Scuba divers of Blue Planet Aquarium
If you’re like me, you may be curious about what Scuba Divers in a place like Blue Planet Aquarium actually get up to. Being in the fortunate position of already working in the aquarium, I asked if I could help the dive team for a day. In this post, I’ll share what I learned throughout the day.
I followed Sophie, one of our divers who was “Dive Supervisor” for the day. This means she was the person responsible for that day’s diver activities, records, and diver safety. Being a diver at Blue Planet is quite a varied job and doesn’t always mean being in the water, the Dive Supervisor is responsible for the days out of water tasks.
First things first
Our day started in the Food prep area of the aquarium. Whilst the other divers got into their wet suits, we prepared some tasty treats for the fish! This is where accurate record-keeping starts to become important. Preparing the correct weight of food for each of the fish being fed that day. Then recording it. This ensures the food is kept balanced and interesting. It also makes sure the fish are receiving the correct amount. Then prepare the feed for some of the smaller fish, which are fed all at once in a “scatter feed”.
Feeding the fish
Once the food is prepared we make a note of what each animal is being fed. Sophie relayed this to the SCUBA divers. Which makes them aware of what each fish has to eat that day. So that we can figure out how much each fish has eaten. Entering this into the notes for the day, so we can keep an eye on eating behaviours. We also keep an eye out for animal behaviour that may be out of the ordinary. What quickly became clear to me was the diver’s connections to the different animals within the aquarium. They do get to know their personalities.
SCUBA divers’ gear
In addition to wet suits, the SCUBA divers wear a Buoyancy Control Device (BCD). Which is a harness style vest, that they can inflate with air from their cylinders when they need to ascend. Attached to their BCD is their main cylinder, filled with compressed air and a smaller yellow cylinder called a Pony. The Pony is to be used in emergencies when the diver or one of their dive partners needs air.
Attached to their tanks are the regulators, which control the airflow whilst breathing underwater. These are sometimes part of a full facemask or standalone and paired with a half facemask, depending on the diver’s preference. The dive supervisor will make a log of the gear each diver is using and the air pressure currently in their cylinders. Next, if they’re feeding, come the gloves. First, is a white cotton glove for comfort next is a chainmail one for protection and on top goes an elasticated glove with a coating for grip. This protects the diver’s hands from the Stingrays and Sharks’ mouths, whilst making sure they can keep their grip on the feed.
SCUBA Divers in our shows. They’re more than just cool to watch.
Once in the water, the divers head over to the Aquatheatre. Where they do the first dive show of the day. There are always at least two SCUBA divers. One doing the feeding and one safety diver. They keep an eye out for any drifting Sand Tiger Sharks that are coming close. It’s the shark’s home and the divers need to move out of the way. As visitors take their seats on the dry side of the massive acrylic window, the divers already know which Stingrays to feed and how much they’re supposed to eat that day. Although the show can look hectic, when the divers resurface after it, they’re able to tell us exactly which Rays have eaten by their names.
Time to feed some sharks
Part of the Dive Supervisor role that day was to feed the Blacktip Reef Sharks, which was a highlight of the day for me as I got to do it! First, I attached the feed to a target. I lowered this into the water for the sharks to eat. Watching them swim up and grab the food was fun. As one of our SCUBA divers said, it feels a bit like reverse fishing!
The SCUBA divers daily jobs
As the divers of Blue Planet, the team are responsible for a lot of the upkeep of the aquarium’s exhibits. As well as feeding they also clean. They scrub algae from the inside of the glass and the walls. Even vacuum the floor of the exhibits to remove fish waste. All whilst respecting the animals of the exhibit, it’s important to remember the animals always have right of way! They’ll also maintain their diving equipment, refill air tanks, scrub salt from the fittings around our exhibits and train and escort divers on Blue Planet’s Shark Diving Experiences.
End of the day
At the end of the day the divers, will change, clean off and head home. The Dive supervisor will make any final notes on anything that happened that day, feeding habits, animal behaviours, equipment irregularities, and tasks completed. Lastly, clean up the containers for the animal’s food. When they’re done, it’s time to head home! It was a highly enjoyable day and a privilege to work with the dedicated people of the Blue Planet dive team and to work first-hand with the amazing animals that call the Aquarium home.