Diving in the Giant Ocean Tank
It’s the best Caribbean diving in Boston! We hold a monthly member raffle to dive in the New England Aquarium’s Giant Ocean tank. Come to our General Meetings and Speaker Series on the third Wednesday each month at the New England Aquarium to enter our raffle to dive in the Aquarium’s Giant Ocean Tank. Bring your membership card so we can collect it and draw the winner from a hat.
We hope you get a chance to dive this incredible 200,000 gallon tank with over 600 animals representing over 125 different Caribbean species! It’s a unique opportunity only available to members of our club. Good luck!
Rules for the winners:
Here are some pictures and comments from previous member winners!
Val Feehan's May 2006 Dive
The water was a warm 75 degrees and the visibility was absolutely fantastic! It was, in fact, the best visibility I’ve ever seen on a dive. I hung in the water column, feeling the slight current and observing in sheer wonder the amount of marine life encircling me. There were so many types of fish I hardly knew what to watch at any given moment. I swam forward and around the reef, making a slow journey through the fish as they swam towards me. I giggled a little when a few of the fish were nearly eye to eye with me; they were so close to my face mask. As I rounded a corner, I glimpsed the slow, methodic movement of what was surely a large sand tiger shark heading directly towards me. My heart skipped a few beats as I moved carefully out of its way, making sure I gave it a wide berth and no reason to pay any attention to me. But as it slowly passed me, I watch its eye looking at me, sizing me up. Keep going, I thought. Just keepgoing.
The day started with my alarm going off at 6AM and my husband telling me “get up, it’s the big day!” I was really thrilled about this day’s dive. I hadn’t allowed myself to give it too much thought—I was a little nervous, and I was trying not to get overly excited. I had prepped my gear the night before, so I knew I’d be in good shape this morning. We arrived at the dive site a 9AM, and were greeted by one of the local divers, Chris. He took us to where our friend, Trish, was waiting and sipping on a large cup of Starbuck’s coffee. She greeted us with a “hey you guys!”, followed by a “boy, you two really look like morning people, you look all ready to go”. Was my excitement showing that much? Geez, I was really trying to be calm. Anyway, after a short briefing about the dive site, the marine animals we’d see, and what the dive in general would be like, Trish and I geared up and made our way down to the platform, where we’d take a giant stride into the Giant Ocean Tank.
Diving in the GOT is an unbelievable experience. We swam all around the tank, from top to bottom, and took coral swim throughs into areas of the tank you just won’t see standing from the outside looking in. The fish were curious and very friendly, getting close enough you could have touched them. Myrtle, the 600+ lb. loggerhead turtle, kept us company most of the time, asking for a back scratching now and then, which we obliged first with our hands and then later by gently scrubbing her shell with gravel from the bottom. She loved it. The nurse shark and rays allowed us to approach very close, something you’dnever be able to do in the wild. We played cleaning station with the fish, taking gravel and gently tossing it into the current in front of the saltwater intakes, which caused the gravel to blow out into the water. The fish gathered to take their turns letting the gravel softly caress down their skin and scales, probably cleaning them in the process. Trish was right, you could spend hours just doing that, it was so fascinating to watch the fish. As we swam around the tank, I watched the various moray eels taking us in from their coral outcroppings and the smaller fish dart out from their holes to check us out then dart back to safety once they were sighted.
About mid-way up the coral, we spotted a small yellow or white moray eel being guarded by a damselfish. It’s a funny thing; these little damselfish are just as territorial in the GOT as they are in the open ocean. I tried several times to get close enough to the small moray to take a photo, but each time I got close and put the camera up to take a picture, the pesky damselfish came around and nipped me on the back of my hand. It didn’t exactly hurt, but it got my attention and ruined a few potentially good shots. After a few more tries to get the photo I just gave up, wagging my finger accusingly at the damselfish as it proudly continued its patrol of the coral outcropping. It had successfully protected its territory, and as I swam off it gave one more dart towards me as final gesture of showingme who’s the boss.
I lay face down in a small cove of coral, once again playing cleaning station with some large, gray angelfish. I marveled at how much fun I was having and how I could never do this in an open water dive. I was ever aware that time for this dive was growing short, and I was feeling a twinge of disappointment. I paused to watch the gray angelfish wait for me to scoop up more gravel and suddenly felt a strong nudge on the back of my leg. I could not immediatelyturn in the direction of thenudge, and I remember thinking briefly “was that a shark?” But before I could move myself in a position to turn around and see what was behind me, up from underneath me swam the smaller loggerhead turtle! It positioneditself right across my path and glanced at me as it settled down on the bottom, pushing the angelfish out of its way. I guess it was my clue to start rubbing the gravel on its back, which I willingly did, much to the chagrin of the gray angelfish. As I rubbed the turtle, the angelfish continued to swim nearby, patiently waiting and hoping I’d eventually resume my play with them. They watched me scoop up the gravel and gently rub it on the turtle’s back, all of us watching the turtle lay there and look content. I spent about 5 or 6 minutes doing this, knowing thatI was now down to 500 psi and it was time to go, but somehow wishing this dive could go on forever. I stopped briefly to take a close up photo of my turtle friend, gave ita few more back rubs with gravel, then said goodbye. I slowly made my way to the surface of the tank, again taking time to look all around me one last time to marvel at what a spectacular dive I’d just had in this truly wonderful underwater world.
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