Cold Water Marine Gallery & GOT Dive Team

I spent yesterday with in the Cold Water Marine gallery at the New England Aquarium with aquarist Bill Murphy. I first met Bill a few years ago at the teen dive program that I was certified through at the Aquarium! It was a pleasure having the opportunity to spend time with Bill and seeing how he operates the gallery from behind-the-scenes. In the morning we first walked around on the public side of the exhibit to examine the animals and clean the glass. Bill told me about how the various species are collected and the importance of proper care while transferring them to and from other aquariums and zoos. There are many Pacific Northwest and Northeast species on exhibit. Brightly colored anemones and echinoderms made the exhibits pop and I was fascinated by the unique species on display such as the lumpfish! I was very impressed by the attention to detail that Bill put into his work by ensuring that every animal is properly cared for. I worked with his intern Montana, who is studying Marine Biology at BU, to target feed the animals in the afternoon. We placed bits of capelin and squid on the end of a retractable line and individually fed many of the fish in the tanks. Bill also has many rare lobsters on display that were donated to the aquarium from blue lobsters and calico lobsters to a humungous lobster affectionately known as “Mark Clawburg.” Thank you Bill for welcoming me into your gallery!

Today I shadowed the GOT Dive Team and spent the morning with Sarah Taylor, who certified me to dive through the Aquarium’s teen dive program. Sarah is a phenomenal human being in all aspects and it’s hard to not enjoy spending time with her! We talked extensively about the Aquarium’s various conservation efforts and collection programs that she takes part in including trips to the Bahamas to find fish species for the GOT! I was able to see how they fill the tanks on site at the aquarium and learn more about the history of the Aquarium and it’s dive team. Sarah gave me a tour of the dive office and the food prep room as well! I was then able to help with the exam of a cownose ray which needed to have it’s barb clipped. Stingrays have barbs on the ends of their tails which grow in a similar manner to our fingernails and the Aquarium staff clips the barbs to keep them short so that they do not harm the other fish or the divers. I was able to help lift the stingray out of the water and into a holding tank. Dr.Charlie Innis and Sherrie Floyd then poured anesthesia into the water to calm down the ray so they could preform the examination. After clipping his barb, the ray was released back into the exhibit with the help of Hollis and Connor, both Northeastern co-op interns. I sincerely enjoyed spending time with the dive team today and I look forward to returning on Saturday! Thank you for everything Sarah; especially for introducing me to diving!

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The New England Aquarium – Shark Transfer and Giant Ocean Tank

My passion for our oceans began during the time I spent as a child at the New England Aquarium. Returning to Central Wharf in Boston feels like coming home in many ways, given that I participated in numerous programs at the aquarium as a child and volunteered throughout middle school and high school. My SCUBA career also began at the New England Aquarium since I was certified to dive by Sarah Taylor who heads their teen dive program. After two years of living in California, it was good to be back at the Aquarium. This week was invigorating thanks to the hard work by Dan Dolan, who worked tirelessly to ensure that I witnessed all aspects of the Aquarium and forged a deep understanding for how the Aquarium and it’s diverse departments operate. I had the unprecedented opportunity to shadow several departments of the Aquarium including the Giant Ocean Tank Dive Team, Cold Water Marine Gallery, Veterinary Services and Animal Medical Center, Penguin Gallery, Marine Mammals Center and the Quincy Rehabilitation and Rescue Center. Each of these entities within the Aquarium have their own unique role to play in ensuring that the Aquarium carries out it’s mission of protecting the blue planet. I am incredibly grateful to Dan for his undivided support and kindness this week at the Aquarium and I feel very, very lucky to have him as a mentor.

On my first day at the Aquarium I met Dan Dolan outside at 6:00 AM to participate in the Bonnet-head shark transfer. Dan wanted for me to be able to experience this rare animal transfer and allowed me to help the Giant Ocean Tank (GOT for short) Dive team assist them in moving two new sharks into the Giant Ocean Tank. I met Dan Laughlin and Sherrie Floyd from the GOT Dive Team that morning too and they were both very helpful throughout the week and offered to assist me in any way possible. They helped me fill an animal transfer container with sea water inside the elevator to send down to the first floor to pick-up the sharks from the transfer truck. It was my job to hold the shark sling and help the other two staff members carry the shark out into the tank. I felt humbled to be able to help during such a pivotal animal transfer and I enjoyed seeing the sharks acclimate to their new home during the week.

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Top left: Me in front of the Aquarium on my first day! Top Right: Transferring the sharks into the tank! Bottom Left: The recently released Bonnethead!

Later that morning Dan gave me the grand tour of the dive office and the behind-the-scenes area associated with the GOT. They have their own compressor for refilling tanks, showers, changing rooms, food prep room and a splash room to prepare their gear. Before the renovations at the Aquarium, the dive team had cramped quarters since the Aquarium was built in the 1960s and had limited space. He explained to me how much more efficient the Aquarium has become thanks to the sweeping renovations.

I was then able to help in the kitchen with the food preparation for the GOT! I observed as they meticulously weighed and measured the food for the animals. Each species on exhibit has a distinct diet and must be fed according to their unique needs. From squid to capelin to lettuce, the Aquarium uses restaurant grade quality food for their animals to ensure proper health and strong nutrition. I learned during my time at NEAQ that individually feeding the animals allows the aquarists to observe any physical or behavioral changes overtime which is critical to understanding their health. Target feeding the animals is a commonly used method of training individual animals to accept food from the aquarists which allows them to monitor the amount of food each animal consumes. Many animals also receive vitamins and I helped make “squid tacos” which consists of squid stuffed with capelin, shrimp and vitamins! I had the opportunity to help target feed Myrtle, the charismatic 90 year old and 550 lb green sea turtle in the GOT! She eats a hearty diet of lettuce, brussel sprouts and broccoli which mimics the sea grass she would consume in the wild and provides her with proper nutrition. I was able to stand on the platform and toss food to Myrtle at the surface with Hollis Jones, a Northeastern co-op student and GOT diver. Hollis helped me thought the week at the Aquarium and was my “go-to” intern to ask any questions. She was incredibly helpful and eager to show me how the dive team operates and the importance of maintenance and care of the GOT and it’s diverse animals.

Dan and I then got ready for my first dive in the GOT! I had dreamed of diving in the GOT since I was a young boy and I never could have imagined that someday I would be able to go diving in the Aquarium that helped shaped my love of the ocean. The Giant Ocean Tank has 200,000 gallons of filtered and heated Boston Harbor sea water and the tank is 25 feet deep and 40 feet across with a large Bahamian reef fiberglass structure in the center. To prepare for the dive, I set up my Undersea Divers gear and slipped into my new wetsuit before walking out onto the platform with Dan. After explaining the do’s and dont’s of diving in the GOT, we both plunged into the water with several onlooking visitors waving and smiling at us. Once we were underwater I was fascinated by the colorful display of marine life swimming against the current within the tank. From curious pufferfish to beguiling moray eels, I could not wrap my head around the sheer number of fish in the tank. Dan and I began to swim around the tank and through the coral structures within the tank. Astonishingly, you can easily see the visitors through the glass and my favorite part about diving in the tank was placing my hand on the glass for the children to touch. This was a fulfilling and humbling experience because I knew that I was once that starry-eyed child on the other side of the glass. After about a 25 minute dive that consisted of scratching the turtles and marveling at the southern stingrays, Dan and I headed to the surface. I was ecstatic because I could not believe that I had just fulfilled a lifelong dream and I am forever grateful to Dan Dolan for making that dream come true. What a phenomenal first day at the Aquarium

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Dan Dolan and I preparing to dive! 

Simon says…

This past week I had the opportunity to enhance my dive skills with the 2005 Sea Rovers intern Rick Simon! I stayed with Rick and his wife Erin on their farm in the quaint town of Coventry, Connecticut. In addition to diving, I was also able to help care for their horses, dogs, cows, and chickens; this was a fascinating experience considering that I had never lived on a farm before. I was even able to help pick up their new horse for Erin’s stable during my stay!

Rick served as a phenomenal mentor throughout the week because of his sincere willingness to help me refine my dive skills and prepare for the summer ahead! While it rained profusely for the first two days, I was able to work on my Nitrox certification and learn more about the operations behind Manta Industries. Rick is the proud owner of Manta Industries, a dive manufacturing company that produces high quality and American made dive products. I sincerely enjoyed learning more about the operations behind a dive manufacturing business and hearing about Rick’s dive experience. Both Rick and his father are proficient cave, wreck and technical divers so I enjoyed hearing their fascinating stories!

On the first day of diving we went to a reservoir in Essex to practice my skills and get more comfortable in the water. After setting up all of my gear, I slipped into my brand new DUI Dry Suit that Faith Ortins fitted me for at the Sea Rovers Clinic in March! The dry suit was custom made and sent all the way from San Diego to Boston! I am extremely impressed with durability and quality of the suit and I feel very lucky to have such a wonderful piece of dive equipment.  Thank you to Faith and everyone at DUI for your very generous donation to the internship!

Once we completed our dive we headed to Divers Cove where Rick teaches as a Dive Instructor. It was there that I met Ed and Chris Rosacker who run the dive shop and specialize in dry suit repair. Ed showed me around his shop and generously donated a dive bag to me for the internship! He also briefed me on the history of diving in the area and helped me learn more about how to care for my excellent DUI dry suit!

The next day Rick took me to his fathers boat Simon Says… to go on our first ocean dive! Eric Simon was incredibly helpful and genuine throughout the entire week and was kind enough to take me out on his boat to go diving with Rick. We dove at the Stonington bottle dump, which is an area along the coast of Stonington,CT where the bottom is littered with old bottles and trash from the late 1800s. After jumping into the water we descended to the bottom where we began feeling for bottles in the sand under the kelp. After a few tries, we began finding bottles in the sand and Rick found an old Whiskey bottle and I found a glass ink bottle. That evening, we returned to Divers Cove to fill our tanks and Rick taught a dive class that I was able to listen in on.

On my last day in Connecticut, I worked with Rick on my Nitrox class and said goodbye to everyone before heading home for my internship at the aquarium tomorrow!  Thank you very much to Rick, Eric and Erin for being so welcoming and pleasant during my stay in Connecticut! 11390247_1040304322654340_5933472612146866581_n 11393166_1040304369321002_5176269276273962472_n 11406952_1040304459320993_5249127111548116700_n 11425132_1040304295987676_184712103591925676_n

Undersea Divers in Beverly!

     Today I met with Whitney Boyle at Undersea Divers in Beverly to try out my new dive gear for the internship! Pat Morton also met me at the dive shop and we chatted with Whitney about the internship and the new gear. Bobby Boyle and Undersea Divers generously donate new dive gear to the internship each year and I am incredibly grateful to him and everyone at Undersea Divers for being so accommodating and sincere. I had the pleasure of meeting Bobby at the Sea Rovers Clinic in March and I enjoyed speaking with him about the internship!

     Undersea Divers has provided me with a new tank, BCD, regulator, compass, dive computer, wetsuit, hood, gloves, and boots! Whitney was incredibly helpful at the dive shop and she showed me how to properly use and maintain the new gear. The gear that Undersea Divers donates to the internship is pivotal to it’s success and would not be possible without their support! Thank you to Bobby, Whitney and everyone at Undersea Divers for your immense generosity and kindness.
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Career Opportunities in the Marine Sciences Symposium (COMS)

Stepping off the plane into the icy winter air at Logan Airport was a stark reminder that I wasn’t in San Diego anymore. I was home from college for the 2015 Boston Sea Rovers Annual Underwater Clinic! I had recently been selected as the recipient of the Boston Sea Rovers’ Frank Scalli Annual Summer Internship and I was still in a state of disbelief. I knew that this was an immense blessing and opportunity to grow and learn in ways that I could only imagine. I wanted to make the most of this weekend and I was eager to meet all of the Sea Rovers!

The first event that I attended as the intern was at the Double Tree Hotel in Danvers for the Career Opportunities in the Marine Sciences Symposium (COMS for short)! COMS is a program that the Sea Rovers sponsor every year with the intention of introducing high school students to the expansive potential that pursuing a career in the Marine Sciences has to offer. I had attended the conference when I was a sophomore in high school and recall being in awe with the speakers and their fascinating careers. I never could have imagined that someday I would be standing on that stage alongside such intriguing speakers.

When I first walked into the conference hall I met George Buckley, Mike Zappala and Vin Malkoski, all dedicated Sea Rovers who served as phenomenal mentors and role models to me! I also met Margaret, Amy and Kim Malkoski who were so gracious and helpful throughout the entire weekend! I was introduced to the other COMS presenters including Greg Skomal, Sarah Taylor, George Buckley, Amy Giannotti, Paul Cater Deaton and Nick Caloyianis. Once the students arrived we began the presentation by asking the students how many of them had considered a career in the marine sciences. The number of hands that went up was very encouraging and we hoped that this presentation might provide them with some guidance.

The first presenter was Dr. Greg Skomal, from the Mass. Division of Fisheries, whom I grew up watching on Shark Week and the Discovery Channel. He spoke about the advanced technology that is used to tag Great White Sharks and about his work with them off the coast of Cape Cod. Greg easily connected with the students through his excellent sense of humor and sincere love for his work. He encouraged all of the students to do what they love and follow their passions.

Amy Giannotti, from the Cambrian Foundation, gave her presentation on jobs associated with fighting invasive species in Florida. She talked about the various species that are problematic in Florida such as the Burmese Python, Giant African Snail, Lionfish, etc. and what is being done to control them.

I was thrilled the see Sarah Taylor, the senior aquarist at the New England Aquarium, give her presentation as well. Sarah certified me as a diver in 2012 through the NEAQ Sea TURTLE program and I first met her at COMS when I was in high school. She spoke about her job as an aquarist at the aquarium and all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into supporting the diversity of marine life at the aquarium. She also spoke about her collection trips and the marine mammal and sea turtle rehabilitation work that NEAQ does.

Paul Cater Deaton gave his presentation on underwater cinematography and played a clip from his latest black & white piece, “Showdown at Tiger Reef”. He also gave a pertinent speech about his life growing up in rural Texas and how he got to where he is today. Nick Caloyianis spoke about his underwater photography for National Geographic and the influence that the late Dr. Eugine DeClark had on his life. He gave a presentation specifically on photographing Greenland Sharks under the ice in the arctic with Clarita Berger!

The event was a great success and at the end Vin Malkoski introduced me as the new intern and he recognized Natanya Levine as the 2014 intern. Afterwards we all went to have lunch and relax before the busy weekend ahead! At lunch I spoke with George and Sarah about the work currently going on at the Aquarium and I also had the great opportunity to speak with Val Gould, Elizabeth Hackley and Amy’s daughter Allie! After a filling lunch we parted ways to prepare for the Speakers Reception that night!

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!

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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! 😀