Quest Marine Services and NOAA

Aug 9-10th

The last few days of my internship this summer have been spent in Massachusetts working with Eric Takakjian and NOAA. Eric owns his own business, Quest Marine Services, which does everything form oceanographic surveying to building unique equipment. I learned this part first hand when I helped Eric with his project to build a frame for an underwater camera that can go down to find-out if wrecks exist. I got a mini metal-shop experience in which we drilled holes in metal, and I learned a bit about welding. Eric even let me try my hand at it! It’s a smidge harder than it looks…Eric is also an avid wreck diver, and has amassed an extremely impressive museum of artifacts from the hundreds of wrecks that he has dived.  I was absolutely fascinated by all of these artifacts and the stories of where they came from, the purpose of that ship, how the artifact was discovered and retrieved, and the restoration process that the piece had to undergo after being salvaged. Eric does a lot of the restoration himself, and builds most of the stands and plaques for what he finds. After diving on the Bell Island Wrecks with Ocean Quest in Newfoundland, Eric’s wealth of knowledge and stories were even more exciting to me. It is literally living history.

While I was with Eric, we also went to the New Bedford Whaling Museum. It was fantastic. There were a lot of whale skeletons, including that of a young blue whale, and anther of a female with an unborn calf’s half-formed skeleton. Now THAT is something you don’t see every day. When we walked into the museum we could smell the oil that is still seeping from the bones of the blue whale. The museum was all about whaling, how it came to be, the lifestyle of the people, the products that came from it, and why it was stopped. It is amazing that such crude methods as men in canoes with spears could successfully take down something as large as a whale. Thankfully whaling has stopped/is illegal in almost the entire world now. The museum also contained a bunch of ship models, including the largest ship model in the world. It is indoors, and we could actually go walk on the deck of it! It looked like it was built for five-year olds to sail!

One of the days I was working with Eric we got up at 4:15am, met Eric’s friend Mo, and headed to  Boston Harbor to meet a boat and crew headed out to retrieve two current recording devices for NOAA. There were about 37 of these devices all over the harbor and surrounding areas recording the tides. They had been out since around May or June, and now the device were being brought-up in order to retrieve the data. Normally an acoustic release is triggered, signaling a floatation device attached to the underwater portion to release, letting the ship know its location. Two of these releases didn’t work, which means it is time for the divers to go down, which is why they called Eric and Mo. The currents where these devices were placed are extremely strong, with almost no visibility. Divers can only safely go down at slack tide. We would use the A-frame to lower a big weight to the bottom, then Eric would follow the line down, tie-off his reel, and search for the device. My job was to help the divers prepare and gear-up. After our captain positioned us over where the device should be Eric dove down with a line (I held the other end of the line) and Mo stood by, ready to go, as a precaution. Everything went smooth as butter. The weight was so close that when the A-frame dropped the weight down the first device was within two kicks, and then later, Eric only had to stick his hand out to reach the second one! After recovering the devices, they were cleaned, and then the data was literally downloaded on the spot with a laptop.  Then we cleaned-up on deck, watched Boston from the harbor, waved at New England Aquarium, and headed back to the dock. When we arrived back at the dock a crane truck lifted everything off the boat, and we unloaded the rest. While helping, I inadvertently picked up the most expensive piece of equipment on board…the 40grand tube that records all of the current data that was collected. Way to go me. Thankfully I didn’t drop it! 🙂

Later that day Eric and I went kayaking, first time this summer for both of us. It was beautiful out, and a great way to relax. Later, we met Kate Douglas (BSR Intern 04) for dinner at a really cute restaurant on the water. While we were eating, we got to watch the sun set over the ocean. It was the perfect way to end my adventures as the 2011 Boston Sea Rovers’ Frank Scalli Intern.

Last Newfoundland Dives


Me, looking down on the wreck from above! (c)Rick Stanley, Ocean Quest, Newfoundland

DIVE DAY! It’s my last dive day in Newfoundland, and I’m psyched!! Now that I am officially an advanced diver, I get to dive on the Rose Castle, the deepest of all the Bell Island wrecks! Her decks rest around 90-100ft down, and her hull sits at about 150ft. Descending down the rope I definitely noticed it took a bit longer before an outline began to appear out of the depths. But, when it did, boy was it worth it! If I though the other ships were “flowering” with life, this wreck was a garden on steroids!

Me, on the outside of the wreck, looking at the walkways! (c)Rick Stanley, Ocean Quest, Newfoundland

I found anemones, jellyfish, sea stars, urchins, crabs, fish, soft corals, and more! But, I have to say, the coolest thing about this wreck are her ropes. The S.S. Rose Castle sank in 1942, and her ropes are STILL in-tact! There is still a Marconi radio room in-tact, complete with dials, and bench! THAT was something worth seeing. Her upper decks were also incredible; some of the cargo holds still had the hatch covers on them! It’s all because of the water temperature. Down there it’s about 32-34F, the perfect temperature for preserving ships. And, seriously, after a little while, you can’t even feel the cold anymore…. 😉

Me, checking out the amunition box on the deck of the PLM 27! (c)Rick Stanley, Ocean Quest, Newfoundland

Rick had his video camera with him again, so we got some more fantastic footage! I was actually able to swim right along the walkways, and even over and through some of them. It was bloody brilliant! Sadly the time came for us to head back up to the boat. But, I was still excited because that was only our first dive of the day! Our next stop was going to be the fourth, and final Bell Island Shipwreck; the Lord Strathacona. Unfortunately the weather was not on my side, so we were not able to dive her today. On the positive end, we were able to dive the PLM 27 again (another magnificent dive), and now I have the perfect excuse to come back! 😀

Hiking and History!


Trail Head

We took today off from diving to give ourselves a bit of a break. So, Jason and Kate took me with them on a hike they were leading, then Rick took me, Tim, Margie, and Naoko to the Newfoundland museum, The Rooms!  It was great! The Newfoundland coast is absolutely breathtaking. I could hike it every day! The tourists on the hike with us were losing their minds when we started seeing whales in the bay. It was one of their number goals to achieve while they were here. For some reason I had a knack for spotting the whales, so they dubbed me the whale whisperer. They were a good group of people, and it was a short, but fun hike. Kate is British, and in the process of completing her studies in Newfoundland, so

Big Sea Cave!!

I had a good time picking her brain during the hike. She has explored so much of the world, and had some great advice for me. Who knows, maybe I will head back to Newfoundland when it’s my turn to pursue a masters or doctorates!

Me at The Rooms!

After the hike I ate a quick lunch at Ocean Quest, and then we were off again! Our destination was The Rooms. It is basically the Newfoundland museum of history. I was actually really excited to go because, unlike many of the history museums I’ve been to in the U.S., I don’t actually know any of the history of Newfoundland. Turns out Newfoundland was first colonized by the English, but as time went on, more and more of the Irish came to live there, until they greatly outnumbered the English. Not surprisingly, the number one lifestyle was fishing. It was a beautiful museum, and I really enjoyed walking through it. I’m glad I now know more about how  this fantastic place came to be what it is today.

Advanced Diver!!!!!!!!!


Holly over the anchor on the Saganaga! (c) Rick Stanley, Ocean Quest, Newfoundland

Today is Saganaga day!  My second Bell Island shipwreck! Today we are doing my official drysuit dive, and this time I got to use my Gates video camera!  When we went down the visibility wasn’t the best, but that had its perks; the anemones were out in full! They must have thought it was night time or something, because they were literally in “full bloom!” It was beautiful. I don’t think I will ever get tired of exploring anemone shaped shipwrecks 🙂 The jelly fish were also everywhere! There were so many, and they were really pretty! My dive light made it so that they appeared to be rainbow colors. I think I may have been looking at some tiny ctenophores as well as jellyfish. The marine biology nerd in me was thoroughly enjoying itself!

A Lion's Maine Jellyfish!! (c) Rick Stanley, Ocean Quest, Newfoundland

The big defining thing about the Saganaga shipwreck is the current placement of one of her front anchors. When she was hit and sunk by the torpedo, the backlash caused one of her front anchors to flip up over the bow and settle on the deck in the middle of the ship! It’s pretty crazy! I can’t get over how easy it is to picture all of the walkways, ladders, and rooms full of people bustling about. When you’re down there, you can’t help but wonder what the ship must have looked like in her prime. Once we reached our time limit, we started ascending up our guide rope. While we were doing our safety stop we got one heck of a close encounter with a lion’s mane jellyfish! I saw it first, they have an orange tinted top, and pointed it out to Holly and Jaime, who promptly went up the rope a few feet. It was headed straight for us! I followed, looking down at the jelly fish the entire time. Its tentacles were over 12 feet long! And you could barely see them all because they were clear. If it hadn’t been for the bit of sun that filtered down this far, I’m not sure if we even would have seen how long they were. Rick got some amazing footage of the jellyfish because he chased after it, and got in front of it. I on the other hand, have the footage of Rick chasing the jellyfish 🙂 Thankfully Rick was more than willing to share his footage with me, and I know this clip will make it into my presentation at the 2012 Boston Sea Rovers Clinic!

Holly (L) and Jaime (R)! 🙂

For our next dive we headed back to chimney cove. This time Jaime and I had to perform our navigation dive. Of all the dives we had to do, I was the most nervous about this one because I had never really tried using a compass underwater. I mean, it makes sense that it would work, but all I could think of was, what if the current pushes us way off course. How would we know unless we came up? Our big task was to swim out with our compass and make a perfect square, ending where we started. After we learned how many of our kicks it took us to move 100meters, it was time for us to try our luck at the square. I think Holly had the best job; she got to sit and wait for us, while attempting to drink a juice box underwater and watching fish fight over scraps. Our first go failed miserably. The current was wicked strong, and ended up pushing us way in the other direction towards shore. We came up about 100meters in front of the boat after initially starting our square away from the back of the boat. But we were not giving up! We swam back to the boat and then back down the line where Holly was very surprised to see us. We had more than enough air to try again, so with new determination, we gave it another shot! It was perfect! We saw Holly before she saw us, so we even got to sneak up and tap her on the shoulder from behind! It was great! After  we had both completed our squares, taking turns being the kickers and compass holders, we climbed back on the boat; officially advanced divers!!!!!!!! :DDD

Wreck Diving!


Dive Boat!

Holly is in the process of certifying Jaime and I as advanced divers! So, today we went out on the Ocean Quest dive boat to get in three of our dives! We did our boat dive, deep dive, and wreck dive! It was my first ever wreck dive, and it was amazing. We dove twice on the PLM 27, one of the four Bell Island shipwrecks in Newfoundland sunk as a result of torpedo hits by German submarines sneaking into Conception Bay during WW2. I wanted to bring my Gates video camera down, but seeing as it was my first time doing a deep dive, and my first time on a wreck, we decided it was safer if I left the camera on the boat for now.

Everyone on the dive boat! Props to Margie for taking this picture from the other Ocean Quest boat!

Jason and two of his students were also on the boat with us for the day, so we had two groups of divers going down on the PLM 27 at the same time. We did our deep dive first with a destination of the completely in-tact propeller and the bottom of the sea floor: 100ft down. Going down you enter a sort of limbo stage where the only thing you can see is the rope you are following, and the divers around you. Otherwise, it’s just you and the big blue. Then, out of the depths you see this hazy outline. As you go deeper it begins to take on a shape; A shape that just keeps getting bigger and bigger until you suddenly realize that you are looking at a ship more than 400feet long. It’s startling and breathtaking at the same time. Because the water is so cold the wreck has been very well preserved, and due to the iron in its cargo when it was sunk, the ship is sitting perfectly upright. The decks are still in-tact, the stairs and walkways seem to just be waiting for the sailors to come running about their tasks. It’s so easy to imagine people bustling about on this ship. It’s earie and beautiful all at the same time.

Haha! Holly! She is so much fun! <3

However sad it might be that her days of supporting human life are over, she is by no means dead. Her entire body is covered in a new kind of life. Anemones are everywhere, like a field of exotic blooming flowers in the shape of a ship. Sea urchins, jellyfish, flounder, cod, and any manner of other sea critters have made their home here. I now completely understand how divers can forgo reef diving in favor of wreck diving. There is just SO much to see! Whether it be nature or human-made, it is all new and exciting.

Me at PLM 27 Propeller!

We continued our dive down to the propeller, which is enormous, and down to the bottom of the ocean, where Jason showed us a plastic water bottle that he brought down from the surface. It looked like someone had squeezed it and then shrunk it. After we finished all of our deep dive tasks, we returned to the surface for an interval, then came right back down! But, this time we explored more of the upper decks of the ship. I couldn’t get enough of it, and didn’t want to go back up!

For our third dive, the boat dive, we went over to Chimney cove and just did a short, shallow dive. The bottom of the ocean here was really neat because it was all rock. It was fun to follow the cracks and look at the critters that blended into the rock. We got cold pretty quickly because we had been in the water so much, and I was SO grateful to Arthur, one of the boat captains, who had poured hot water into my gloves before the dive. I swear, it was like a hot bubble bath for my hands 🙂 When we were all done we were a crew of seriously content divers (that really wanted showers!) I can’t wait to see what we do tomorrow! 😀

(Happy Birthday Emily! <3 )



All aboard that's coming aboard!

Today Rick Stanley took me, Chantelle, Bridget, and Margie out to go snorkeling with Humpback whales!! We even had our very own photographer/video-maker; Cecil! Both Chantelle and Cecil work for Rick at Ocean Quest, and I gotta say..they have some preeeettty sweet jobs! Bridget is a family friend, and Margie is a journalist who has written for basically any Newspaper you can think of! Together we all had a ton of energy to build off of! Only the girls were getting in the water, and it was the first time for all of us! This is also Rick’s very first all-girl whale watching trip!

Whale Breath...skunks can learn a trick or two 😛

Once we got out on the water Rick instructed us to keep our eyes peeled, and to make sure we were smelling the air. It didn’t take long for us to figure out why we needed to keep our noses’ primed; after about 30minutes of cruising we smelled the first wave of whale breath! And boy can I just say; Someone needs to get some giant tic-tacs out there asap! You definitely smell these guys before you see them! Once we located them visually we sped up in front of them, and waited for the signal! As soon as Rick saw them surface he just yelled: “GO! GO! GO!” We quickly rolled over the side of the boat into the ocean, and started bee-lining it for the whales!

Me and Humpback Whales!! Not even 10feet away!!

The very first time I got it, I came to the surface, turned around towards the whales, and saw a tail that had to be at least three times my size about 20yards away from me!  I knew whales were big, but this gives you one heck of a different perspective! Chantelle and I had my Olympus and Gates cameras in the water with us, but it turns out that it’s really hard to swim close-enough to the whale and get a picture/video when the ocean is tossing you around like a play-toy. Not to mention there was this HUGE algae bloom, so the visibility underwater wasn’t that great for the cameras. However, we were still able to see tons of jellyfish, and the giant shapes of the whales as they swam under us. At one point there was a whale under me, and if it had decided to come-up I would have been sitting on it!

What did you do today? Me? I snorkeled after Humpback Whales!!

At one point there was a whale-watching boat from a different company out at the same time as us, and all of the passengers were watching us in the water with the whales. We laughed, not sure if they were insanely jealous, or thought we were crazy! We decided they were insanely jealous when I had the brilliant idea to wave at them, and literally the entire ship waved back! It was pretty awesome! Along with some close whale encounters, we also got to see tons of puffins! They live out on the ocean all the time until breeding season, and they were so fat they could barely fly out of the way when the boat was coming through. They skimmed along the top of the water like a skipping stone, and they would abruptly stop flying and promptly sink. It was hilarious and we could not stop laughing at them!

Humpback Whale Jumping!

After a while in the water there was a bit of a lull, so Chantelle and I started singing,  humming, and speaking whale through our snorkels in hopes of attracting the whales (Rick told us it would help…I think he and Cecil were just laughing at us on the boat!). Eventually we decided to give-up this spot, and started heading back towards the boat. All of a sudden a whale surfaced not six feet behind us! We squealed, turning around as quickly as we could to find ourselves literally in a swarming vortex of 5 or 6 humpback whales!! They were surfacing extremely close to us, and diving right underneath us. There was even a mom and calf! It was absolutely PHENOMENAL! We didn’t want to get out of the water!

Alas, after a few hours it was time to head back. As we were leaving , some of the whales started swimming on their sides, putting a flipper in the air, as if they were waving goodbye. Then, after we started speeding away, we looked back to see one of the whales jump fully out of the water! It was gorgeous! Regular old whale-watching trips just aren’t going to cut it for me anymore! I really hope that I can come back again!

Whale-bone graveyard!


Rick and Debbie! My wonderful hosts at Ocean Quest!

I jumped off a dock, a solid 12, maybe 15feet in height today. Into the ocean. In Newfoundland. In full dive gear. Talk about a RUSH! Now, why the heck did I muster up the courage to jump? Maybe it was because Holly and Jaime wanted scallops for dinner? Uhhhm.. no. Did I mention that I am allergic to shellfish?, there was a better reason for me; whale bones! We were diving off a dock at Dildo. It turns out that back in the day this is where the whales that had been caught were brought back and gutted. But, they threw the bones back into the ocean. So, the bones are scattered all around the base of the dock, perfect for divers to explore!

Tim and Naoko! Fantastic chefs, and great friends!

Once we got down, I started scanning the area for bon….I mean, I was looking for scallops for dinner. Sadly, this uniformed diver didn’t realize that those “clams” were actually she disregarded them and got severely distracted by the flounder, starfish, and sea urchins that were EVERYWHERE. It didn’t take me long to realize that the lump of rock these critters were hanging out on or near were actually the vertebrae of a whale! I swear I was dancing around down there like a little kid with a new toy!…in my head of course.Dancing while diving is harder than you would think. 😉

Fresh cod after a day of diving!

I wished that I had my Gates video camera, but I had previously decided that it would not be a good idea to jump 12-15ft down and risk flooding it on impact…I can’t wait to actually have it out up here though! A little over half an hour later our trembling hands decided that it was time to head back to the warmth of Ocean Quest.

Sadly we didn’t end up finding enough scallops for a dinner, but, on the bright side, when we returned to Ocean Quest, Rick and Tim had fresh cod waiting for dinner! And so ended my first day of diving in Newfoundland! I can’t wait to get out on the wrecks!

A Newfoundland in Newfoundland!!!! :D


Ocean Quest's On-site Training Pool

Wow, I certainly got some exercise today! In the morning I helped out at Ocean Quest with Jason’s open-water class in the on-site training pool.

The Ocean Quest Logo is on the bottom of the Pool!

All of the students were really excited to learn. Then, after class was over, I continued my day by going hiking along the coast with Jason and his fiancée, Kate.  It was absolutely GOREGEOUS!The cliffs are amazing, and the whole time we had the woods on our left, and the ocean on our right. We actually saw minke whales while we were hiking!!

Gorgeous Newfoundland Coast!

I was also excited that we ran into a friendly hiker who had her big Newfoundland dog with her! I got to play with a Newfoundland IN Newfoundland!

The Newfoundland Dog! 😀

The nerd side of me was completely satisfied by this 🙂 . I could have stayed out hiking for hours and hours, but eventually it was time to head back to Ocean Quest.

One of the waterfalls we crossed while hiking!

An absolutely wonderful dinner was awaiting us, graciously made by Tim, one of Rick’s close friends visiting with his newly wed wife from the U.K! I swear, by the time I get back to the states I’m never going to be satisfied by anything but my mom’s cooking, and I’m going to have the most mangled New York, Massachusetts, Canadian, British accent you’ve ever heard! 😀

NEWFOUNDLAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…and fish..lots of fish


Ocean Quest Dive Boat

I arrived in St. John’s Newfoundland today at 12:30am, accompanied by rain, thunder, lightning, turbulence, and screaming children…thankfully a friendly face and a warm greeting were waiting for me. I quickly signaled out Albert, with his sign in the crowd, and off we went to Ocean Quest and the start of my adventure!

Bill (L) and Arthur (R); My amazing Guides!

The next morning I was treated to a wonderful breakfast, and then I was told to get myself ready to go out on the boat. So, we went down to the boat launch where I met my guides, Bill and Arthur. They were taking two local tech divers out to dive on two of the four Bell Island wrecks! While the divers were down Arthur told me about the wrecks, and how they were iron ore tankers from WWII, that had been sunk by German submarines to prevent them from taking the iron ore, mined from Bell Island, off to make more warships.

Bell Island Cliffs

He also told me that the ships were sitting down on the ocean floor perfectly upright, and preserved from the weight of the iron in their holds and the cold water. They are basically living history, a museum designed for a very unique audience. They are in the category of the top 10 wreck dive sites in the world. I can’t wait for my turn to dive on them!

Bell Island Cliffs

Once the divers came up, we toured around Bell Island so that I could see the landscape and cliffs. It was fantastic! You could see the striation in the cliffs all the way up. It was gorgeous. We also saw a couple bald eagles, and once some of the fog cleared we could see out to some of the other islands around us. It was beautiful! Then we went down to help the divers in for their second dive. While we waited for them to come up I was treated to Bill’s famous moose stew!

Me, and Bell Island!

It was my first time eating moose, and it was delicious! After the divers finished their second dive it was time to head back to home base. On our way back I saw my first Newfoundland whales! There were a few minke whales swimming around in the harbor. I was pretty excited to see them. We also found ourselves moving past an enormous oil rigger on our way back. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend how big it was, and I don’t even want to think about how long it took to build her!

The GIANT Oil Rigger!

Once we got back, I didn’t have much time before I was headed right back down to the boat launch! This time Holly and Jamie were taking me out on one of Ocean Quests’ fishing charters! Me, plus a zodiac, and a fishing pole…I wasn’t too sure what the outcome would be. Despite growing up on a farm and having a pond, I’ve only fished a few times, and caught a handful of fish.

Me, and my "magic" fishing pole!

Well, today I caught twenty-one! The customers on the boat each caught an average of about five. It was crazy! The blonde American with no fishing background (and no CLUE what she was doing) was getting all the fish! Everyone was laughing, and saying that I had a magic rod. The one lady even asked if we could switch rods for a little while….turns out it was me and not the rod! I kept catching fish, and she tried, but to no avail. Eventually though my line got snagged on a buoy and I retired my rod. But, I caught my first Newfoundland cod fish, and there will be fish for dinner for those folks!


Once we got back to the Ocean Quest Lodge, I had some free time to explore before my hosts, Rick and Debbie Stanley got home from their trip. Then it was time to hit the sac, and I was asleep before my head hit the pillow! And so my time in Newfoundland has officially started!

Last days at DAN

7/21/11 & 7/22/11

Running through a CPR and Oxygen scenario.

Wow. The past two days have been an absolute whirlwind of information. It started yesterday morning when I spent some time with Jeff Wilkins learning about how Google Alerts work, and how they help with dive fatality research. DAN tries to keep a record on file of every dive fatality that occurs, and they use Google Alerts to notify them of anything related comes up online. Then it is Jeff’s job to follow-up on all of the alerts and create a “case-file” for the database. It is a pretty large and research intensive job, but he is not the only one working on it, which is very helpful.

Johnathan and I, working on our Oxygen First Aid Skills....

After that I went upstairs where Brian and Mo showed me how DAN’s Dive Alert Magazine is organized and made. SO much work goes into the magazine, and they are planning about three issues ahead at all times. I got to see some of the pictures and stories that are being revised for the up-coming issue, and I got to see the final layout of what the current issue is going to be. There are so many diverse stories in the magazine, and I can’t wait to get mine in the mail!

Me, Patty, and Johnathan! Courses complete! Such a fun group! 🙂

After a quick lunch, it was time to get cracking on some course work! Patty was my instructor, and she started Jonathan (one of DAN’s interns) and I on our CPR/AED class first. By the time we finished all of the material and practical scenarios, it was high time for dinner! I was really excited for dinner tonight because the president of DAN, Dan Orr, and his wife Betty, got home early from their business trip, so we got to go out to dinner together! I met Dan and Betty at the Boston Sea Rover Clinic, and then again at Beneath the Sea, and I was really happy that I got to see them.

Good Work Team! (Johnathan and I shaking hands after completing all of our certifications).

The next morning Dan generously gifted me with some dive goodies, and then it was back to the books! After some very long hours, lots of bandaging, intense scenarios, and countless laughs, Jonathan and I triumphantly completed all of our certifications! Thanks to Patty’s immeasurable patience, we are now certified in CPR/AED, Oygen First Aid, Advanced Oxygen First Aid, On-Site Neurological Assessments, and First Aid for Hazardous Marine Life Injuries (like jelly fish stings)! It was a lot of information, and some if it was kind of scary, but I’m very glad that I know it all, and I feel much safer knowing that I have the skills to help if they are ever needed. I loved all of the time that I got to spend at DAN, but soon after I finished my last certification it was time for me to head off to the airport and on to my next adventure! Thank you to everyone at DAN!