On Saturday I completed my first volunteer dive at the Georgia Aquarium in the Beluga Tank! Beluga Whales are cold water mammals, so this tank at the aquarium is kept at about 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Today, the tank was at 59 degrees. Brrrrr, that sounded really cold. I’m not yet dry suit certified, nor do they actually have dry suits for us, so I figured I would probably freeze and be giving the “I’m cold” sign at some point during my dive.
As it was my first dive in this tank, I had a lot of questions to ask. Every tank does things a little bit differently and has equipment in a few different places. Luckily, I was informed that on my first dive in every tank I should go ahead and inform anybody and everybody that it is my first dive and ask a lot of questions. It’s not that people aren’t willing to help, it’s just that they think you know what you’re doing and where you’re going unless you ask. Everybody was very nice, and very helpful, and pointed me in all of the right directions to get my equipment and get all set up.
The tanks of air had already been brought over from Ocean Voyager (OV). I went and fitted myself for a BCD, wetsuit, boots, gloves, a hood, and grabbed some weights. I set all of my gear up, changed, and was ready to go. Today, I would be vacuuming.
The interesting thing about all of this is that it is a lot like the process of a water change in your home aquarium tank. This is a mammal only tank with no sessile invertebrates and all of the decorations are fake rock-work. We had 3 divers, and one would be using a scrubbing machine to get some of the algae and grime off of the rock-work, one diver would be doing some scrubbing by hand and wiping the acrylic viewing windows with a soft rag, and I would be vacuuming. Vacuuming is much like siphoning out the water during a water change in a home aquarium except for the fact that the tank is so huge that you need to be physically in the tank to get the job done. We had people on the surface that got the vacuum started, much like starting a siphon, and then I spent 40 minutes underwater with the large vacuum hose suctioning out all of the dirt, grime, and waste from the beluga whales and harbor seals.
Surprisingly, I was not really cold at all during this dive. A full 7mm wetsuit is provided, along with a hood, and boots. I also wear a rash guard underneath. It was great to be able to comfortably throw a tank on, jump in, and help take care of the belugas and harbor seals!
Max depth: 23 feet.
Bottom time: 40 minutes.
PSI Start: 3100
PSI end: 1600
Temperature: 59 degrees Fahrenheit