The last two days of my great lakes trip was a lot of fun. I had an early flight out the next day, so we got up early the day before to make two dives. The first dive was on a tug, the Mary Alice. It is a beautifully preserved wooden vessel in about 85ft of water. From bow to stern this wreck was amazing. To start with, the wheelhouse on the bow is in pristine shape, the wooden wheel is still preserved! Midship is also very well preserved, the door to the galley still swings open and closed, and beautiful portholes allow some light to enter.
Following the Mary Alice we went over to the Regina. A large vessel sank in about 70ft of water. She lies upside down and there some wreckage strewn about on the bottom, like a glass bottle and plate I saw. Also along the ship you can find portholes and large anchors. At the stern though, there is an absolutely massive prop completely intact that proved to be a very photogenic opportunity.
After the dives we began editing my final video. Then we did some more editing. Then we stayed up really late and did some more editing. After a doing a little more editing I am sitting here in the Chicago airport with very little sleep and about ready embark on the final travel I will do for my internship, while I wait for my flight I am left here thinking. A few hours ago Pat Stayer and I finished putting everything I’ve done this summer into a 15 minute video. It wasn’t easy by any means, and I think seeing everything go by that fast really helps me see a little perspective on everything. Seeing all the amazing, unique experiences the rovers have provided me with simply stuns me. I know the internship may be over formally over, but in a way it has barely just begun. I really have just met the Sea Rovers, and hope to stay involved with the organization in the years to come. I cannot even begin to thank everyone who made this summer possible, from the internship sponsors like DUI and Undersea Divers, to all the Sea Rovers who put in so much time to make this internship possible. Thank you so much everyone!
We got blown out of diving the middle two days of my trip. I went out a few times to run errands with Jim and Pat, but spent the vast majority of my time editing video… which was a necessary evil I suppose. But I do not have much to report from it unfortunately… It was very informative learning to use final cut pro 7 (especially on an 8-core mac pro), but it definitely was a littttle bit less fun than diving.
At 3am the morning after diving in the GOT I began traveling to the Great Lakes to do some video work with Pat and Jim Staire. So I arrived in Detroit at about noon. Once my baggage was all set we headed to 5 Guys for a quick lunch and then back to the Stayer’s house to set up for a dive around 2 or 3. I quickly unpacked all my gear and loaded it onto the boat right away, and we left to go diving. We were soon on the wreck, The Sport, which is a well-preserved tug in about 3o or 40 feet of water. The dive was very nice, the ships wheel is preserved, as well as a few other artifacts like a steam whistle. After the dive we returned to their house where I began working on my video.
The next day we went out for another dive, this time to The Strong is a shallow wreck, a barge from around 1900 that sank, and then was flattened as a hazard to navigation. There is still a lot of preserved wood around the site and a few interesting articles. Overall it was a shallow dive so great for all abilities, but it also had tons of life on it. All sorts of gobies and rock bass swarmed the wreck, and the shallow depth allowed for some good photo opportunities. After that dive we headed back and did some video work the rest of the day.
For my last day at the aquarium I got to spend my time with the dive team, who are largely responsible for feeding and watching the health of all 2000 critters in the GOT! My day started with food prep. There is always a lot of food to be prepped. Once we got all set with that we headed out to the tank to feed some of the surface fish by standing on the platform over the tank and throwing their food to them . We were trying to feed the needlefish particularly, but the Jacks tend to eat their food, so it was a bit of a struggle. Eventually we got the job done and headed back to do some maintenance. Soon it was lunchtime; I went out to a wonderful place nearby with the two Sea Rovers who set up the aquarium experience for me. After lunch we had to hurry a bit, it was almost time to get in the tank! We geared up, went over the dive plan again, then headed out to the platform, and eased our way in. From the beginning to the end of the dive, it was truly an amazing, unique experience. It’s totally different than in the wild, the fish are just everywhere, and everything is amazingly curious and friendly (although they really only want food for the most part), it is truly just an amazing experience to scratch a turtles back and pet a stingray all in one dive. What a way to end my time in Boston!
The next morning I headed to Quincy to the NEAQ’s rescue and rehab facility. I began the day staring at a large warehouse with no idea where to go in, luckily I found the right door and entered an immense building full of tanks. Once things got started we began our day on food prep. Some of the turtles get a special diet, some will only eat certain foods, and some need to get certain medicines. Once the food is all set, we begin to feed them. It was not unlike feeding the penguins, as the amount each turtle eats is documented and the medicines given to them are recorded. I came when almost all the turtles were gone, and it was still difficult to make sure each turtle got their food, I can’t imagine what it would be like during the busy season. There were about 7 or so turtles when I was there… during the busy season there can be over a hundred turtles in the facility! Like most other facility’s in the aquarium, when you aren’t doing something else, you are cleaning. Sanitation is very important and almost all the rooms have drains so they can be scrubbed with vikron, a disinfectant that neutralizes in salt water, and just washed right down.
After the feeding, a few turtles needed a quick check-up. The turtles are carefully moved from their tanks, into a dark, padded container to keep them calm. Then they are moved one room over to be checked up. The vet gives them a basic check up, examining their shells for any markings or wounds and also examining a few other areas. Laslty moved back and placed happily back into the water. The turtles left at the facility were only small, 15lb Kemp Ridley sea turtles. I think the checkups could get a little more difficult with some of the larger loggerheads!
The next day I headed into Boston to spend the day with the aquarium’s medical team. To begin they briefly explained what they do, then things started moving. A penguin had to be examined first, and then we went to do a quick checkup on a sea lion. The checkup was performed during one of the shows, so they could get him to stay on the deck! It was amazing to see how well trained and graceful the seals and sea lions were. After lunch we returned to the sea lions, the largest one had a small tear on one of his flippers. Again, this was done during the show in front of everyone, it was done very quickly and smoothly. After that a few interns gave presentations on various fish-related diseases, then I headed home a bit early to rest up for my big day in the Giant Ocean Tank!
My first two days spent at the New England Aquarium I got to work with the penguins and go collect specimens in the field!
The first day was with the penguins. I arrived at the aquarium around 8 and got started right away on food prep. Most penguins that day were getting fed sardines that day (which they don’t like), so they didn’t eat as much. Although some have a special diet or need certain medicines. Once food prep was done I followed someone around through the African penguins exhibit, I recorded what penguin ate what and how much. After that I got to clean penguin poop and scoop up penguins, a lovely job! I know it doesn’t sound like much, but trust me, there is a LOT more that happens for prep and cleaning. There is truly never a dull moment anywhere in the aquarium. After a short lunch break we then got in for the 2pm feeding. This time I watched and recorded for half the time as somebody fed the little blue penguins, then I got to feed them! Its really amazing trying to feed one penguin as all the others crowd around and want to see what you’re doing. Not to mention all the other ones zooming around in the water around you! What an experience!
The next day, I was able to go out with Jeremy Brodt to a salt marsh/river in Falmouth to do some collecting! We used a seine net, which I actually have used before, as a kid to collect bait today was a little more scientific than those childhood days. Our first few passes with the net were very successful; we pulled in tons of minnows (or, more scientifically, silversides, striped killifish, mummichogs, and shrimp). After quite a while we managed to collect a lot more exotic species, including, sea robins, pipefish, oyster toadfish, and even some needlefish! In addition to seining, we did a little bit of snorkeling down the river. Viz was pretty bad, but we still managed to see tons of life, all sorts of little minows and even a few larger fishes. Overall it was a beautiful day and it truly brought back some childhood memories while running the net!
Alrighty, I am not the best blogger in the world (gasp), so I am going to finish up Newfoundland by just going through some different categories. I’ll try to cover everything: the lodge and accommodations, the diving, the snorkeling with whales, and other little tidbits here and there.
Let me start with the diving. Ocean Quest (OQ) is equipped to serve any level of diver, from the most basic recreational diver who is still renting gear, to elite tech-divers with rebreather systems, and everything in-between. They have a complete shop with full service for drysuits, regulators, etc. Also, they have mixed gas-filling capabilities. Now, onto the actual dives, I made two reef dives (Chimney Cove and the Bell), which were excellent and suited for almost any skill level. Definitely cooler water, around 50F while I was diving in early august, only around around 30ft deep, visibility was over 40feet.The marine life is simply stunning, from large ocean pouts and wolfish, to beautiful sea stars and urchins. I could go on and on about the beauty of the dive, but I also want to describe the atmosphere. For these reef dives we zoomed smoothly out to the sites in 24’ ridged inflatables, once on the dive site the boat’s crew will help you in any way you need with your gear. After the dive we went to an isolated island to have a fire and bbq on the beach. I really cannot stress enough the friendliness and relaxed nature of this place. Next up are the wreck dives! I did three wreck dives during my time here. My first wreck dive was a shallow, beach dive (perfect for beginners!) It is known as the Conception Bay Whaling Wrecks, and it is basically where three whaling vessels were abandoned at the close of the industry in Newfoundland. They are fairly intact with some interesting photo opportunities.
Now I’ll talk about the big guys, the Bell Island Wrecks! To start, the boat Ocean Quest uses to access these sites is a beautiful, new 45ft boat. These four vessels were sunk by German U-boats during WWII and have a simply fascinating history. I strongly suggest you do a little google-based research, but there is so much more you can learn from experiencing it. The skippers onboard give a great predive briefing where they not only describe the dive conditions, but also a lot of the history in the wrecks. From the iron mines on Bell Island, to the shipment of the ore, there is so much WWII history it is unbelievable. Onto the diving… so I dove the Lord Strathcona and the Saganaca. Unfortunately, on the Lord Strath, my regulator free flowed and forced a short dive, but otherwise it was spectacular, great viz, awesome marine life, and an amazingly intact wreck. The next dive was also amazing, the Saganaca was beautiful with tons of structure remaining on its deck, and I got a reasonably long dive! I really cannot begin to do these wrecks justice, so if you want more information about the wrecks please look them up online or contact Ocean Quest! I would just like to stress, again, how great the people are. After my regulator free-flowed I was not planning on doing the second dive, which means I would have only done one of the Bell Island Wrecks (very disappointing), but nobody had any hesitation in offering me there spare regs to save the dive!
The next thing I’ll discuss is snorkeling with the whales! I’ll give the disclaimer that they are wild animals and no guarantees… but if you go july/early august it is highly, highly likely. I must have gotten out with them at least four times, and let me just say, it each time was awe inspiring. It is such a unique experience! To be so close to the animals… it is so humbling and awe inspiring. You get as close to about 15 or 20ft to them, and though they rarely stop moving, it is still amazing. Just watching them move sleekly, smoothly, and oh so powerfully through the water… just amazing. Now trust me, it really isn’t that cold in a 5 or 7mm suit, you’re only on the surface and for no more than 10 or 15 minutes at a time, you really won’t be too cold. But, if you decide snorkeling isn’t for you, the boat ride is still fantastic. Even if you just stay on the boat, you’ll still get closer to the whales than you probably ever have in your life… plus going out on the 24’ inflatable out of beautiful Petty Harbor if very fun and beautiful.
Also, I will briefly describe the fishing. As a few people would now, around 20 years ago the economy completely changed in Newfoundland when a moratorium was placed on the Cod fisheries. They were grossly overfished, and something had to be done. By now, the fisheries will open for a few weeks at a time a few times a year for recreation. I was lucky enough to be in Newfoundland for one of these times, and I got to out fishing with Rick (Ocean Quest’s owner and founder), and some more of his family. Let me just say, in about 45 minutes, we managed to catch our limit (15 fish) of decent sized cod. There were a lot of small fish, which is a great sign for the recovering fishery, but we didn’t have too much trouble finding decent sized fish to max out the limit.
Now I just want to attempt to do the Ocean Quest facility in South Conception Bay justice, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It consists of three buildings, the “lodge,” “house,” and dive shop. Firstly The lodge consists of three floors: The lower floor is a spa, I don’t know much about that business, except that the locals love it there, and if the locals go there, it generally has to be good! The third floor consists mostly of just a few guests rooms (beautiful rooms that overlook Conception Bay and the islands)! The second floor is a little more exciting, it is a lounge area with a big projector, TV, some couches, and a bar. There are refrigerators/freezers the guests may use to store any groceries they need. This was a great place to hangout at any time, and breakfast is served here every morning!
A short ways away from Ocean Quest are grocery stores, restaurants, and a few other stores for anything you could really need! Also a short ways away is Manuels River, a nature preserve with beautiful trails and scenery. The trails are pristine and follow along a beautiful river leading out to the Ocean. It makes a really beautiful running route back and forth to Ocean Quest!
The dive shop is pretty standard: It has almost any gear/service you could possibly need during you’re stay here, as well as some awesome books detailing local diving and dive history. The employees in the shop are excellent and can assist you with any rental gear, service, or purchases you could need. Right across the driveway from the shop and attached to the house is an indoor training pool. In this pool we had a “finathon” to raise money for Project Aware to stop shark finning. Each person pledged a certain amount on each swimmer per lap, and I may have gotten a littleeeeeeeee bit competitive… I ended up swimming 152 laps and raising over $300 dollars!
Now “the house.” This helps show how committed and passionate Rick and Debbie are about their business. The house is not a misnomer, it is legitimately their home. The bottom floor is dedicated to guests, there are about 4 or 5 rooms downstairs for guests to stay in. The next floor is the kitchen, dining room, and living room, yet guests are completely welcome to pass through these areas and use them if need be. We had a few dinners (consisting mostly of delicious, freshly caught seafood) here. They are literally inviting you into their home… amazing. This level of hospitality is what makes Newfoundland truly amazing to me. I forgot my camera at a busy marina and found it exactly where I had left it hours later, a complete stranger offered to get me a coffee in the early morning baggage check line, and I have many more examples. The people truly make this place spectacular.
So overall, the scenery is incredibly, the diving is amazing, and the people are unbelievable. Truly a one of a kind diving (or hiking or fishing or… anything) destination.
If anyone has any questions about traveling to Newfoundland please contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Ocean Quest.
Day two began with a trip out on Ocean Quest’s 45 foot, brand new dive boat, The Mermaid. It is a beautiful 45 passenger vessel with an elevator to assist divers out of the water! My job that morning was just to help divers in any way I could (surface support), and in doing so I learned a little bit of how the vessel operated. Both dives were a few hundred yards from beautiful and historic Bell Island. The first dive was the Rose Castle, which is a relatively deep dive, so the dives were pretty short. After that we moved up a short distance to the PLM 27, both Wrecks were sunk by the same u-boat, on the same night during WWII. Both vessels were fully loaded with iron ore from Bell Island, so they sank very quickly.
After those dives I headed quickly out for an evening dive in the RIB (ridged inflatable/zodiak). Because I was a little rushed and did not know how exactly diving out of the rib would go, I decided not to bring a camera, and I sincerely regret it. On our way out we were cruising along until, all of a sudden, we were surrounded by a large pod of doplhins, so we slowed and watched them play for a few minutes. After that we made it to our dive site and got in. This was my first time in Newfoundland waters, in some ways it is a lot like New England diving, a lot of the marine life is similar. In other ways it is completely different, like how the 30 or 40 feet of viz we had was “horrible.” I saw tons of marine life on my first dive, two wolffish together who did not like it when I shined the light on them, an ocean pout (I believe), a few lion’s manes, tons of urchins, cunners, little sea stars (and one MASSIVE one), and much more. After the dive we beached the ribs and had a bonfire and a little barbeque. Overall it was one of the greatest overall dives I’ve had in my life, between the dive itself and the whole Newfoundland atmosphere. Simply unreal.
Wednesday I awoke to heavy winds and sideways rain, so it was decided to take a trip over to Bell Island. The island (and the wrecks surrounding it) have a rich history from WWII. The island itself was a massively productive iron mine from the 1895 till 1966, with elaboarate mine systems stretching up to three miles across the sea floor. We toured the Bell Island Lighthouse, the Scotia Pier (the only place in America to be struck by a nazi torpedo during WWII), and the #2 mine. The number two mine tour was a very intriguing experience with a museum of sorts to the old mining operation and a historical tour of a part of the mine system. There is more history than I could possibly relate here, so I strongly recommend anyone to do some quick online research, it is really intriguing stuff. Also, bell island is kind of sort of really beautiful.
I arrived in Newfoundland early Monday morning, after a slight delay at immigrations in Saint John’s. I will be here for 2 weeksworking with Ocean Quest’s resorts, basically doing whatever they tell me to… hopefully they me tell me to do a little diving:)
The first night I slept at the owner of Ocean Quest, Rick, daughter’s, Holly’s, house. The next morning we headed over to Petty Harbor to go snorkeling with whales! I was acting as crew, so I stayed on the boat and just sort of observed how the whole operation worked. Basically we were in a large ridged inflatable chasing whales around! Unfortunately they were not too playful that day, so we didn’t have the best luck (according to the Ocean Quest People). I thought it was awesome to be zooming around in the little boat, watching all the puffers and other birds pass within feet, and follow breaching whales around within a a dozen yards or so! After the boat trip I went back to the main Ocean Quest shop where I spent the day working around the shop filling tanks and putting away gear, and for the night I am staying at a room in the Ocean Quest “house,” which is actually just a floor below the owners “house.” Truly mi casa es su casa, these people could not be more hospitable!
I leisurely headed into Harvard to meet with George Buckley and spend the day there. George Buckley is a Sea Rover and Harvard professor focusing in environmentalism and oceanography. He also helped begin online (distane) learning programs, being one of the pioneers for Harvards first online learning program.
Our day started with lunch in memorial hall with one of Mr. Buckley masters students. While in the hall where I received a bit of history lesson on the beautiful stained glass windows and a few of the historical figures featured in busts and pictures on the walls. One of those figures was Caleb, the first native American to graduate Harvard (he died before receiving his diploma, but still was still able to graduate on a sort of technicality). After lunch we visited a display of mathematical technologies and how they have progressed through time. Starting from the finely crafted navigation instruments used in the 15th and 16th centuries, extending into the 20th century. This was a truly fascinating collection rich with history and to me, it was intriguing because it showed some social changes in the way we interact, as the fine tradesman who constructed such fine instruments by hand are rapidly being replaced. Following that exhibit we proceeded to the museum of natural history and comparative zoology. Here I was able to view exotic minerals, beautiful sea shells, the famed glass flowers collection, and preserved animals and fossils of all sizes. Following this we had a quick dinner followed by a lecture given by Barton Seaver on mostly on sustainable fisheries and their environmental concerns and impacts. Following that Mr. Buckley gave a lecture for his class on basic environmentalism. I was pleased overall that both lectures related fairly well to what I had learned from my high school environmental class. Overall a very busy and fulfilling day full of history, although I regret I may not remember quite every detail Mr. Buckley told me about Harvard.