New England Aquarium Overseer Jim Andrew was a guest diver in the Giant Ocean Tank (GOT) on April 11. On that same day, his son Brooks celebrated his 8th birthday at the Aquarium with a special behind-the-scenes tour for his friends and two brothers. Enjoy their post.
Jim and Brooks
Brooks - First of all it was really fun! I got to see my dad go SCUBA diving with the big sharks and eels. It was really exciting to see the sharks collide, and then they swam right past my dad's head when he wasn't looking!
Jim - Let me start by saying that the dive far surpassed the most optimistic expectations I could imagine. Here is how it went down for me.
Frankly I was a little apprehensive about diving in the GOT. It had been almost 10 years since my last SCUBA dive and the idea of jumping into a tank full of BIG animals, with teeth no less, caused some anxiety. Thanks to help from Dan and the other Aquarium staff and volunteer divers the reality could not have been more different, or the overall effect more powerful.
Brooks - All my friends loved the behind the scenes tour with Jessica (above). We got to see a 21 pound lobster and an octopus that was so strong they covered it with a 50-pound cage so it wouldn't escape and eat all the fish. I didn't know there were venomous fish in the world but I was glad they were in a tank backstage and not in the big tank with my dad.
Jim - The first surprise was how much space there was in the tank. The big central reef is honeycombed with passages and open spaces where the fish (and I) could hide. The next big surprise was finding that the big fish were docile and the smallest fish, especially the nesting trigger fish were aggressive if I got in their way.
The animals were very approachable. In particular the big moray eels seemed to enjoy being petted (above). They felt impossibly soft and smooth. Myrtle the giant green sea turtle especially liked having her shell rubbed with sand from the bottom of the tank. The smaller turtles shied away.
That bottom sand held another surprise. It is full of shark teeth that these magnificent animals shed frequently. Dan helped me find 3 teeth that I slipped into my wet suit for my 3 boys.
Brooks - After dad's dive my friends and I went to the top of the tank, I got out on the platform over the open water of the giant tank and fed Myrtle some fish. She was really big but very gentle and friendly. My dad met me on the platform to watch me feed her (above). Then he reached into the wrist of his dive suit and took out a shark's tooth just for me. This was the best birthday ever. All my friends agreed.
Jim - There was something very powerful about being in such close proximity to these large, magnificent animals. All I can say is the experience made me even more convinced about the mission of the New England Aquarium, to preserve the oceans for these incredible creatures and for us.
-Jim and Brooks
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