off shore. Since there were two other people joining us, Ken and Breckie, we had a tight squeeze onto a twenty-foot center console. In case you were wondering, that’s twelve tanks and at least a hundred pounds worth of gear. Truth be told, I was a bit nervous – this would be my first time diving with my new DUI drysuit, and there was a decent current that could pull us away from the boat. But among the hundred pounds of gear, there was a line to hold from the boat to prevent drifting. Once we started diving the site at Halfway Rock, my worries disappeared, possibly from the shock of cold water on my face, but more likely because of the excitement of conducting research underwater. Once I laid my quadrat, the work was simple…until I tried writing underwater. Maybe it was the thick gloves, or the tiny pencil, but my urchin counts looked more like preschool scribbles. However, with practice, it became much easier. After one day, I was ready to take on more sites the next day at Shagg’s Rock. On our last day, we searched for lost transponders which had years of data on them. While searching, I realize that the buddy trio was split and I was alone at 90 feet. I did not panic, my computer said my no decompression limit was still high and I had plenty of air. After turning in circles looking for my buddies or their bubbles, I realized the visibility was too poor; they could have been 10 feet away and I wouldn’t have seen them. So, following the lost buddy procedure, I start my ascent while looking for my buddies on the way up. Though I did not find them, I found a bud light around 40 feet (again people ENOUGH with the litter)!!! After a three-minute safety stop at 15 feet, I went to the surface to find both Ken and Breckie. After a quick debrief about how our separation happened, we all had enough air and descended again for our second dive. Unfortunately, we were only able to find one of the lost transmitters. However, the day was a success in my book, I got to apply two important diving skills (search patterns and lost buddy procedures) in a real-life situation. A reminder to my diving friends – always review lost buddy procedures during your pre-dive check, and keep your skills sharp! Thanks again to Ted for inviting me to participate in his research!