We're Bringing Diving Back!

November 30, 2011 | Tag(s): Amazon, Aquarium, Diving
By: Noel, Sea Otter Trainer
Who Dat Divers

Have you been lucky enough to see a diver in the water at the aquarium? Haven’t you ever wonder how we are able to keep our exhibits so sparkling clean? I know it is always one of my favorite parts of our weekly routine to get in a wetsuit and jump in the water to clean and wave at visitors. While diving is a lot of fun for the divers most of the animals don’t seem to care. Divers are mostly in the water taking care of maintenance and sanitization of different exhibits. Some are staff and some are volunteers!

Most exhibits require some sort of maintenance, between leftover food and debris to waste and algae our dive team helps to make sure our water quality is high and the guest experience is superb.

Most of our divers dive with what is called a wetsuit. What people don’t realize is that this wetsuit actually gets you wet with a layer of water that surrounds and then insulates your body. Wetsuits vary in thickness and generally the colder the water, the thicker the wetsuit.

The Amazon is our warmest exhibit with temperatures reaching the mid-80s. Typically, a diver will enter all of the exhibits once a week to clean- even the piranha exhibit! Our lead Amazon aquarist, John, writes: “The exhibit I enjoy diving the most in our Amazon Gallery is definitely the piranhas. Mostly just to see the faces of all the people who think I am about to get eaten when I jump in there. But it is also a great opportunity to show our visitors that these guys are largely misunderstood, and aren’t the vicious killers many people make them out to be.”

That is true for most exhibits. It is a similar story in the Gulf of Mexico which is home to several types of sharks!- including sand tigers, nurse, and brown sharks. Divers are more vigilant in these waters. Two divers are designated scrubbers, while two more are designated look outs. These look outs will carry a stick made of PVC in case of needed protection from sharks, Buzz the sawfish, or even Mydas the sea turtle. Often these sticks are used more to guide animals away from the divers who they didn’t have any particular real interest in anyway.

The otters and penguins exhibits are also dived for cleaning. The otters are always moved to the opposite pool while most penguins choose to leave the water while the diver works. Good thing too! The temperatures in these pools are generally kept at 60 degrees! So divers wear much thicker suits and are probably anxious to do the work and be back in warmer temperatures!

But animals are always super interested in the divers in our most dived exhibit, the Caribbean Tunnel. This exhibit is dived almost exclusively by volunteers who clean the exhibit and feed many of the animals in it.  In fact you can see divers here pretty much any day of the week!

The  Caribbean Dive Schedule:

Tuesday at 3:30pm

Wednesday at 10am

Thursday at 10am and 3:30pm

Friday at 10am and 3pm

Saturday at 10am

Sunday at 10 am and 2:30pm

You can also hear divers giving presentations! Yep! The divers talk with your about the exhibit and what it takes to keep them clean! Right now these talks are focused on the weekends but we hope to continue to expand them.

Are you a scuba diver and would like to dive with us? You can! Just contact Desiree Bell, our dive coordinator at 378-2575 or our volunteers department for more information! Special note: all of our divers need to be safe so they each complete a swim test, CPR training, a written test, and a skills portion of scuba diving so they can dive with us!

Here at the aquarium we love keeping our exhibits clean and guests smiling even with a simple wave through the window so I hope to see you in front of otters sometime soon!