Monday, July 7, 2014

Waterstart Week 1

Ocean Academy’s Waterstart camps are back in action for another summer of scuba diving, underwater exploration, and all around sunshiny fun!While the summer began with a week of Rescue Diver training, this week we welcomed our first group of beginner students—all seeking their Jr. Scuba Diver certification.

The group was eager to dive in, so after the prescribed PADI instructional videos, knowledge reviews, and confined water dives at Gibbets and Whalebone, everyone made an awe-inspiring descent to 30 ft. at Hourglass Reef, where 50 ft. visibility, delicate seafans, and curious puddingwives made all the BCD review, finicky mask-clearing, and hovering practice totally worth it.

 After the dive, Saxon, 12 sat on the swim deck, smiling through the suction of her mask, and said “that was definitely the coolest thing I’ve done in my life.”

It’s one thing to know that magically beautiful and biodiverse reefs are just below the surface, but to swim through one with 10 new friends is truly a wrasse of a different color!

All the while, Waterstart alumni and current interns J.D. and Kweshon worked throughout the week with one of Waterstart’s jazzy new ROV kits. Ocean Academy is exploring ways of integrating ROV kits into local classroom curriculum, and our Waterstart summer programs make the best of test grounds.

By the end of the week, all the campers joined J.D. and Kweshon in trouble-shooting and piloting the ROV, both on the dock, and aboard Polaris. We kept asking ourselves: Is the buoyancy in check? Is the view clear? How can I fine tune my piloting? How should we care for the equipment? These little challenges take some understanding and problem solving, but they are challenges faced daily by research scientists, and are similar to the challenges faced by a beginning diver.  

By Friday, we had attached a GoPro camera to the ROV, were sending it out on the reef, using it to supplement our normal fish survey activity, and dreaming up lionfish-spearing ROV contraptions. And of course, everyone got a kick out of watching the ROV’s recording of our PADI skills practice—there’s nothing quite like seeing your friend underwater, face towards the surface, wildly blowing streams of bubbles out his nose, and then fist-bumping his proud instructor!

What a great week! With both scuba and the ROV kit, the students discovered that with some good tinkering, preparation, and skills building, it becomes fun and easy to explore the sea. Now we are all geared up for our second batch of beginner Waterstart campers… we can’t wait to see their smiling faces this morning!


The Waterstart Team

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