Aquarium Day 1

I arrived at the New England Aquarium at 8 o’clock on Tuesday the 27th, ready for my week to start. I met up with Paul and he gave me a brief tour of the Giant Ocean Tank (from the outside) and brought me up to the Dive office to meet with John who would be doing my orientation dive at 2:30 in the afternoon. John pretty much told me not to worry about it and that I would do great, which was good, because I was a little nervous. Next we headed down to the penguin office were I pulled, squeezed and shoved myself into a wetsuit that was just a little bit to small and hopped into the penguin exhibit. The exhibit is huge and houses four species of penguins, the rockhoppers, Africans and little blues. For the first part of the morning I recorded the rockhopper feed, which meant that I wrote down which penguin had eaten how many fish. All the penguin staff interns and volunteers can readily tell the penguins apart based on their identification arm bands. After this we commenced the scrubbing which lasted from about 9:30 to 11:00. First each rock island must be completely rinsed then scrubbed with the veterinary disinfecan Virkon. It’s an excellent cleaner to use in the exhibit since it does not harm the penguins and dissolves completely in water. While we scrub the islands, the penguins all get in the water for their morning swim, however some get lazy and prefer to hop back on to the island from which they must be removed. This can generally done with a hose. After scrubbing the islands is done the algae scrubbing starts, though it seems somewhat futile. it is a very large exhibit and their is a lot of algae, so it’s an unending battle. At about 11:00 everyone gets out of the penguin exhibit, dries off and gets back in their aquarium uniform for lunch. I travelled with the penguin posse to Al’s for the most intense sub ordering experience of my life. You have to scream your order at one of about twenty people working behind the counter while being jostled from either side by other customers. However, it was well worth it, the sub was fantastic, and about 16″ long. After lunch Paul brought me up to the volunteer office for my orientation. I was given a shirt and they made up an ID for me, they’re not entirely waterproof unfortunately. After my orientation I headed up to the Dive room on the fourth floor to begin gearing up for the dive. This went rather quickly and before I knew it, I was out on the platform in front of a TON of people. The dives are always tied in to an educational program, so an education staff member stands behind and talks about you as you prepare to enter the water. This alone wat slightly nerve racking as giant green sea turtles and sand tiger sharks swim below you. But I made the jump none the less and entered a whole new world. I’ve never been on a dive in tropical waters before, so it was unbelievable to see all the fish. While underwater, John gave me the tour of the tank, showing me all the sensors, filters, cages and effluents. I got to touch the nurse shark and scratch Myrtle”s (the green sea turtle’s) shell. We also looked at the spotted moray and discovered a few of the Chromis when they started biting our hands because we were invading their nests. I still have the welts three days later. At the end of the dive I hauled myself out of the water, quickly got changed and went back out to the platform to help Ryan, the volunteer, with the 3:30 surface feed. Feeding the puffers is my favorite because they are so cute and shy and huge and they kind of suck the squid and fish out of your fingers like a vacuum. We also toss some krill in for the lookdown school and some cappelin for the needlefish. After the feed I helped clean up, which takes forever stored my gear in the locker room and took off around 5:15.