We're back where we started, at the Jones Boatyard in Miami, where I just heard it from a security guard about my painted toenail.
Yesterday was 'Pack Day,' a long day of packing up the animals we've collected and sending them back to the Aquarium in Boston. It's a nerve-racking process: the fish are booked onto a specific flight, so we need to make sure they make it, but we also don't want them to be sitting in boxes for hours and hours just waiting to go. So we basically have to cut it close on purpose. It makes everybody a little nervous.
Taking a last look at the fish, and knowing that they actually came from the ocean, and weren't created in some laboratory or by an artist somewhere, it was hard not to be kind of awestruck by them, and the fact that things like them even exist - just out there, natural, going about their business. They're amazing. It makes you realize why people go to such lengths to conserve their habitats, and also to try to give other people a chance to see them.
Photo Credit: Russ Haims
Soon enough, though, it was time to get moving. Here's a basic rundown. First, we remove the fish from their wells (starting at 3:30 am):
Using a headlamp in the wee hours of the morning
Photo credit: Steve Winer
Then, we place them into specifically-sized bags which are filled with water, arranged into Styrofoam containers, and then saturated with oxygen for the trip (the coily, yellow wire leads to the oxygen "gun"):
Bagged fish go into the Styrofoam containers
Photo Credit: Steve Winer
The Styrofoam containers are then loaded into boxes:
Styrofoam containers are boxed
Photo Credit: Steve Winer
…and driven off to the airport to be sent off to Boston. It sounds simple, but requires a lot of planning and preparation to make sure that things run smoothly and that the fish aren't too stressed out by the process. All of the trip participants (again, who pay to go on this trip) were completely gung-ho and great, as always.
Yesterday, things went really well - everything was packed up on time, and the fish made it onto their flight without a hitch. We also received word that they arrived at the Aquarium last night, where Aquarium staff opened up the boxes, identified the fish, and began the process of acclimating them to their new environment. We'll see them when we head back to Boston tomorrow. (Here's a taste of what it looks like when the fish arrive at the Aquarium, courtesy last year's collecting trip!)
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Aquarium divers go on several daily dives to care for the animals in the Giant Ocean Tank (GOT) as well as lead expeditions to the Bahamas.