Not all diving is warm water diving

Tropical breezes. Warm waters teeming with life. The fantastic turquoise-blue ocean color. During the winter doldrums, it's not difficult to imagine warmer places. This is particularly true for our SEA TURTLEs as our trip to the Bahamas draws closer and closer.

However, not all scuba diving is done in warm tropical waters. Though it can be bone chilling cold, there is some fantastic diving here in New England. Bill Murphy, our latest guest speaker, described diving in the Northeast and what it's like to collect some animals for our cold water exhibits.

Bill presenting to the class

Bill definitely knows something about cold water. He is the aquarist for our Northern Waters Gallery where the exhibits focus on habitats in the Pacific Northwest as well as here in New England.

He discussed what it's like to collect animals in Eastport, Maine. Nutrient rich waters and big tidal currents allow for lots of of marine life to flourish there, and thus it is a favorite site for our aquarists to find exhibit animals. The animals are collected, brought on board the boat and then kept in floating pens until they are shipped back to Boston.

Floating pens used to hold animals before transport back to Boston

Lots of types of animals are brought back, according to Bill. Things like stalked tunicates, sea stars and hermit crabs are always common finds. (You can see sea stars and hermit crabs at the Aquarium's Edge of the Sea Touch Tank!) The aquarists even find lumpfish - green bumpy fish with a suction cup on their chin that are a favorite of visitors and volunteers alike.

Little lumpfish stuck on a fingertip

As with all scuba diving, cold water diving in Eastport takes a lot of planning. There are lots of safety precautions taken because of the large tidal flow and currents that are typical in this area. Sticking to a schedule, staying with your buddy, keeping warm and hydrated are all important good safe diving techniques that Bill described and that our SEA TURTLEs have been learning over the past weeks.

Aquarium divers get suited up for cold water

One of the favorite parts of the night was the "show and tell" portion. Bill brought a dry suit and described how they differ from the wetsuits that our team will be wearing in the Bahamas. Dry suits are designed to keep the water out (the dry part), and with a warm-layer suit underneath you can stand to be in the cold waters. Our TURTLEs enjoyed checking it out and measuring themselves up against the suit. Granted, Bill is well over 6 feet tall, so it wasn't quite fair!

Oriana measures up to Bill's dry suit

Overall it was another great night featuring another great lecture. Bill was able to introduce the TURTLEs to cold water diving and how we collect animals. He also had the best quote of the night when he said, "Each place you dive has a unique feel. The more you dive, the more you will love it. But most of all, it is important to have fun!"

As a lot of the teens have said they can't wait for the next part of this crazy adventure. Another great class session down and another step closer to those warm tropical breezes and blue turquoise waters.

- Jo

PS: Last year, Bill was featured in a guest post on the Giant Ocean Tank Blog about the Aquarium's crafty octopus. Check out that entry here!

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