Friday, July 15, 2011

Through the Eyes of an Intern

The Dive Operations department takes on a couple of interns for three to four month periods.  Working in this department as an intern requires plenty of hard work and dedication. However, the internship itself is very rewarding.   The following was written by one of Dive Operation's current interns, Sophie Gaze:

Photo by James Drobny
 Most people hear the word “internship” and might picture a frazzled college student running around an office organizing papers and making coffee for the boss. Well my bosses are highly qualified dive professionals who operate with such a high level of technical expertise the demands they make on their interns go way beyond unexciting tasks like making coffee. Therefore, as a Dive Operations Intern at Georgia Aquarium my responsibilities are a bit different than an average “internship.”


  On day one we were trained to operate the compressor, which is a powerful machine that takes in the surrounding air, condenses it to a higher pressure and purifies it so that all the tanks used in dive operations throughout the aquarium are filled with clean, safe air. Although filling countless tanks throughout the day can become monotonous, in my opinion it’s still more exciting than sitting at a desk answering a telephone and not moving around. Diving internships at the Georgia Aquarium are all action. Not to mention that the compressor is located in the same room that the maintenance staff performs services on the BC’s, regulators, and other dive-related equipment. There is a lot to learn if you pay attention!

After passing our swim test the next thing was the Orientation Dive in the extraordinary Ocean Voyager tank containing whale sharks, manta rays, sand tigers, guitar sharks, sawfish, sandbar sharks, zebra sharks, black tipped reef sharks, giant groupers, and various other rays and fish. An internship where in week two I get to dive with this beautiful and varied sea-life? Count me in!

There is much more to dive operations than simply doing fun dives with rare and awesome creatures from the deep, however. As an intern you learn quickly that there is some serious level of highly technical work to be done to ensure that the aquarium is well maintained and the sea life looked after.

Did you ever have a goldfish in a bowl when you were a kid? I would venture to guess that the worst part about having that fish was probably every week when you had to clean the tank. Well, Georgia Aquarium is not your average fish bowl seeing that it holds just over ten million gallons of fresh and salt water - that’s a lot of tanks to clean! Cleaning the tanks in the world’s largest aquarium is a lot more fun and complex than changing the water in a goldfish bowl.

Photo by James Drobny
The Dive Operations staff, interns, and dedicated volunteers all pitch in throughout the six galleries to help with the tank maintenance. To clean underwater we use all the same tools as you would on land: vacuums, scrubbing brushes, cleaning rags, etc. They are more specialized for the environment we are working in. We use pool scrubs and vacuums with underwater hydraulic technology to clean algae and animal debris off the rocks, walls, and floors of the exhibits. It sounds easy until you’re 20 feet underwater with a high pressure-scrubbing tool in your hands that seems to have a mind of its own. Then the process seems a bit more complicated.

Another cleaning task is the windows. Without squeaky-clean windows, the guests would not be able to fully enjoy the colorful view of the vast window into the various aquariums. Teams of divers tackle this task by wiping down each window – including the one in the ocean voyager gallery that is the world’s second largest viewing window at 23 feet tall and 61 feet wide.

All right, so we have some less action-packed responsibilities such as sweeping the dive locker and organizing dive gear, but overall I can’t help but feel as though I’m bragging when I introduce myself as one of the dive operations interns at Georgia Aquarium.

3 comments:

  1. So awesome!! Such a unique opportunity and great learning experience! I'd love to be an intern there!

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  2. Go to the Georgia Aquarium website to apply for an internship. They are accepting applications for September-December session.

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  3. Coffee is important, an army marches on it's stomach:-)

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