Michigan: Diving and Editing

The final stop of my summer internship landed me in Lexington, Michigan where I stayed with Jim and Pat Stayer. Jim and Pat are diving and videography experts with lots of experience in these fields. I enjoyed diving with them in Lake Huron, exploring the wrecks that lie below. I dove on three of the wrecks: the Sport, the Strong, and the Regina. The Regina was my favorite wreck to dive. I liked exploring its large propeller and large smokestack.

Given that Jim and Pat are experienced film producers, my time in Michigan was also spent editing this film. Jim and Pat provided all the support necessary to complete this film in the quick four-day time span we had together. From photo editing, to color correction, to transition optimization, the Stayers were instrumental in putting this all together.

I can’t thank Jim and Pat enough for taking me into their home, taking me out on the water with them to dive, and helping me edit my internship documentary. They were incredibly helpful and two incredibly nice individuals. I look forward to staying in touch with them and watching their film productions.

Newfoundland: Unique Dives

Newfoundland also had lots of wreck diving to offer. I was lucky to make two dives on the PLM-27. Located off the coast of Bell Island, this ship was sunk in World War II and is one of four wrecks with a similar story. I loved exploring this wreck – the largest I had ever been on at the time. There were lots of fish to see and the ship had many different areas to explore.

Perhaps the most memorable portion of my time in Newfoundland was the scallop dive I went on with Rick and Mark. In preparation for a seafood dinner we would be having with Rick’s family later that evening, Mark and I collected over 75 scallops, filling our bag quite quickly. This was my first time diving for scallops, and for this reason Rick prepared me one raw on the boat as a post dive snack. Talk about fresh seafood! Later that evening Rick showed me how to clean scallops and fillet cod. I hope to start diving for seafood near my home.

Newfoundland: Sidemount Diving

One of the highlights of my trip to Newfoundland was receiving my sidemount certification with OceanQuest instructor Mark McGowan. I had never before tried sidemount diving, but in the span of three days I discovered and practiced this style of diving. I enjoyed my five certification dives in locations where we saw interesting wildlife like eel pouts and lumpfish. Underwater, we found lot of cool objects like an underwater mirror and a pair of old sunglasses. Thanks so much for getting me certified, Mark!

Newfoundland: OceanQuest!

From the warm waters of Bonaire, I made a quick transition to northeastern Canada where I spent a week in Newfoundland with Rick Stanley, his wife, Debbie, and OceanQuest Adventures. I had never before visited Canada, so I was thrilled to begin exploring right away with a snorkel around historic Bell Island. Rick took me out on his zodiak with a small group of snorkelers and brought us to all the best spots to check out. I explored the unique geography and cave systems the island has to offer as well as the marine life.

The next day Rick took me out to search for whales, Newfoundland’s iconic attraction. We saw two minke whales and a humpback from the surface, but could not get close enough to swim with them. Determined to find more, I went out the following day with Johnny O. of OceanQuest in search for more. We struck out again, but had fun exploring waterfalls and swimming with a bloom of moon jellies.

My time in Newfoundland was also full of regional and OceanQuest traditions. I tried pie-irons for the first time. These are sandwiches cooked in a sealed, iron griddle over an open flame. They were were delicious! I also got to attend the Conception Bay South summer games opening ceremonies. The games’ host city changes every year, so this was certainly a treat. I also got to try a Newfoundland special: moose soup! My trip to Newfoundland came to an end with an awesome sunset which I watched from Rick’s roof!

Thank you so much, Rick and Debbie, for hosting me at your home and absorbing me right into your incredible family. I had so much fun up in Newfoundland trying new things, getting to know the region, and meeting new people. I hope to come back soon to spot some whales with OceanQuest and reconnect with you both. Thank you!

Bonaire: Getting to Know the Island and It’s People

The island of Bonaire had lots to offer as a unique destination to explore. In between dives, I had the opportunity to visit ‘downtown’ Bonaire a number of times. Lining the tight, colorful streets were lots of shops and restaurants. In one store, I found my favorite flavor of soda: bubblegum. Throughout the course of the week, we made many visits to the local gelato shop. I also enjoyed exploring this area at night. There was lots of live music which made for a great atmosphere. 

One of my favorite parts of Bonaire was the donkey sanctuary. Located on the other side of the island, the donkey sanctuary is located near the airport and is almost as large as it! I visited the donkey sanctuary with the kids of Kids Sea Camp. There were hundreds of donkeys in the sanctuary, both young and old and we enjoyed getting very close to the animals. I enjoyed feeding the donkeys from the back of a truck as we journey through the sanctuary and taking lots of pictures with them. This was a truly unique experience. On our way home from the donkey sanctuary we also stopped at the slave huts and salt flats of Bonaire. These were two very interesting locations with strong historical ties. I enjoyed spotting flamingos in the salt flats.  

It was also great to meet the people of Bonaire. I enjoyed working closely with the staff of Buddy Dive. They were an incredibly helpful, nice, and fun group. It was also great getting to know some of the families of Kids Sea Camp throughout the week.

I’d like to thank Woody and his whole family for making my week down in Bonaire so fun and memorable. I felt warmly welcomed into their family and enjoyed getting to know them all much better. I look forward to staying in touch with the Tinsleys.

Kids Sea Camp!

Alongside diving on my free time and with the adults, there was lots of time to be spent in the water with the stars of the week: the kids! Kids Sea Camp offered many different courses throughout the week for children of all ages. I was lucky enough to spend a bit of time with most of the groups, both on land and in the water.

The first group I worked with was the PADI Seal Team. The PADI Seal Team Program is designed to introduce scuba diving to children not yet old enough to be Junior Open water certified. The Seals practice skills such as buoyancy control, mask clearing, underwater photography, and underwater communication in the pool. At the end of the week they perform their first dive in the ocean with their parents. This is a hallmark moment for many children, so it was great to see so much enthusiasm for this culminating dive. I was also able to join the Seals for an ocean snorkel mid-week. Having just completed a dive, I tagged along in my full scuba kit, allowing me to take some great photos of the snorkelers above me.

The following day, I joined the coral restoration group. This organization promotes the conservation of various species of coral and the education of divers to responsibly interact with these animals. The Coral Restoration Foundation focuses its efforts in the Florida Keys and Caribbean with the goal of growing and outplanting corals to help rebuild and restore reef communities. In Bonaire, the Coral Restoration Foundation manages over 30 coral ‘trees’ – structures designed to facilitate the growth of corals. These trees serve as a nursery for young corals that will one day be introduced into a new location. I enjoyed helping the kids transplant corals using a very meticulous process involving careful placement and proper attachment. It was great to see so many young adults interested in conservation and the protection of our oceans.

There was also lots of fun to be had with the kids outside of scuba diving. Kids Sea Camp’s annual trivia contest, hosted by the one and only Woody Tinsley, was so much fun. Woody has quite the arsenal of random factoids, ocean related and not. It was great being a part of the action as families competed for prizes and bragging rights.

The poetry contests, a part of the camp’s closing ceremonies, was also very interesting. Some individuals entered their own works, while some families worked together. There were a wide variety of pieces including acrostic poems, haikus, songs, and even Bonaire themed Christmas carols!

Finally, what would a Kids Sea Camp be without a Zombie Apocalypse?! On our last day of diving, all certified divers (and snorkelers) were offered the opportunity to earn their PADI Zombie Apocalypse Diver Specialty Certification from instructor Woody Tinsley. This day, I played the role of a menacing, underwater zombie in the ‘shooting gallery’. Divers had the chance to shoot me and my undead partners with a bubble-ring gun. I had a great time attacking the armed youngsters – all in good fun, of course! It’s easy to say that Kids Sea Camp is ‘Grade-A’ when it comes to fun and diversity.

Diving Bonaire

While in Bonaire, I was able to log a total of nine incredible dives, bringing my dive log up to its one hundred and fourth page. A few things are rather predictable in Bonaire: warm water (typically in the low 80s), great visibility, lots of tropical fish, and lively, spirited divers. Yet amidst these known factors, each and every dive in Bonaire had something unique or unexpected to offer.

My first dive in Bonaire was a shore dive on the house reef of our dive resort, Buddy Dive. After splashing down into the water, I opened my eyes and saw what was the largest tarpon I have ever seen in my life. It was staring me down face to face as if it were waiting for an afternoon snack. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This dive was a great start to the trip, and I saw lots of other interesting fish along the way, including my favorite, a rock beauty!

The following morning, I completed two boat dives with one of the two adult boats operating that week. I enjoyed practicing my photography skills on these dives to document both the wildlife I was seeing and the parents in action. Upon our initial descent, we spotted two young hawksbill turtles. They must have been intimidated by our group, for they quickly swam off into the blue.

One of my favorite dives on this trip was the night dive I participated in with a Dive Buddy guide and two of the other interns affiliated with Kids Sea Camp. It was really amazing exploring the house reef at a later hour. While taking Sea Rover George Buckley’s Sustainable Ocean Environments course through the Harvard Extension School, I heard about about all the time he has spent in Bonaire and how he enjoys visiting the same dive site at different times during the day (and night). I’m glad that I got to experience exactly what George was discussing for myself in the same location! It was fun observing bioluminescent microorganisms in the water column and the variations in fish behavior between night and day. Luckily for us, the tarpon returned; and luckily for them, we helped them find dinner. By shining our dive lights on fish, the tarpon can easily seek out prey at night. Instead of hunting during the day, the tarpon have actually altered their eating habits due to the aid of local night divers. Hunting at night gives the tarpon an advantage over their prey. It was really impressive, yet sad to see a tarpon attack a small fish in the beam of my dive light. 

I also really enjoyed diving on the Hilma Hooker. The Hilma Hooker was a trade ship which, while docked at Bonaire, was discovered to be hauling over 20,000 pounds of marijuana in a false bulkhead. With the crew and captain detained, the Hilma Hooker soon fell into disrepair and was finally sunk off the coast of Bonaire – now a wonderful dive site! The wreck rests in about 80 feet of water and was very fun to explore. Upon the ship’s hull, many damselfish have laid eggs. As we swam past their nests, the damselfish did everything in their power to defend the eggs. They are quite some aggressive fish. My parents dove The Hooker before I was even born and often tell me about the upside down toilets in the wreck. It was great to compare notes with them about this interesting dive spot.

The final non-course-related dive I completed was on our final day in Bonaire at Noname Beach. This dive was relaxing and rather shallow. There was lots to see here, but the best part about this dive was that parents could go diving with their recently certified children. It was great to see so many families in the water, connecting by the sport of scuba diving. I could relate well to this feeling, for my parents were the ones who introduced scuba to me. It’s great to have an organization like Kids Sea Camp making these connections possible!

The National Aquarium: Days 1 and 2

My first two days at the National Aquarium were exciting and full of diving and getting involved with Aquarium operations. My first morning, Holly took me into the Atlantic Coral Reef (ACR) exhibit for a checkout dive. We practiced basic skills including buoyancy, mask removal, weight removal, and BCD removal. After this, I explored the exhibit and helped Holly investigate the behavior of a queen triggerfish, as the staff were considering temporarily removing the animal from the exhibit. Later in the afternoon, I went back into the ACR accompanied by the day’s volunteer group. This time, I cleaned up an area of the tank which contained empty clam and oyster shells. These shells are typically used by animals such as sand tilefish to make burrows, but since they were not being used they were to be removed. I removed roughly 15 pounds of the shells from the exhibit! During that same dive, I checked on the queen triggerfish again, and spent some time taking photos!

On the morning of my second day at National, I snorkeled in the ACR to take measurements for the installation of new skimmer boxes. This was an interesting project to be a part of, and getting in the water is always fun. I continued to get involved with aquarium projects later in the day when I completed my third ACR dive. In addition to taking personal photos on this dive, I was tasked with capturing images and footage of a black durgon for the veterinary staff. It was rewarding to capture footage of the fish that the vets would later use to aid their decision-making process regarding to how to manage this fish. By this dive, I felt very comfortable in ACR and was able to navigate its tight swim-throughs and alleys with greater ease.

The National Aquarium: Days 3, 4, and 5

My third day at the National Aquarium kicked off with an early dive in the Shark Alley exhibit which features sandbar, sand tigers, and nurse sharks as well as sawfish and crevalle jacks. Though the sharks were gated off while we completed our work, it was still lots of fun to be in the water with these animals. We spent our time scrubbing the exhibit’s rock formations, rearranging the exhibit’s substrate, and, most fun, collecting shark teeth! I found lots of teeth on this dive and enjoyed the challenge of spotting them in the rocks.

That afternoon, I spent some time with Katie Webster in the 3N gallery, which displays animals with interesting evolutionary adaptations suited to their environment. For example, mudskippers have adapted the ability to breathe air, allowing them to search for food in a greater variety of terrain. Some of the animals we cared for included a mantis shrimp, seahorses, a snapping turtle, and an octopus. We prepared their food, conducted feedings, and managed their environments by checking water chemistry.

I spent the first half of the my fourth day at ‘the warehouse’ where animal housing, quarantine, and rehab all take place. I conducted water changes, mixed a new batch of saltwater, checked water temperatures, and fed the blacktip sharks. In addition to taking care of fish, I helped care for reptiles such as snake-neck turtles, bearded dragons, and blue-tongued skinks. The warehouse had lots to offer and was a great way to see even more of the National Aquarium. The second part of my day was spent touring Baltimore.

On the morning of my final day, I worked more closely with the Blacktip Reef exhibit. I tended a dive in the morning, ensuring the safety of one of the staff divers who was cleaning the exhibit. Later, I helped feed the sharks of the same exhibit which was awesome. Before I could believe it, I was packing up my gear to head to the airport and leave Baltimore. My head was still spinning after such an amazing week.

Baltimore: City, Sights, and Exploration

In addition to the action packed days with Holly at the National Aquarium, my visit to Baltimore afforded me the opportunity to explore the city and the Inner Harbor region where the Aquarium is located. The Inner Harbor area is home to many interesting and historical buildings and landmarks. I spent some time walking through the Barnes and Noble across from the Aquarium, which features an Amazonian fish tank (managed by the National Aquarium). This Barnes and Noble was built within an old power plant. The two large smokestacks running through the heart of the store provide a truly industrial feel. I also walked to the Maryland Science Center located near Federal Hill. I spent an afternoon at the Science Center, exploring the many exhibits and even attending a planetarium show about extraterrestrial life and exoplanets. The weather was warm but very nice throughout the week, so I also spent some time walking around Federal Hill and the shops located near the Aquarium, most notably the McCormick’s store (a company which originated in Baltimore) which sold lots of Old Bay seasoning.

Holly, her husband, Billy, and their dog, Wally, also showed me some of the highlights near their home, located roughly 15 miles north of the National Aquarium. The night I arrived, we took a walk with Wally on a trail loaded with fresh raspberries. We picked and talked the whole way. After our walk, the Bourbons treated me to snow cones. There were so many flavors to choose from, so I chose bubble gum, a flavor I had never tried! One another walk, we went swimming in a river: a refreshing activity given the high temperatures down in Maryland!

On my fourth night with the Bourbons, Holly and I went out to dinner in Camden Yards. After touring the Orioles park, we grabbed dinner in a nearby restaurant. It was really amazing to see this area; the stadium is quite magnificent.

A huge thanks goes out to Holly and Billy for hosting me during my time in Baltimore. I had a fantastic time and appreciate all that they did to make this happen. From scheduling my time at the Aquarium to making me feel at home with them, they truly went the extra mile to make my stay the best it could be. Thank you so much!