Today is Thursday, August 24, 2017

Visiting the National Aquarium

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How many of us have watched our grandchildren perform on a public stage? Sometimes it has been on the ballfield or maybe in a theater production. This time on my recent trip to Baltimore I would get to see my now grown grandson, Kerry, perform in a public arena that he had dreamed about since his sixth birthday. When he was just a young whippersnapper, Kerry made a visit to the national aquarium in Baltimore Harbor at a time when the scuba divers were in the tank feeding the fish. He said that since that time he had always wanted to be able to do the same thing.

We had actually come to Baltimore for a wedding, which was quite a production in and of itself - the wedding of Andrew, the 24-year-old and second in line. But as an added treat this time we would get to see Kerry, now 26 years old, use his scuba skills. He had become certified in scuba a couple of years ago but for his training in the aquarium he had to go through all of the steps again. This required swimming 300 yard, being able to take his gear off underwater and put it all back on, breath-holding for a prolonged time, etc. There was an opening for volunteer diving at the aquarium, and he applied for the job. We were there to witness his first excursion into the water to feed the fish.

Since he was a beginner at the task, he was not forced into the enclosure with the sharks. His was a reef environment with the biggest critter being a 30-pound tarpon. There were also other strange things in the tank, such as the Porcupine Puffer fish and the Cow-nosed stingray. Even though the area was only 15 feet deep, there was some risk in swimming through the convoluted irregular rock structures. The narrow openings and gaps in the artificial reef that he needed to go through formed spots in which he could have become entangled. I watched with some anticipation as he skillfully navigated the openings, squeezing his compressed air tank and bouncy balancing backpack through the holes. All seemed to be going well, and the fish were really liking him, following him around for his handouts.

Other divers were there as well doing the same job and serving as a backup for anyone with problems. After the fish feeding, they scrubbed the underwater structures with brushes to revive the color of the artificial coral. It was interesting to see the fish as well, some of the same species I had seen on snorkeling trips in the Bahamas and in Tahiti. Kerry would make two dives that day, each lasting an hour, and planned to do this every other Monday through the season. I secretly hoped that this might lead to employment in marine biology, something that he's really good at.

It was really great to get to be with the family and catch up on many happenings. I hope it's a while, but my next trip to Baltimore may be for another wedding. I still have two grandchildren there to go.

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