For the last couple of days I had the great chance to collect quahogs with Vin Malkoski! Vin needed to collect 12 quahogs from 10 different locations around New Bedford Harbor in order to sample them for PCB contamination. While PCBs are no longer present in the water column, they can linger in sediments, so yearly quahog sampling helps the Massachusetts Department of Marine Fisheries understand how much of the banned chemical still remains.
Both mornings we headed out on a DMF boat and did 5 dives, exploring the sea bottom with small rakes and a collecting bag, searching for quahogs. At some locations it was quite easy and we were in and out of the dive site in only minutes, but a couple took quite a while as we sifted through the muddy bottom for over half an hour to find the elusive molluscs. Most of these dives were quite shallow and fairly close to shore, one so much so that we didn’t even dive, opting to stay on top of the water and use long rakes with built-in collecting baskets to help us dig up quahogs hidden deep in the mud. All in all, it was a great time, and I loved exploring the sea bottom with Vin.
On Monday, Sea Rover Rick Simon took me out on his commercial diving boat Miss Wendy. Prior to this I had almost no knowledge of what commercial diving entailed so it was great to be exposed to this entirely different side of the diving world. While out on the boat, I helped on deck while Rick checked and cleared several moorings. I then jumped in the water myself to help look for a lost mooring. Unfortunately the client didn’t actually know “exactly where it was” so we weren’t able to find it among the tumbled rocks and eelgrass.
The highlight of the day was definitely when Rick got a spontaneous call from a fishing boat which had dropped a $1000 bag of shucked scallops into the harbor while unloading their catch. We quickly motored over and Rick jumped in to retrieve the lost bag. Best of all, he was handsomely repaid in a massive bag of scallops for his heroic efforts.
On Sunday, Sea Rover Vin Malkoski took me down to Fort Wetherill State Park, RI to help me get acquainted with my great DUI drysuit. The water was a nippy 49 degrees so it was definitely needed.
On our first dive we refreshed some basic skills made slightly harder with a drysuit such as taking a tank on and off, and eventually got some depth, making our way down to 83 feet. On our way down we got some great glimpses of horseshoe crabs and beautiful fields of anemones sticking out of the sand. Luckily I brought my gopro and managed to capture a few images (below).
Our second dive was much shallower, and we practiced some more drysuit skills such as how to recover from an overinflated suit carrying you quickly to the surface. This becomes most problematic when the air rushes to your feet. When being pulled towards the surface upside down it can be hard to effectively dump air to regain neutral buoyancy. To simulate this scenario I first flipped upside down on my own and practiced flipping back around to get my legs below my torso. Next, Vin held me upside down and held down my drysuit inflator button so that my legs ballooned with air. Right after he let me go, I had to flip over as quickly as possible to stop myself from quickly ascending from our shallow depth to the surface. It was great to get this essential training, and I’m excited to get more experience in my drysuit going forward.
Thursday was the first official day of my internship!
I had the amazing opportunity to go out with Greg Skomal who heads the research team for the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. We left early out of New Bedford and steamed all along the southern arm of the cape, eventually ending up on the eastern coast of Monomoy Island. From there we put out 9 receiver buoys, extending from Southern Monomoy all the way to Nauset. The buoys are equipped with acoustic receivers which receive transmissions from tagged white sharks. Hundreds of such buoys are placed all around coastal Massachusetts before late May when the sharks arrive and then collected in November once the sharks leave. This intricate detection system allows researchers to analyze the movements of individual sharks over the entire season. In addition to these 9 receiver buoys, we also put out 3 buoys equipped with real time communication back to the white shark conservancy. These were placed along public beaches, and contribute to the sharktivity app which helps beach goers stay wary of nearby sharks.
While out on the water it was great to be able to pick Greg’s mind, and learn all about white sharks off the coast of Massachusetts. I was shocked to learn that they have already tagged hundreds of sharks, and many more remain hidden. It turns out this large shark population is a result of the recent boom in grey seals. Even though they were protected many years ago, they have seen a drastic increase in population in the last 10 – 15 years. This in turn helped support a huge shark population that rose in response to an increase in their main food supply. While placing our buoys we knew we were in shark territory because we saw hundreds of seals laid out on the beach and swimming up to our boat. Since the sharks haven’t arrived yet, the seals are brave, coming out into deeper water. In the later season, they’ll stay close to shore whenever possible, constantly wary of the looming sharks.
My name is Russell Laman and I’m going to be this summer’s intern for the Boston Sea Rovers! My internship was supposed to take place last summer, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this amazing opportunity was deferred by a year making me the longest serving intern in Sea Rovers history!
So… let’s get to know me. I am currently a rising senior at Boston University double majoring in Marine Science and Conservation Biology. At school I participate in research on coral reef restoration with professor Les Kaufman, where I’ve been using 3d modeling to analyze how reefs respond to restoration efforts.
My love of the underwater world started from a very young age, and I started diving as soon as I could, receiving my junior open water certification just days after I was eligible. Since then, I’ve continued to love diving, and currently hold master diver certifications with both SSI and NAUI, as well as an AAUS scientific diving certification. Since I was young I have also been an avid photographer, focusing mainly on wildlife, landscapes, and night photography. However, to this point I haven’t been able to focus heavily on underwater photography. This summer I hope to take my underwater photography to the next level while enjoying the amazing opportunities this internship has to offer. To check out my photography portfolio, feel free to visit my website at russlaman.com, and check back in here as well as on my Instagram @russlaman for frequent updates on my experiences!
I started my summer working for Rick Simon. The first day I was there Rick and his crew took me out to inspect morings at the Noank shipyard. I found it very exciting at the time since it was a door opening for new opportunities. My second day with Shoreline I helped pull props off a boat. I was taught how to pull a prop using a prop puller and I was given the opportunity to do it myself. This week really pushed me into becoming a commercial diver.
The next few days I worked at Undersea divers in Danvers with Shaun McGuire. The shop that donated my equipment to me. I found it pretty fun to stamp prices on products, line them up along the walls and go through inventory. I even got to help customers try on boots, hoods, and gloves. It was really fun to watch all the colorful customers come into the shop. Thanks to Whitney and Shawn at Undersea divers.
Back in New England I went diving with Sea Rover Andy Martinez, who literally wrote the book on marine life of the North Atlantic! Andy is a great photographer and a a diving legend in New England. We went to a familiar site: Folly Cove on Cape Ann. As we waded into the water at high tide the sun was beating down, I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to hit a thermocline more. Andy pointed out a northern red anemone that he has frequently visited over the years. The vis was only about five to eight feet and we didn’t see much life but it was an honor to dive with Andy!
Soon enough the competition rolled around and I handed in my best photos from the week. Because of the rules of the competition I had to compete in the advanced category with professional photographers. I ended up winning an honorable mention in wide angle traditional for one of my metridium and sea nettle shots. It was truly an honor. I would like to thank Sea Rover Chuck Davis for hosting me and telling me some of the most amazing stories I’ve ever heard, the entire crew at Backscatter for helping me with everything and giving me some great critiques. Lastly I would like to thank Sea Rover Berkley White for hosting me again for the Monterey Shootout and for helping me push myself as a photographer and diver, and for being my mentor.
The last spot I did was the metridium fields. Metridiums are huge white anemones that look really ethereal and peaceful. To get to them I would follow an old pipe line that was linked to the canning factories that are now the Backscatter shop. Becca told me that the metridiums are a little hard to find once you reach the end of the pipe so I didn’t have my hopes up and was just there to explore. Heading along the pipe I saw ton of nudibranchs and bat stars, but above me there were increasingly thick clouds of sea nettle jellies. When I reached the end of the pipe I decided to just photograph the sea nettles because they’re so cool, and I probably wasn’t even going to be able to find the metridiums. So I started photographing the sea nettles floating along with them, then all of a sudden I looked down and saw the metridiums! I swam down to them and started photographing. I got some pretty good shots. I ascended a few feet to swim over and photograph more. It was then a sea nettle sting me across my lips. It wasn’t bad bad sting or anything just was shocking and hurt a little. Then I had a realization I had to surface through the cloud of millions of sea nettles. I was down about 50 FSW and started my accent. The safety stop was really fun as I tried to avoid their tentacles. I looked down and saw about forty or fifty of them flying in all directions as they were kicked by my fins. It was a great dive.
Now I just had to recreate the photos I had got for the competition so I again went along the pipe found the metridiums and started shooting. I got even better shots than before, and there were even more sea nettles, they were all different sizes. Some as small as my hand and some longer than me, all swimming in different directions. At one point I stopped photographing and just looked at the scene before me in awe. The millions of sea nettles moved so rhythmically that it was really calming to just sit there in total peace. That is until I got stung again and begun my ascent. It is by far one of my favorite dives to date.