11.9.15 Day 2: Aquarius Teacher Under the Sea – Andrea

Today began with a great lesson in patience and seeing first hand how scientists adjust to variables out of their control. The TUS arrived for our morning briefing at 7 am, loaded the boat with our tanks and gear and headed out around 8 am. We didn’t get very far as we experienced engine trouble. It was amazing seeing the scientist crew spring in to action as the went in to problem solving mode. Needless to say, we were delayed about an hour as we returned to Shore Base and had the engine repaired.

Our original plan was to dive at 8:30 am, 11:30 am and 4 pm. We were able to keep our Virtual Field Trip (VFT) tours via Skype with all of the schools. Hillary and I were able to share our tours. Because of the delay, we weren’t able to dive right away. We were still diving with no decompression plans and if we dived and right away, we would not have been able to the do the VFT’s. Instead, Hillary and I stayed top side, snorkeled a bit and chatted with crew while the scientists and teachers worked on the mission and/or led a VFT.

Once the dive group returned and began their surface interval, Hillary and I were able to dive to the Aquarius Lab. Hank and Tom were the scientists who escorted us to the lab. I must say that I was beyond excited about doing this particular dive and leading the VFT. Actually, excited doesn’t really sum up what I was feeling. Extremely eager and nervous? I knew I had prepared and have trained for this experience, but not knowing what to really expect is a bit unsettling and exciting.

We dived down to the lab which is approximately 60 ft deep. Swam to the entrance/wet porch where we removed our gear. Once that was done, we quickly showered to rinse the salt off ourselves, dried off and put on our dry clothes sent down earlier in the dry pots (these pots are sealed and keep items dry during transport). We entered the galley and reviewed our schedule for the VFTs. My school was at 1:30 pm. We connected with school via Skpe and initially had trouble hearing, so we restarted the call and were able to complete the VFT. I was impressed with the students as they were prepared with thoughtful questions about our mission and our experience being in the Aquarius Lab. Hillary completed her VFT. During her tour we saw five spotted eagle rays and almost lost our minds! They were beautiful! (We were able to see them again as we snorkeled again later on in the day). We didn’t see any sharks today, but I am hopeful we will see some soon!

We had a few minutes left to in the Lab so I called my mom. She didn’t answer so I left a message. She called back. Hank answered the phone and it was mom calling me back! That was pretty cool and quite funny as I think it caught him off guard receiving that call from my mom!

While we are Skyping, the cameras throughout the lab are sending live feed so folks can see what’s going on in the lab. Hillary called her dad and he was able to talk with her and see her.

One cool note, Buzz Aldrin signed his name on a wall in the galley! I did take a picture and plan to share it soon.

Once we were done in the lab, we geared up and dived around the lab. We saw the spotted eagle rays again, a huge southern sting ray and a lot of large barracuda. This day marks one of my best days ever! I can’t wait to go back into the lab tomorrow!

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