New England Aquarium: Filming in the GOT

After seeing the film crew in action yesterday in the penguin exhibit, I was itching for a chance to use my own camera in the Aquarium. The opportunity came today when I headed back to the top floor to work once again with the dive staff in the Giant Ocean Tank. Don Stark–one of the dive volunteers–has his own underwater video production company, and he was more than willing to let me shadow him for the day, offer lots of useful advice and even film me diving in the tank. Before that, though, we had the two morning feeding sessions to deal with. Myrtle was a joy, as always; she not only gulped down all of her squid, fish, and protein gel in the first feed, but a whole head of lettuce and broccoli too! One thing she didn’t like, however, was the zucchini that had been put in her feed (I can’t say I blame her…) The staff mentioned that Myrtle fluctuates between periods of fasting and feasting; last time I worked with her as a marine mammal intern, she would eat just a couple pieces of squid and a handful of brussel sprouts, nothing more; whereas currently she’s been known to eat up to 10 heads of lettuce in a single day!
During the second feed I dealt again with the ‘cuda, needlefish, and porcupinefish, and helped set out the herring that were to be fed to the sharks. Feeding the sharks is quite an delicate task for the divers; while the two species in the tank are both non-aggressive and would never attack anyone in the tank if unprovoked, the divers must attach the sharks’ food to long poles so that no one’s hands are mistakenly crunched. Overall, the sharks are very well behaved, mostly due to how well they are fed (twice a day, whereas in the wild they might eat once a week at the most,) but each diver has their own tale of a close encounter; One story was told to me where all three sand tiger sharks decided to simultaneously go after the same fish, resulting in some spectacular underwater acrobatics by the diver to avoid being bowled over by a combined 900+ lbs of fast-moving chondrichthyes.
After lunch I suited up for the 1:15 maintenance dive, making sure my camera was properly set up and sealed in its housing. The dive was as excellent as my first in the tank–I don’t think I could ever get bored of the opportunity to swim just inches away from sharks, rays, moray eels, turtles, and much, much more, all gliding fearlessly by without a care. One of the more interesting things I had the opportunity to do on this dive was to clean out the gills of some of the hogfish and triggerfish on exhibit. Don taught me how to do this by feeding handfuls of sand into one of the four inflow vents in the tank; the fish soon clustered around the resulting plume of sand with mouths wide open, ingesting the grains and passing them along their gills to clean out any unwanted detritus. All in all, I got some excellent footage in the GOT, and am excited for tomorrow, when I’ll have the opportunity to film in the penguin exhibit as well!