nycmermaid: (scubagirl)
[personal profile] nycmermaid
Today I officially started as a member of the NY Aquarium Dive Team. I wanted to write down some notes but I am not in so good a mood now as I was when I first got home. So it may have a less excited tone that it could...but it was cool, it really was.

I started today very early. Was out of the house by 5:45. Stopped at Dunkin Donuts and then took the subway to Coney Island. I got to the aquarium just in time -- 7:30. Was almost late because I didn't realize the Q doesn't go to Queens on weekends. (There's a lesson not to second-guess Hopstop.) The weather was wet and rainy and gray, but not as cold as it has been the past few days. I had my raincoat and wellies so no problems there. I also had a big bag of stuff with me, including 20 pounds of lead shot purchased yesterday, as the aquarium supplies tanks but not weights. Thank goodness for my wheely duffle.

I met the volunteer coordinator, filled out many forms, and then met the Sunday A dive team. There wasn't much time for socializing but they seem nice. I have a mentor named Jesse. She's been with the dive team for 3 years and I'm told she's very knowledgeable about the animals, which is cool. She was very helpful showing me the ropes.

After suiting up -- no easy task, let me tell you putting on a 7-mL wetsuit is a workout by itself, and THEN I get to put on a 20-lb weight belt, and then 10 more pounds in my buoyancy compensator because at the aquarium you need a lot of weight -- we went to get tanks. I then had to carry all my stuff, including 30-lb tank, to the back of the sea cliffs exhibit. Oof. I got all my gear on and entered the penguin exhibit. That was was my favorite part of the whole day, walking into that exhibit and thinking, wow, not only are they letting me go in here, they're letting me swim around! First order of business was a dive test. It had a lot of the same basic requirements that certification has -- remove and replace mask, remove and replace belt, r&r BC. I was nervous since I haven't had to do a lot of those things in over a year. The water was cold, but not terrible (56 degrees F, I think they said). I got through the swim-around buoyancy check okay, but when it came time to remove my mask, I had a really hard time clearing it and Dick had to help me. It was embarrassing since clearing my mask is something I do all the time while diving (though true, I don't usually take it all the way off). I think part of the problem was that my hood was getting in the way of the face seal. Eventually I got it though. Then it was time to take off my weight belt. That was not easy either, but with help I got that back on too. We figured out later that the buckle was on backwards and that was why I had had trouble -- a good thing to find out in a controlled environment and not an open water dive. So despite some foibles, I passed, and was officially accepted as a member of the dive team. :)

I would be amiss, of course, to not mention the wonderful animals that are in this exhibit. The first thing I saw was a huge sturgeon, and then a cluster of drum, another huge, fat fish. I'm talking about 4 feet long. There was also a school of smaller silver fish, I didn't find out what kind. And of course there were penguins, black-footed penguins, about a foot high. They pretty much stayed away from us. I couldn't stop thinking, "I'm swimming with penguins!" How many divers can say that? But really the big drum were my favorite.

Then it was time to get to work -- after all, that is what the dive team is all about! I was shown how to scrape and scrub the inside of the viewing windows. Not a very satisfying task as I couldn't really see dirt on the windows, or at least the scraper didn't seem to make much of a difference. We hold on to these little suction cup thingees and then scrape, up and down. Then wipe with the scrubby towel, in a circle like Daniel-san. Paint the fence, sand the floor -- dive team is a secret karate training camp. I followed Jesse around and tried to follow her instructions. Next we got scrub brushes and got to work on the rocks in the exhibit. The tank is filled with algae and other mucky things that come in directly from the ocean. The algae on the rocks is red, purple, and green. The red stuff was very satisfying to scrub because it was on thick and I could see how much better the rocks looked afterwards. I enjoy being given a task and being left alone to complete it, it's how I seem to work best. Jesse told me to ditch all my BC air, make myself as negatively buoyant as possible, wedge myself in with my feet and scrub those rocks as hard as I can. And I did. And it was hard work! But it kept me from getting cold despite being in the water for 1 hour and 16 minutes. (Incidentally, the divers often go 2 or more hours cleaning a tank.)

The hardest part of scuba diving to me is all the setup and breakdown involved of the equipment. Usually the actual diving is quite relaxing. But in this case, it's work followed by work and then more work. I left the aquarium at about 12:30, sore and tired, but I feel like I accomplished something. I was a little disappointed that everyone cut out right after they were done cleaning up. I guess I thought we'd hang out or something. But the short day was also appreciated. Everyone must usually be way too tired to hang out if they don't have to. In the summer we'll be walking around as regular docents, interacting with the public after we're done cleaning. I look forward to that, and learning about the different fish.

Date: 2010-12-12 10:06 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cynima.livejournal.com
It is really awesome that you are finally doing this after thinking about it and talking about it for so long!

And it sounds like quite a physical workout, as well, so no need to feel guilty about canceling your gym membership :)

Date: 2010-12-12 10:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] osito71.livejournal.com
Don't ever think you're not cool, because that's damn cool.

Date: 2010-12-12 11:50 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] abitunlikely.livejournal.com
What [livejournal.com profile] osito71 said. That's hella cool.

Date: 2010-12-13 02:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eithnenicole.livejournal.com
that is awesome MD :)

Date: 2010-12-14 02:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fitfool.livejournal.com
That's so cool that I feel like coolness points rubbed off on ME because I can say I know (ok, internet-know) someone who gets to swim with the penguins at the aquarium! Do they have a volunteer coordinator? Maybe suggest a monthly or quarterly get-together for the divers?

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