New England Aquarium

The New England Aquarium is departmentalized, and each department runs separately, and has a separate staff of co-ops, interns, and volunteers.  The best thing about working at the aquarium was getting to work with so many different, passionate people.  As part of my internship, I got to bounce around and spend a day or two with a bunch of the different departments.

Getting into the giant ocean tank with Dan Dolan and volunteer Mack McBrine.
Getting into the giant ocean tank with Dan Dolan and volunteer Mack McBrine.

I began by working with the Giant Ocean Tank (GOT).  I met with Dan Dolan and Evie, a co-op student from Northeastern University.  I spent three days working with the GOT.  There are about 130 species of fish in the GOT, and a lot of the day is spent prepping food and and feeding the fish and turtles who live on the large artificial reef in the center of the aquarium.  I got to dive in the tank twice, and feed Myrtle.

Myrtle is a green sea turtle who has been at the aquarium since it has opened.  She weighs about 550 pounds, and is estimated to be about 85 years old.
Myrtle is a green sea turtle who has been at the aquarium since it has opened. She weighs about 550 pounds, and is estimated to be about 85 years old.

I spent a day with AMC and vet services.  We did rounds, and went through the entire aquarium, asking each department about their animals.  We also took care of the animals that are off exhibit and living in AMC.  On the day I was in, there was a trunk fish with a fungal infection on his face.  He was getting his mediation through his food, so we prepped his food and made sure he ate.

I went to the Quincy Rehab center where cold stunned sea turtles are rehabilitated.  During the colder months, the facility is full with turtles, but during the warmer months, a lot of the turtles had been cared for through the winter and were ready to be released into the wild.  On the day I was there, they were doing a stress study to test the effects of transportation on loggerhead turtles.  It was really interesting to see them in action.

The northern fur seal Roxie during a training session with Marie.
The northern fur seal Roxie during a training session with Marie.

The volunteers in marine mammals have a very coveted position, so I was very lucky to help them out one day.  The Marine Mammal Center at the aquarium currently has two sea lions, six harbor seals, and seven northern fur seals.  The seals and sea lions had such strong and distinct personalities.  It was a great experience to see the trainers work with their animals.

I finished up my time at the aquarium with three days in with the penguin exhibit where I worked with two Northeastern co-op students, Sydney and Brendan, and Paul Leonard.  There are three species of penguins at the aquarium, African penguins, little blue penguins, and the rockhoppers.  Each penguin wears a bracelet on its wing that identifies them, but after a few days, I was already starting to tell them apart without that.  Like the seals, the penguins, especially the rockhoppers, had very strong personalities.  A typical day with the penguins involves food prep, feeding, cleaning the islands in the exhibit, and another feeding and more cleaning in the afternoon.  I really liked working with the penguins.

Overall, I had an amazing time at the aquarium!  I’d like to thank everyone I worked with.  I am sad to leave.

Day one in Newfoundland

Where we left port from, very close to the easternmost point in north america
Where we left port from, very close to the easternmost point in north america
Where we left port from, very close to the easternmost point in north america
Where we left port from, very close to the easternmost point in north america

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!

View from the main Ocean Quest facility, just outside of Saint Johns
View from the main Ocean Quest facility, just outside of Saint Johns

Week with Ricky–Part Three

a boat with people on it.
Some of the scientists from Brown at the stern of the canned air
diver gearing up
Rick almost ready to jump into the water over the to tie in.

Thursday Ricky crewed a trip on the Canned Air (the boat he’s been crewing for since he was a teenager), so basically he was responsible for tying into the wreck and untying. Basically, Brown University hired the charter through various grant sources and a few scientists were able to do some graduate research work. They were mostly graduate students focused on invertebrates, particularly jellies. They actually travelled internationally looking for these specific jellies, but had little luck. In the New England region not many people are interested in blue water diving (open water diving watching whatever is in the water column). So they had no idea many of these jellies could be found right in Brown’s backyard! The work they were doing was very interesting, but it certainly was not my area of interest for a career. They kept saying fancy words like Cnidaria, and although biology is not my favorite subject, I think my high school marine teacher would be proud that I at least vaguely knew what those words mean!  When Ricky went to untie I was able to jump in for an open water dive. I went to 130ft on the anchorline, and wow was that an experience. Very dark and my first experience with narcosis certainly made that dive memorable for me, definitely in my top 5 most memorable dives. After the dive we headed to Diver’s Cove where ricky was teaching a basic open water class, he gave the final exam that day and I got to take the exam as well. I managed to pass.

 

 

Teaching a classroom session
Ricky teaching his advanced class. I was the bad student using my phone and taking pictures.

 

Friday morning we had to go to the DMV. That is all I will say on that subject.

 

 

 

After that we went to his shop to do some work, I got to try my hand at welding for the first time. Following that we went back to Diver’s cove where Rick taught an advanced class I got to sit in on.

 

 

The next day we went back to divers cove for an open water class. Once in the water Ricky and the other instructor, Ed decided to mess with me and test my skills. On the first dive Ricky took my mask a few times and stole my fin once. The second dive was purely a “gag drill.” Basically I went out a bit with Ed and then he started messing with me. Took my mask, shutoff some of my valves (doubles), and, best of all, unzipped my drysuit. I think I reacted pretty well to most situations, I definitely need to work on valve drills because I could not reach too well, and I was surprised by how much buoyancy the drysuit really supplied, but otherwise I thought the drill was exciting and a great learning experience.

 

Overall the week with Ricky was a superb learning experience. I learned how dive gear was manufactured and some of how that business worked, and the technical diving knowledge I gained was excellent! Talking with Ricky, his father, and everyone at the dive shop really gave me some great perspectives on diving and my future careers.  I really hope I get to work with Ricky again, it was truly a spectacular week.

 

Divers Cove trailer
Heading back to the shop after a successful day with some open water students

Whale-bone graveyard!

7-31-11

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? Yeah..so, 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 scallops..so 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!

Last Day at the Races!

7/01/11

Look at the detail! So much attention is given to every ship in the collection.

It’s the last day of the races here at the 11th International Submarine Races!  Soo, it promised to be an fun-filled and interesting day! After we finished launching all the subs, Neil, Kim, and I got treated to a tour of the basement! (And you’re thinking…”uhm..yay?”) BUT, what most people don’t know is, underneath that half mile long pool, there is a museum! (I personally think most people are too distracted by the pool to realize there might be even more hidden treasures around). The museum is full of model ships, and the entire collection is scattered across the world in various other museums for public and private viewing. They also build and restore a lot of the models at this facility. The detail and care put into these models is almost obsessive, and the result is absolutely phenomenal. I’m so happy that I got the opportunity to go down and see them! But, that was only a small glimpse into the things that we did today!

Over the course of the week a few challenges had come up, and today we conceded to their requests and ran two head-to-head races!

All the teams, staff, and volunteers that made ISR2011 possible!

They were really exciting, and all four submarines made it to the finish line without a hitch! We even had a surprise from behind, last second victory! Once the races were over and we got all the subs out of the water, it was time for the Dive Staff’s Challenge! Every year the dive staff come up with some kind of fun…activity..or challenge, for all of the teams to compete in as swimmers. This year the challenge that we came up with involved rubber duckies…lots and lots..of rubber duckies. We threw all the duckies out into the basin under the race supervisor’s perch. We had two swimmers from every team line-up on the beaches. The goal of the game? Most duckies back to the dive station wins!  The prize?  $500 to use on their next submarine! IT WAS HYSTERICAL! The water literally exploded after we said “Go!” Duck Race And the fun just kept going after that!

All this week we had been working with the Navy divers, and we had become pretty good friends with a few of them. Well, those divers made it their mission today to throw all of the dive staff into the pool! And………..they succeeded. Thankfully, they helped us all out..and we had spare clothes for the banquet!

The girls from Dive Staff with The Captain! 😀

The banquet was really nice. Right after it we moved into the auditorium, where all the speeches and awards were given. There was a TON of clapping as all of the groups were given recognition, and I was extremely surprised when I realized that some of it was for me! Us five dive staff actually got called by name to stand as the crowd clapped for us. It felt fantastic to be a part of this entire event. Once all of the awards and words were over, there was a bit of a meet and greet, where I was finally able to get introduced to Heidi Piper, the captain of the base! She also runs four other bases, and if her name sounds familiar, that’s because she’s been to a place few have gone before! ……..OUTER SPACE! She was an astronaut! And, she is an amazing woman. It was a privilege to meet her! All in all, this has been one heck of a unique experience, and I don’t know what my life aspirations will be in two year’s time, but I have a feeling I know where I will be the last week of June in 2013! 😀

Filming the Sub Races

6/28 – 6/29

A team getting ready to bring their sub down. You can see the race supervisor in his stand on the left.

AAH!! Cameras, cameras, and more cameras!! Oh..and submarines..Lottttssss of submarines! The past couple of days I spent the majority of my time in the water helping Nick Caloyianis take pictures and film the submarine races. Nick is one of the associates of the Boston Sea Rovers, and has worked with the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and a whole slew of other organizations over the course of his career. It was absolutely fantastic working with him at the submarine races! He taught me how to operate both of his cameras, and explained how pictures and videos are all about lighting. So, I would go down and shine light where he needed me to, and then he also let me use the cameras! I got some really neat footage of the Navy dive team loading both of their drivers at one point.It was so cool to actually be down there watching the submarine races underwater.

A team bringing their sub down to the starting line!

The process was really neat. Each team would swim their sub out on top of the water to somewhere behing the starting line. Then they would swim the sub down to the bottom and get it stabilized. Once they were ready, another diver brought the driver down to the sub using their octopus. The drivers are only wearing a wetsuit and mask because they breath the air in the sub, and they have to pedal with their feet. Once the driver was laoded and comfortable in the sub, a team member closed the hatch, and then another member swam up to the surface to let the race supervisor know that the sub was ready to race. Down on the bottom there would be a team member holding up the front end of  the sub and another holding up the back end. The race supervisor would give them the “Go,go, go, go!” signal, the driver would start pedaling, the team members holding the sub would “hit the floor,” and off the sub would go! The sub passed through several timing gates, and then the finish line. At the finish line there were a bunch of navy divers waiting in front of an enormous net to catch and stop the subs. Then they got the driver out and brought the sub to the surface where team members were waiting to tow it back so they could do it all again! It was awesome!

One of the teams towing their sub back after a race.

One of the days that I was helping Nick film, we swam all the way down to the catch net to film that part of the race. It was kind of spooky waiting down there with this huge net and blackness behind you, looking into murky water, waiting for a submarine to come charging towards you. It was one heck of an adrenaline rush when the sub came into sight and all the divers went after it. Once we got some good shots it was time for the long swim back to the dive station. Nick had been using a scooter (one of those little missile looking things that you hold onto and it pulls you through the water) with a camera attached to the end to get some side footage of the subs as they were racing, and he let me ride it on our way back! IT WAS SO MUCH FUN! I need one! 😀 It was a great way to polish off my time filming with Nick. I also got some great shots with my Olympus and Gates cameras! Tomorrow is the last day of the races, and then we have the banquet and find out who won all the categories!