As part of my last trip for the summer, I boarded a plane and flew out to Detroit for some wreck diving and a little video editing. When I arrived, Pat Stayer greeted me at the baggage terminal. After collecting my bags, I headed out with her to meet up with Jim Stayer, who had been driving circles around the airport waiting for us to come out. After a 2-hour drive back and a stop along the way to grab some Chinese, arrived at their home in Lexington, MI. My time spent with the Stayer’s was primarily dedicated to wreck diving and video editing. The Stayers own a company named Out of the Blue Productions, which focuses on documentaries concerning the rich history of the Great Lakes immortalized by its shipwrecks. The Stayers have also written and edited a variety of books on the topic as well. During my stay, I had the opportunity to dive five shipwrecks in Lake Huron. The Stayers own a motorized catamaran that makes for an amazing dive platform. The Sport and the Strong were the first wrecks we dove. Both sat in about 30 feet of water, allowing for two, hour long, dives on both ships, all on a single 100 steel tank. While not much remained of Strong, as it had to be demolished, the Sport lies on its side and is nearly completely intact. Up until that point, I hadn’t done any wreck diving outside the New England area and was quite shocked to see the whistle, portholes, and a variety of other artifacts still on the hull. The following dive, we went out on the Mary Alice B and the Regina. The Mary Alice sits in about 100’ of water and is perched fully upright on the bottom. Like the Sport, everything is still on board. The wreck looked like it had just sunk and was easy to imagine cruising along on the surface. The Regina was the first “big” wreck. It sat in 80’ of water and was a 250’ steel hulled freighter. Just a single blade of the propeller was bigger than I was. The last day of diving was spent on the Northern Star. Another larger wreck, however, unlike the Regina, the Northern Star sits upright. However, time has taken its toll and much of the upper decks have completely collapsed in. However, most of the engine is still intact and the massive cylinders tower above the remains of the hull. The rest of the time was spent putting together the video presentation for the internship. Pat worked closely with me, helping me use Final Cut Pro. The long hours put into the presentation were rewarded with a spectacular looking final product. The Great lakes truly are a wreck divers paradise. I can’t wait to return. I would like to thanks Jim and Pat Stayer for hosting me and taking me on a tour of a small sample of what the Great lakes has to offer.
I resumed my adventures in Orlando, Florida with the Cambrian foundation. When I touched down in Orlando, I was greeted by Amy Giannotti, her daughter Alli, and John “Boz” Boswell. During my time spent with the Cambrian Foundation, we sampled three different cave systems: Wekiwa, DeLeone Springs, and Rock Springs. I was unable to dive with the collection team because doing so required a full cave certification. However, I was in charge of running iron samples on water collected by the divers and brought back to the surface. In addition to learning about the scientific side of cave diving, I learned more about what it takes to become a certified cave diver. I had an excellent time while in Florida and wish to thank Amy Gianotti and her family for hosting me.
I was on a plane and on my way to Costa Rica. I had been sponsored aboard the Undersea Hunter group’s dive live-aboard, the Sea Hunter, to Cocos Island by Steve Drogin and Ernie Brooks. After the 36-hour trip to the island was complete, we woke up early the next morning and immediately hit the water. From the first dive I knew this trip was going to be incredible. From the moment we back-rolled into the water to the moment we got out, we were constantly in contact with varieties of colorful fish, schools of hammerhead sharks, and reef white tips. For ten days we made 4 dives a day, one of those being a night dive during which we witnessed the white tips chasing down prey. Aboard the Sea Hunter was Steve Drogin’s deep diving submersible, the DeepSea. While I was in Cocos I had the pleasure of making two dives aboard the DeepSea. One to 600 ft and another to 1200 ft. The submarine was designed specifically for underwater filming. Its acrylic hemispherical dome allows a 360 degree view of your surroundings. In addition, as soon as the hemisphere submerged, it all but disappeared, making you feel as if the fish were right there next to you. However, the crowing moment of the trip came on our last dive on a submerged seamount called Alcyone. As we hung on for dear life in the ripping current watching a school of hammerheads swim by, a 37’ whale shark broke through the school and swam directly over us. Literally, the thing looked like a blimp with a tailfin. It was quite an aweing experience. It was hard to leave Cocos, but one thing is for sure, I will be back! I want to thank Steve Drogin and Ernie Brooks for sponsoring me on such an amazing trip.
I’m on the road again. This time, to Topsham, Maine to visit with TDI world headquarters. When I arrived at their offices I was a little surprised by its appearance. I was expecting, well, an office building. TDI turned out to be nothing like I expected. Instead of strict dress codes and cubicles that I normally associate with such operations, I was greeted at the door by a black lab and a smaller dog named Maggy. Everything in the office was very layed back. But that’s not to say they don’t do any business. In addition to being a fun place to work, TDI is a tightly run operation. In a time when dive training is at a low, TDI manages to continue to grow its operation, which is now based globally. I stayed with TDI’s current owner and president Brian Carney and his wife Stephanie. They own a wonderful house surrounded by quintessential Maine… the woods of course! While there, I learned the ins and outs of running a dive training agency, played Xbox with Brian, got trained in nitrox, and even got to print my own card. I had the pleasure of meeting both Bret Gilliam and John Chatterton. The trip finished up with a dive in a salt pond on the Rachel Carlson nature preserve. I hope to be able to work with TDI as I continue my dive training. Thanks!
I must admit, driving into Boston on a weekday morning is no fun. However, all was made up for and more when Paul Leonard at the New England Aquarium (NEAQ) greeted me. Paul helps to run the penguin department at the NEAQ. I started my time working with the penguins. Right away I was allowed to get into the water with them and help feed. Initially, all I did was carry the clipboard and tally what each penguin ate, however, later on; I would actually get the opportunity to feed them myself. The portion of time spent not working with the penguins was spent working with the Giant Ocean Tank (GOT) and its staff. The GOT is the large center tank containing a recreation of a tropical reef. While the reef is merely fiberglass, the fish are huge and active. Being in the GOT is like being in the Bonaire you see in the brochures. During my time at the aquarium I had the privilege of working with a variety of staff and the interns working for the aquarium. Thank you for an unforgettable experience!
The Sunday after working with Eric and Quest Marine Services, I was invited out again aboard the Quest to dive with the Boston Sea Rovers aboard a 1901 freighter, the Trojan. The vessel sank after being struck by passing ship as the Trojan lay at anchor in a fog bank. The vessel was carrying bronze ingots and empty medicine bottles. While the bronze has long since been recovered, many medicine bottles still lie in the hull of the Trojan. I made two dives on the ship. The first one with Eric. This dive was designed to familiarize me with the wreck. Like all New England diving, the Trojan is cloaked in dark green, cold waters. After a brief surface interval, I made a second dive with Dave Morton. This time, we collected bottles. Dave penetrated into the hull a short distance, while I stayed on the deck and placed the bottles he collected into a sack. Upon returning to the surface, we cleaned the bottles and took pictures. After returning to the dock, we helped Eric clean the boat and called it a day. And what an amazing day it was.
Eric Takakjian and Quest Marine Services would be my next stop on the internship. Quest Marine Services is a company owned by Eric and Lori Takakjian operating out of New Bedford Harbor. Aboard their vessel, the R/V Quest, the Takakjian’s offer a variety of research support services. The week I was out with them, a joint group from the Mass Division of Marine Fisheries, Applied Signal Technologies, and Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab were testing a new McCartney Focus II tow vehicle mounted with an Edgetech side scan sonar unit. Having a stable tow vehicle is crucial to gaining crisp imagery from a mounted side scan sonar unit. The Focus II, the only one currently in the United States, utilizes an inertial navigation system and stabilizer planes to keep the vehicle both stable, and on a preset track line. As with any research expedition, problems were encountered. It took us nearly the whole week just to get the operation up and running. But, after many trials and tribulations we eventually got underway. I even had the opportunity to help out with the repair efforts. Again, this was another fantastic experience. I thank Eric and Lori Takakjian for inviting me into their wonderful home and allowing me to take part in the expedition.
Today, I went down to Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute to dive with Terry Rioux, the dive safety officer. I met Vin Malkoski at his home in Marion around noon and drove down to Falmouth. We toured around the village of Woods Hole for a few hours while we waited on Terry. We visited the WHOI aquarium (Vin forgot his license and had to beg to be let in), which contained a variety of New England Marine life. We grabbed a quick lunch and headed over to the Oceanographic institute where we met up with Terry. The plan for the dive was to dive off the main pier the institute sits on. Apparently, a tower had fallen off the pier and needed recovery. We didn’t find the tower, but we did encounter such WHOI relics as WHOIhenge, an underwater mound of bricks that require proper respects be paid to before continuing, and several gargoyles located at the bottom of the drop line.
My first experience on the internship involved working with the good people of Northern Atlantic Diving Expeditions. Heather Knowles and Dave Caldwell operate a dive charter off their custom-built dive boat the M/V Gauntlet. As a member of the crew, I became “deck swabby”. Which, according to Dave, came with such duties as carrying his gear and washing it (when asked how it felt to have an intern, he replied “My backs never felt better; and my gear has never been cleaner”). Although, in his defense, he never actually made me clean his gear. My time with Heather and Dave was also spent training towards a drysuit certification that Dave generously donated to the internship. Overall, I had an amazing time working with Heather, Dave, and Roman (another member of the crew). This is where I found out I get seasick as well.
Today I would try out my new drysuit for the first time. Each year, Dick Long and Sue Long from DUI, along with Faith Ortins, donate a custom fitted drysuit to the Scalli internship. As any New England diver knows, drysuits are pretty much a must if one wishes to do any serious diving around here. Prior to this, the only drysuit diving I had done had be as part of a Kirby Morgan superlight I dove with a few years prior. DOG Days is the DUI owners group rally where divers can come and try out DUI gear free of charge. In addition to myself, Brenda Mahoney, the Our Underwater World Scholar was at the rally as well (DUI donates a drysuit to OUWS as well). Vin Malkoski and Faith gave me and Brenda a brief introduction to the proper use and care of a drysuit. Then, Faith helped me cut the seals and I suited up for my first dive in my new CF 200. Andy Martinez stopped by to say hello. After suiting up Vin, my dad, Pat Scalli, and I headed down to the beach for the inaugural dive. The suit preformed beyond expectation, and with the help of a drysuit course, I was confident I would quickly master the skill of drysuit diving.