Dives always seem to end too soon, so what better way to extend your bottom time than to breathe Nitrox? Today I took David Sipperly’s Nitrox class with Lisa O’Malley, and Chris and Mary Sharrigan. A Nitrox mixture has a higher concentration of oxygen in it than normal air does. Normal air is roughly 79% nitrogen 21% oxygen. The two most common nitrox mixes are NOAA Nitrox I (68% nitrogen, 32% oxygen) and NOAA Nitrox II (64% nitrogen, 36% oxygen). Divers like to breathe nitrox because the lower concentration of nitrogen allows divers to extend their bottom time, decrease the surface time interval between dives, ascend faster after an easy dive, and is said to lessen post-dive fatigue and nitrogen narcosis. Dave Sipperly gave us a great thorough class (especially practicing with those tables!), and Dave Morton showed up later to demonstrate analyzing and filling nitrox tanks. I can’t wait to use it!
Bo·naire (bô-nâr’), n. an island of the Netherlands Antilles in the Caribbean Sea off the northern coast of Venezuela populated by friendly inhabitants, exotic marine life, crazy divers and drivers, where you can eat conch and lizard, and practically see forever underwater. Or in other words..the most awesome underwater world I’ve ever been in!
Bonaire is a diver’s paradise, both underwater and on land. We stayed at Captain Don’s Habitat, whose title of “diving freedom” fits perfectly beucase, unlike other dive resorts on the island, divers are allowed to be in the water 24 hours a day. My first day in Bonaire I dove on reefs overflowing with all different kinds of tropical fish, gigantic sponges, coral, snails, worms and other invertebrates. At dinner we would see at least a half dozen turquoise dive light spots dancing around in the water at night – like a personal light show.
Picking a favorite activity or dive wouldn’t do justice to the rest because I was exposed to so many new types of activities and environments. On one dive, we dove 97 feet to the wreck of the Hilma Hooker, a drug-packed vessel that was mysteriously sunk and deserted just before the arrival of the Coast Guard. When we went on a night dive, I found out how fast starfish can actually move as I watched the basket stars scurry away from the beam of the dive light. We swam with wild dolphins, saw a frogfish, GIANT green eel, a turtle, and followed around many trunkfish and cowfish (who swim awkwardly but now are my favorite!).
Above water we went cave snorkeling, explored dry caves that had fossilized coral on the ceiling, saw flamingoes, pink salt flats, and slave huts, tried all different kinds of food (including cabrito-donkey, lizzard, and conch), and ended the week at the Queen’s Day celebration. I got to ride on the back of Jack Chalk’s Harley across the island in an escort parade up to Rincon, Bonaire’s historic town and the site of the huge three-day celebration of Queen’s Day. It was certainly a busy week. In Bonaire I learned about more things than I could have possibly imagined, but most important of all…it was wicked fun!
Coffee in hand, I walked into the Copley Plaza Hotel ready for the exciting weekend to begin, although I had no idea how incredible it would turn out to be…
The festivities start in Boston on Friday morning at a seminar called Career Opportunities in Marine Science (COMS) coordiated by Sea Rover George Buckley. Held the Friday before every annual Clinic, COMS is a program for local high school students to learn about advancements in oceanography. The program is filled with movies, speeches, and enthusiastic presentations by speakers that often provide students with the opportunity to get involved. Here I was introduced to Sea Rovers and non-Rovers that I would be working with over the summer, including Terrence Tysall and Amy Giannotti of the Cambrian Foundation in Florida.
At the Pre-Clinic Reception that night, I met a boatload of smart, fun, and obviously hardworking individuals celebrating their passion for the water. The night was filled with fun introductions and conversations. I was astounded when I was asked to ring the bells, a tradition the Sea Rovers uphold to remember deceased members. Seeing names names like Jacques Yves Cousteau etched on the bells, I was incredibly honored. As if the night was not already exciting enough, the next thing hear is that in a few weeks I would be diving in beautiful warm waters of Bonaire!! It was hard to get some shut-eye that night, but needless to say I feel asleep dreaming of good visibility.
Saturday and Sunday were chock-a-block full of seminars, behind-the-scenes looks at how the Clinic works, and meeting more and more caring people, including corporate sponsors, more Sea Rovers, and the Scalli Family. Imagine being handed a backpack to carry around, later to find a new ScubaPro regulator inside! My head was certainly spinning throughout the whole weekend. Of course, my friends were jealous when I told them that I had dinner seated between Dr. Bob Ballard and Philippe Cousteau, while facing Dr. Eugenie Clark and her daughter, Stan Waterman, Joe MacInnis, and Pat Morton. Wicked cool. The big moment came when I accepted the internship from Patrick Scalli on the stage of John Hancock Hall, through unexpected tears feeling completely embarrassed when he mentioned more than my name! But embarrassment was well worth being able to be named the first Scalli intern and meeting a family so dedicated, welcoming, and generous in every way.