Fall Collecting Trip #12: Pack Day!

Today was the infamous Pack Day (read Tim's account from a previous trip) – when we prepare all of the animals that we collected for their journey to Boston. It is a delicate study in time management; the animals must be packed and ready in time for their flight, but there is a limited amount of time that they can remain in their shipping containers. This requires everyone – staff, participants, even the captains – to work as team towards this common goal.

To that end, everyone had a very specific job. Sarah had gone over our duties before we went to sleep last night, which is good because the alarm went off at 2AM and we hit the ground running. There was a team of people assembling shipping boxes, a team to put the liner bags into the boxes and then the Styrofoam crates into the bags. Another team filled the Styrofoam crates with more bags and filled those bags with water. All the while there was a team re-collecting fish, with someone placing them delicately into the water-filled bags.

Scott with assembled boxes (photo courtesy of Sam Benton)

Mariah assembling Styrofoam crates and bags (photo courtesy of Sam Benton)

Suzanne and Bill re-collecting fish (photo courtesy of Scott Bobek)

From there, the filled and fished bags are passed to a team that identified what was in the bag, saturated the water using an oxygen gun and closed the bags to be watertight for shipping. I was on a team of runners. My main job was to keep track of what was in each box, and pass that information to the team that closed the boxes for shipping and created the labels (which had to be itemized), but we also had to make sure that everyone had what they needed to do their jobs efficiently. Most of the time this meant re-loading the rubber band tool used to seal the shipping bags and loading each box with an ice pack.

Micheal and Captain John assembling boxes for shipping (photo courtesy of Sam Benton)

Organized chaos (photo courtesy of Sam Benton)

The packing table, left to right: Dave identifies fish, Sarah oxygenates and packs, Emily labeling, Jim adding ice packs and sealing shipping bags (photo courtesy of Sam Benton)

Sarah and Captain Lou oxygenate water bags using the coiled hoses (photo courtesy of Sam Benton)

We worked like a well-oiled machine! Not only was everyone super efficient and great at their specific jobs, but everyone had a great attitude for the entire 6-hour fish packing marathon!

As participants headed back to their bunks, the staff (Sarah, Dave, Bill and I) accompanied by Scott -- who volunteered to keep helping -- loaded the 56 newly packed boxes of precious cargo into a truck, drove over to the airport and unloaded them on the other side. The entire process ran as smoothly as we could have ever imagined. The fish made their flight and, I found out upon waking up later in the day, made it safely to Boston where another team was waiting to unpack and care for the newest additions to the Aquarium’s collection (read about unpacking from a previous year).

This has been an amazing experience for me – but it’s not over quite yet. We have a couple of days in the boatyard to clean and pack our gear, but then the staff is heading to the Florida Keys to visit a couple of the Aquarium’s affiliates including the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) headquarters (remember the surveys that people were filling out on a previous dive?).

More to come!

-- Emily

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