We Are All Safe the Morning After the Storm

Whew the hurricane is over. We spent the day cleaning up the damage left behind by Charley. Luckily with all the interns we were able to clean up speedily, we started with our house first. It looks like we were incredibly, incredibly fortunate as no damage was done to the house nor cars, although unfortunately the rest of the neighborhood was not quite as lucky. We found out later that Artie’s car got crushed by a 50 foot roof in his college parking lot. The damage was just horrible to look at. The damage was disheartening but Charley was only a class 2 when it hit Orlando, I hate to think of the damage if it had stayed a class 4.

Neighbors’ houses were smashed in by old oaks that had been uprooted lodged into their roofs, and for some people, their brand new cars. Trees tore up curbstones and pavement and were littered all around the neighborhood, along with broken power lines and other debris. But before we walked around to see all this and to see if anyone needed help, without missing a beat Terrence was out of the house and by 7:30 he had freshly mowed the lawn and was edging it to perfection with his edger. People have been driving by all morning with double-takes and open mouths. “Untouched!”

Around lunch time we went to Allison’s parents’ house to clean up their yard (unfortunately had to cut down a nice tree in their back yard), and then went to Amy’s house after that. On our way to Amy’s we hit a storm that developed into a mini tornado and knocked the steeple off a church!! At night the we had d inner at Renee’s because she was the only person that had power. My flight obviously got canceled so I am flying home on Monday.

Another Day of Charley Clean-Up!

After a natural disaster, it’s comforting to see a positive change in public demeanor. Strangers are more than willing to come together and help eachother out. From here on, the only thing we can do is look at the situation with a positive attitude. Meeting new people and sharing stories helped lighten up the atmosphere. We went to Cambrian Foundation headquarters to clean up what had been left by Charley. The back yard and parking lot were filled with tree branches and the front was covered with a carpet of Spanish moss, but ultimately the property was pretty lucky compared to the rest of the neighborhood.

Humongous, humongous oak trees had fallen all over Orlando, one had fallen across the street from the office and another had doubly smashed in the roof of a neighboring house. We spent the next few hours hack sawing limbs and dragging brush to the street, and then drove back to rest for a while. We had a goodbye party for the interns at Renee’s house once we all got back. I’m so sad that I’m leaving tomorrow; Allison, Terrence, Renee, Amy, Josh, Artie, Paul, James, Tim, and Lee have become like family to me in only a week! We have learned so much from eachother and taught one another a lot too.

I wish we could all just have a little bit more time together, but all fun things eventually have to come to an end. I’m happy knowing that these awesome memories and good times spent together will never fade away. Thank you to the Cambrian Foundation, and everyone else that I met, for teaching me more than I could have ever imagined and for making it such an awesome trip. : )

~HuRriCaNe ChArLEy~

I woke up this morning and walked out of my room to hear the TV on in the living room…reporters are talking about a hurricane! Everyone in the neighborhood is running around today, preparing for Hurricane Charley; it is apparently HUGE and is coming straight for Orlando! As we did extra loads of laundry, Allison, Terrence, and I packed up loose things around the house and stocked up on food and water from the supermarket…the fact that it would be here in a few hours started to become more of a reality. By the time Charley had turned into a class four hurricane, the system was roaring with 145 mile per hour sustained winds (meaning that winds didn’t drop below 145 mph). According to footage on the news the western coast of southern Florida had been hit pretty hard, but we hoped that by the time it reached Orlando it would have dissipated a bit.

We packed up emergency bags, lashed down the house, taped up the windows, and got the dog leashes ready. It was pretty scary to think of the magnitude of the hurricane that loomed ahead, but I felt really safe with Terrence and Allison. Lee, James, Tim, and Paul came over after a storm band passed, as did Renee, all ready to spend the night or to move to shelter at Rollins College if necessary. Monitoring the storm on the radio, we stood on the sheltered front porch for a couple minutes observing the force of nature, in awe. At least 15 transformers blew up within a few miles of the house, the sky lighting up green and red with each loud bang. The winds picked up so we all headed inside.

The power went out and we were left listening to the storm’s progress from NOAA on the weather radio by candlelight. Charlie was getting closer and soon we had even lost NOAA’s reception. That moment was kind of like the part in a scary movie where everything seems to stop and the camera zooms in on the main character, who is frozen, knowing something is about to pop out within the next second. The winds were howling outside, but later everything became quiet within a matter of seconds, the eye of the storm seemed to pass directly over us. We peeked outside and the trees across the street that had been almost horizontal were standing upright again. Tonight I definitely learned about the power of nature.

Bacteria Collecting with Rima and Aaron from Kennedy Space Center

Terrence, Artie, and Renee at DeLeon Springs describing the cave dive.

Today we went to Wekiva and DeLeon Springs on bacteria collecting missions for Kennedy Space Center scientists Rima and Aaron. We started at Wekiva Springs, where Renee and Terrence collected samples of bacteria from the cave walls. The cave is so confining that they dove no-mount systems, meaning that they push their tanks through the cave rather than wearing them on their backs. We all watched Terrence and Renee descend and then we took samples of the spring water using the hydrolab and talked to Rima and Aaron about their work.

Rima is doing an experiment testing the behavior of different bacteria in climates within spacecrafts. An astronaut’s voyage to Mars would take three years to complete: one year to get there, one year on Mars collecting whatever data is needed while waiting for correct alignment of the planets for a safe return, and one year to return to earth. In order for this to work, scientists would have to create a sustainable environment, and that’s where the bacteria come in. Rima explores different forms of bacteria that could help the scientists maintain a safe environment for an extended period of time.

Once the samples came up from the caves, Rima and Aaron looked at the specimens and we were able to help them do some water testing on site. We tested samples of water from the surface and surrounding the bacteria inside the cave with three different chemical tests: Nitrate, Nitrite, and Ammonia. For each test, we broke two chemettes (three inch glass tubes that fill with water when the small tips are broken off, mixing the chemical and sample water inside the tube), and waited a minute for the solution to change color so we could read the results. The results showed low levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates, which is good because it signifies low levels of pollution in the spring.

The next place we went to was DeLeon Spring where Terrence and Renee were joined by Artie on their dive. While submerged, we used the hydrolab again to determine the temperature, salinity, turbidity, pH, conductance, dissolved oxygen, and oxidation-reduction potential of the DeLeon water. Rima and Aaron were fascinated by the samples from both locations and we celebrated the trip’s success with a nice breakfast at the Spring’s restaurant, where we made our own pancakes with the griddles set into the center of the tables. It was definitely a fun trip!

Later in the afternoon, all the interns went to Renee’s house to take showers and relax with some movies and…Renee and I, being the only females thought it wicked funny how fascinated the guys’ were with her flowery spa and bath products.

Comedic Adventures on the Wekiva River

While Tim, Lee, Paul, and James were out in the field collecting water samples for the Cambrian Foundation’s Central Florida Springs Project, Josh and I spent the day with Amy and her college professor, Dr. McShafferty, catching Dragonflies and Damselflies. Dr. McShafferty loves bugs. He wants to collect specimens from the Orlando area before returning up north, so Amy brought us to the Wekiva River and then through the Wekiwa Springs State Park today.

Armed with nets and canoes we paddled down the river swatting at just about every moving fly in sight, but I think Dr. McShafferty had the best luck getting them out of all of us; I’m just surprised that we didn’t fall out of the canoe! We must have been a funny sight to the canoes that were whipping by us on the river, especially on the way back when I was steering and had problems keeping us in the middle of the river, planting Josh face first into the mangroves way too many times. We saw all sorts of wildlife on our trip (some a little closer than expected!) from turtles basking on tree stumps to them swimming 30 feet below us on the river bottom. Although the hot sunny sky began to turn stormy, we went in search for more in the Wekiwa National park after catching flies on the Wekiva River. We even saw a sinkhole the size of my house, which was pretty cool, that had formed due to the karst topography of the area.

Back at Amy’s office Dr. McShafferty’s knowledge continued to astound us as he told us about the differences between families of flies. Our night ended with a trip to Rock Spring and then Wekiwa Springs to unfortunately lessen a population of armored catfish that had become too large for the park’s liking…Before we left, though, Artie showed me how to swim down near the entrance of a cave so that the flow from the entrance shot me up between two canyon-like walls and then onto the surface; the flow was fast and it was definitely cool. But not as cool as the black bears we saw on our ride home through the park!!

Cavern! Cavern! Cavern!

Big day today. We started out early with the cavern course on dry land. Terrence and Renee strung a cavern reel line from around and between trees, picnic tables, and other obstacles in the park so that we could simulate following a course underwater.

We began by learning how to use the line as a guide, wrapping thumb and pointer finger around it so that we create a small circular area for the line to pass through. The most crucial part of this, Terrence told us, is to KEEP A FIRM GRIP between your fingers; do not become separated from the line…if you do, you die. You do not necessarily die immediately in real life, but in a zero visibility situation in any overhead environment, you will get yourself into trouble if you can’t find your way back to the line that leads to the exit. We were challenged to get through the whole obstacle course, eyes closed, without “dying.” I don’t think we could count how many times we each died today!! But by the end our naive clasps turned into secure death grips so that we could make it through!

We also learned how to follow markers, navigate obstacles, perform buddy hand signals (when there is no visibility you have to slip your hand signal into your buddy’s hand so they can read it), how to find and untangle a buddy, how to properly cross over a line, and how to reel in a reel without jamming it. By the end of the day we were in the Rollins College pool utilizing the skills we learned on land for our test. Maskless or with our eyes closed, each of us had to complete an underwater course while Terrence and other students tangled the candidate into different messes, or tried to lead him or her off course. Two of the most important things to remember are to keep a firm grip and to move calmly and carefully even when tangled up so that you don’t stir up silt. It sure is tricky to unwrap yourself from a line that’s wrapped around your first stage, behind your back, through your legs and fin strap! I was absolutely amazed by some of the insane predicaments I watched the guys smoothly get out of underwater.

After the pool we finished up the nitrox class, and then Josh and I went to Amy’s house to help her and Terrence prepare vials for bacteria collecting with scientists on Thursday. Whew! It was a big day but really, really fun!!!

Day Three: A Day of Learning at the Cambrian Foundation

Tomorrow will start off with an early departure to the Rollins College pool for the cavern course, but today we got to sleep late! Josh and I spent the day at Amy’s house with her parents and baby Allie, and with Amy’s rescued tortoise! Amy is helping “Stitch” rehabilitate after she and Terrence found it with a cracked shell and punctured lung. I was trying not to laugh when she told me it was time to take it out for a walk. But hey, I guess everybody needs their exercise!

After Amy’s house and the speedy excursion with the tortoise, we all went to Terrence’s house to start the nitrox class. Boy did I learn a lot. Terrence’s teaching style is phenomenal, he is exceedingly through. He teaches above and beyond never failing to keep it real with scenarios he’s encountered in the past, which helps us as students to look at diving from a broader perspective. Ultimately, breathing nitrox IS 150% easier than learning it- thank you Sipperly. After a big night of learning I’m ready for bed! We’re getting up early tomorrow for more cavern class!

Team Typhoid tackles CPR

Today the interns spent the day taking a CPR class with Amy and Terrence. CPR is a prerequisite for any Cambrian cavern diving trips. We were split up into two teams: Team Typhoid (apparently my mono is as horrible as typhoid): Amy, Tim and I, and the other team who was sadly nameless because they were all in good health- Terrence, Artie, Josh. Renee Power, Director of Publications and Volunteers at the Cambrian Foundation who works at Orlando’s hospital, generously donated her time and expertise, she took the day off to instruct the class. In the middle of our class, James called us out because Paul had “fallen off the roof and was unconscious.” Josh and I stepped up to the scene and started rescue breathing on the victim after analyzing the situation.

The Cambrian Foundation never fails to “give it to you real.” We were nicely surprised with a mouth full of pizza in the victim’s mouth (which is a lot more pleasant than what we could have encountered in reality) showing us that emergencies are rarely textbook-perfect scenarios, you have to be prepared for any kind of situation. We learned more emergency procedures, including how to use a defribulator, deal with spinal injuries, and heart attacks. After the class we went back to the Terrence’s house to start day one of the cavern course. Lee, Tim, and I were the only interns in the course. We learned about the difference between cave and cavern (“cavern is cave diving without all the fun stuff,” or exploration, says Terrence), and that it’s crucially important not to ditch your weights because the only place to go is up, into the cavern ceiling. Before calling it a night, we rigged our BCs so that they were stream-line and “cavern safe” for our pool test on Tuesday.

Welcome to Orlando and the Cambrian Foundation

I was greeted at the airport by Terrence Tysall, president and founder of the Cambrian Foundation and Artie the summer intern coordinator, with a “Kate Cambrian Foundation” sign. That was a surprise!! After drinking a Starbucks coffee with a shot of espresso I was finally awake enough to keep up with Terrence’s and Artie’s quick sarcasm. We drove back to Cambrian headquarters to meet five more college interns, James, Lee, Paul, Tim, and Josh, and Amy Giannotti who is the VP of Science and Research and Educational Director for the Foundation. After the introductions they took me to see my first Florida Spring.

Wekiva Spring water is beautiful and crystal clear. Terrence and Artie showed me three of their test sites there where they take daily water samples. Members of the Cambrian foundation were actually the first and only people to be granted government permission to dive there, on the basis that NASA is interested in their data and sample collection. The water has been tracked to filter through the ground for 27 years before upwelling into the springs, so what we put into the ground today is feared to severely harm the system in the future.

Once we got back to Terrence’s house, we organized and cleaned out the Cambrian Foundation dive locker. After that, Terrence taught us how to O2 clean, fill, and analyze a tank firsthand-not something that I could do in a dive shop, or even in the nitrox class! I used a metal broom-like whip on a shaft attached to a power drill to clean the rust buildup off the inside of the tank. After that, I turned the tank upside down, banged out the rust, and stuck a low pressure hose into the opening to blow out extra particles. The tank is now O2 cleaned! Artie and I screwed the valve on, and we affixed special Cambrian foundation special mix, nitrox stickers, or VIP stickers on. After that we filled the tank using the cascade filling method and with a little bit of air in the tank, we were able to analyze the contents of the tanks.

Amy later invited everyone to her house for a welcome party, where we had delicious brownies and fudge sauce, and watched Shrek. This has got to be the epitome of an awesome diving internship…life just can’t seem to get any better! [but wait, it does…]