I’m Amy Vinglish, who teaches English, and I’m a Teacher Under the Sea! I am from small town Ebensburg, Pennsylvania, and I’ve been teaching at Altoona Area High School for 15 years. Currently, I teach creative writing to students from grades 10-12 and English to 11th graders. I’m also a PADI-certified Divemaster with an absolute obsession with diving. When I found out about the TUS program, I knew I just had to apply, and when I got selected, I cried.
This truly is an opportunity of a lifetime for the 5 of us teachers involved in the program. We only knew each other as little icons on video conferences, but now we’re living and working together. When we arrived at the house, I said it felt like a reality TV show, and so far, it’s been a lot of fun getting to know the teachers, the scientists, the Aquarius staff, and the program coordinators.
Today, we had our first “work” day. We met at the shore base at 7:45 AM for a briefing with the whole team. We learned a little more about the mission, saw a schematic of the layout of the transducer that will call in the sharks and the tiles we’ll be placing and monitoring. We also got all of the do’s and don’t’s of the base and the boats.
They gave us gear, and we loaded the boat. The plan was to head out to the shallow reef Hens and Chickens to complete a checkout dive, which included mask removal/replacement/clearing, out of air/alternate air source, and reg recovery plus a swim around to make sure we are skilled divers. Captain “Otter” took us to the site, and we had about 2-3′ seas, which wasn’t bad, but visibility was terrible. Otto, who was evaluating us, and Ivana, who was leading the dive, went in to try to find a sand patch for us. It was difficult because visibility was only about 5′. They took us down in 2 separate groups- Hillary and Martha went first. I was in a group with Andrea and Melissa. Though viz was absolutely horrendous, everyone did well with skills and staying together. Despite the viz, I was able to see some fish as I swam over some coral heads.
We are all SOOOO excited to get in the water and start working, and we are dying to get our first look at Aquarius, which should happen tomorrow. We are thrilled to be doing the virtual field trips with schools this week, and I can’t wait to do mine with my school! The live cams are up and running, so tune in to watch! https://aquarius.fiu.edu/