Senior Aquarist Paul Leonard normally spends his time at the Aquarium caring for penguins. Now, he's joining the Divers and Expeditions Blog from Eastport, Maine, where New England Aquarium scuba divers are plunging into freezing cold water and navigating extreme tidal currents in search of cold water specimens.
Some of the most amazing and beautiful scuba diving around is not where you think!
Hi! My name is Paul and I’m a senior aquarist with the New England Aquarium. I spend most of my days indoors cleaning up after and feeding the Aquarium’s penguins. It’s a really cool job that has kept me pretty busy for the last 9 years.
Paul prepares to weigh a penguin chick born at the Aquarium.
People sometimes ask if I get a chance to do any other cool things at the aquarium and the answer is always, “Yes!” I’m also an Aquarium scientific scuba diver. Being an aquarist has some amazing and extraordinary benefits. The New England Aquarium leads many different diving expeditions to some very remote and incredible locations. I’ve been lucky to travel with them to the crystal clear, warm, waters of the Bahamas to help collect specimens for the Giant Ocean Tank.
Scuba diving in the Bahamas
Crystal blue waters of the Bahamas
They’ve taken me on several other great expeditions along the East Coast over the years. The most memorable has been the Eastport, Maine, Coldwater Collection Trip. For nearly 30 years, a small team of the Aquarium’s most elite scuba divers trek up to the most northeastern region of the United States to spend a week of what some call extreme diving. They setup camp at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy with hopes of collecting unique animals to display in the Aquarium’s Northern Waters exhibits.
This is my sixth trip with this team and I would pick this trip over any other. The water is cold, emerald green, intense, and beaming with life. Before for you even think of dipping your feet in out here, you better have a dry suit, thermal undergarments, wool socks, extra lead weights, lift bags, and extra safety gear. The tidal changes here are up to 30 feet every 6 hours and all of the dives are performed the Aquarium’s dive boat, the Lophius.
The Lophius docked in Maine
Cold water scuba diving requires a lot of specialized gear.
Note the hood, gloves and puffy dry suit for cold water scuba diving
This year I wanted to share this incredible experience with you. Keep posted for some more exciting updates!
Paul is no stranger to the GOT Divers and Expeditions Blog. Catch up on his post about the Boston Sea Rovers here. Another helpful link: Learn cold water scuba diving in this previous blog post by fellow aquarist Bill Murphy.
Giant Ocean Tank Divers Blog
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2015 Spring Bahamas Expedition
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2014 Fall Bahamas Expedition
2014 Spring Bahamas Expedition
2013 Bahamas Expedition
2012 Sea TURTLE Expedition
2012 Spring Bahamas Expedition
2011 Cold Water Collecting Expedition
2011 Sea TURTLE Teen Expedition
2011 Spring Bahamas Expedition
Fall 2010 Bahamas Expedition
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2010 Sea TURTLE Teen Expedition
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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.