Sunday, April 20, 2008

Jenkenson's Aquarium Seal Tank Dive...


On Saturday, April 19, 2008, the dive team went to Jenkenson's Aquarium in Pt Pleasant to do a table display and dive as part of the Earth Day Celebration. Earth Day is on Tuesday this year, but Saturday brings out the best crowds. The purpose of today's program was to explain to aquarium visitors about local underwater environment and diving. Chet, Flo, Sue, Doug, and Tom G were there to do the program and to dive in the seal tank. Jenkenson's asked the team to put on the program for the past several years, and the seal dive has been added for everyone's pleasure including the seals and the team. Visitors apparently loved the show, the divers loved doing it, and the seals have been adapting and apparently enjoy the divers coming into their pool. The aquarium staff was at first a bit worried that the divers would interfere with the seals adapting to humans. It appears that the seals have adapted well.

The dive part of the program is for two divers to enter the pool by way of a controlled seated entry so the seals are protected. The divers then put on a choreographed show of skills for the aquarium visitors. One member of the team is outside the tank and with hand signals directs one of the divers to perform simple skills like mask clear and such. The other diver video records the scene of the diver, the audience, and the seals. An unexpected part of the show occurred when the camera stopped recording and Chet had to instruct Tom how to turn it back on from outside the tank. The viewing audience got to see first hand how diver communication can be a problem since voice cues don't go through the glass and into the tank. It was an unplanned but funny part of the show. Everyone enjoyed it.

The seals have been carefully approaching the divers and kissing their heads. Chet was accused of flirting with a seal. When seals contact the diver's neoprene hood, it is a very light touch. The dive buddy watching gets a better view of the seal activity. Divers wear wet suits, hoods, gloves. and booties in the 60 degree water. The dives have lasted about 20 minutes. Sue and Chet dove in the morning and Tom and Flo dove in the afternoon.

The table display included a diver replica including all of the dive gear. Found bottles and shells were displayed as well as photos of the First Aid Squad and dive team. Team members took the time to explain as much as visitors wanted to learn about local diving and the purpose of the squad and team. Lots of children as well as adults enjoyed the show and display. The team accomplished the educational part of it's list of goals with today's Earth Day Program at Jenkenson's Aquarium. Ocean Conservation Day is in June and the team plans to return for another program on June 7.

Report from Tom Gormley

Pt. Pleasant Dive Team Member...