Ask ten people why they love BTS and you will get twenty, thirty or forty answers! BTS is scheduled after the Long Island Divers Association Film Festival and the Boston Sea Rovers, consequently we divers are now maximally pumped, primed, stoked and ready for action – which intensifies the anticipation for Beneath The Sea!
Article and photos by Gary Lehman
We walk into BTS full of ideas of what we are going to see, do and accomplish…
- We are going to rub shoulders with stars in the constellation of characters and titans of diving!
- Enjoy the Fish’n’Famous and Tech Wreck parties, the Diver of the Year Banquet, and the Film Festival!
- We will admire the sea life posters (this year all those magical manatees!) created by children
- Support the Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital, and knowing that the love of the marine environment is taking hold amongst those children who are being cured of their medical problems
- Advance the sport via Marine Careers, and protect our marine environment thru Ocean Pals
- We are going to attend intensive educational workshops, and skill-build for the new diving year
- We will attend some fascinating lectures on all those subjects most near and dear to our diving lives, presented by subject matter experts who are passionate about their field — and equally passionate about sharing their knowledge and know-how
- And all the new gear that we are going to check out, and blow through our slush funds (so our spouses don’t know what we spent)
- We are excited about seeing all our friends again sharing what we love together
- We are going to tell everyone about our great Club, and how we have fun and great diving
- We are going to check out those exotic warm blue water dive destinations – and the frozen ones – and, the ones right here in the northeast and mid-Atlantic!
- We are going to swing by our favorite scuba gear vendors and check out what is new
- And… we are going to have some serious decompression time with friends from diving and new friends whom we have just made
But there’s more too… Every person from The Scuba Sports Club (and for that matter all BTS attendees) have different experiences, because we attend different presentations and might be here or there — when ‘something else’ is happening elsewhere… Some planning certainly helps structure the days at BTS but inevitably, things come up and our schedules get changed up. And that is fine. The important thing is to be in the moment while at BTS, and be open to the opportunities, exhibits, and people we meet there. We all have different “take-aways” from BTS, and that is welcome.
Here are a couple of items, groups, products, and services which just happened to catch my eye through sheer serendipity… and coincidence of time and place… (We would love to give a shout out to everyone and everything we encountered and all the animated conversations and findings, but it is just not possible to do so in a newsletter!)
The Handicapped Scuba Diving Alliance had their booth close to The Scuba Sports Club’s booth, and we know that the folks who run those programs are the best people on the Earth. The team describes with great passion how the kids’ faces light up with a beaming burst of sunshine smile – even from just putting their faces in the water and breathing through the regulator. Suddenly, they are Jacques Cousteau (in the pool), freed from the constraints of gravity and soaring weightlessly! Of course, there is special training required. Of course, many precautions are required to assist the handicapped while scuba diving, even in the pool. Let us remember our special needs kids (autism, cerebral palsy, Downs Syndrome…), and our disabled neighbors, and the wounded veterans who are served by the Handicapped Scuba Diving Alliance – and let us support their work. This is the highest calling we can have. Contact Stew@HSANJSCUBA.com and http://hsanjscuba.com/ for more information. And may Providence look over all those who are in need, and all those who provide the loving kindness and care.
Marine Education Center – Harbor Island, Mamaroneck! I used to go flounder fishing there in the late 60’s, right off the docks. Sometimes the water would explode with froth from the menhaden (moss bunker, a bait fish) when attacked by voracious bluefish. That was a long time ago… But helping to restore the environment there and everywhere – by building awareness of the ocean’s challenges with our youngsters – is biologist Kyle Troy, who runs the Marine Education Center, right there in Harbor Island, Mamaroneck! At this educational facility, Kyle runs programs for K-12 students, who attend on school field trips, learn about the wonders of the ocean, and the challenges faced. There are aquariums as well, showcasing fish local to these waters such as starfish, horseshoe crabs, flounder, northern pipefish, and sea robins. These life-long passions start small: Dr. Eugenie Clark (The Shark Lady) famously stated that her love of the oceans, and sharks in particular, originated in the aquarium in lower Manhattan (which has relocated moved to Coney Island). What a great place to bring your young kids, your nieces, nephews, and grandchildren! For more information, refer to http://www.marineeducationcenter.org/photos.html .
The New York State Marine Education Association (NYSMEA) does great work as well, and we had a chance to stop in and pow wow about the programs they offer. We learned about their mission to promote marine awareness and encourage the growth and exchange of instructional resources within the scientific, commercial, and educational communities. NYSMEA has meetings, lectures, workshops, field trips, boat trips to that end. And a big cleanup is scheduled for May 4th called It’s My Estuary Day at Kaiser Park, NY. For more information about the cleanup and the organization, contact via their website https://nysmea.wildapricot.org/ .
We encountered Shark Research Institute while strolling through the exhibits, where we stopped and learned abouttheir advocacy programs for sharks worldwide. Their mission is to help these fish, so embattled all over the world. There is so much we don’t know about their life cycles, and we need stronger baselines in order to be able to help them survive for the next human generations. Two expeditions in particular caught my eye, one was the upcoming whale shark study in Djibouti, Africa and the other was a tiger shark study in Hawaii. The research objectives are generally fairly straightforward – why do the sharks aggregate there; ID’ing individuals; what are they eating; what toxins if any are in the plankton, and what happens in a day of the life of a whale or tiger shark. These are clearly building blocks of knowledge about these species, without which we can’t adequately look out for them.
Lionfish. We all know the results of the scourge of this invasive species, feeding on the freshly-hatched fish and in many cases devastating the native fish population. Many solutions been proposed, but oftentimes these are not practical for remote areas which do not have advanced logistical capabilities. Enter Reefsave.org! This not-for-profit has developed a simple, economical trap system. No fancy hardware. Just basically a net, some folded rebars, a line going topside, and a white PVC mesh. The lionfish are attracted to the white PVC, collect and gather there, and then <poof> they are all hauled to the surface in the net; non-targeted fish if any are released, and the lionfish are someone’s expensive and delicious dinner that very night! It is really a radically simple and apparently highly successful solution, which gets around the fact that humans spearfishing can only stay underwater for a short while and only to a certain depth before having to surface. This passive trap systems gets around human limitations! For more information, check out http://www.reefsave.org/
Who doesn’t love whale watching and dolphin watching! And we are so lucky to have Gotham Whale Watches and American Princess Cruises right here in our own backyard in Jacob Riis Park/ Ft. Tilden to embark on cruises to marvel at the whales and dolphins which are returning to our cleaner NYC harbor waters to feed on the rebuilding populations of menhaden (moss bunker) – a keystone species which forms the foundation for the food chain in northeastern waters. Gotham is all about advocacy for whales. Even though we aren’t hunting them, the volume of commercial shipping in the greater NYC harbor area means ship strikes against whales on the surface. This is one of the problems Gotham is tackling in their mission to protect our area’s whale population. Reach out to find more at https://gothamwhale.org/
Who knew??? Sunscreen is good, right? We use it to protect ourselves from the sun and potential skin cancer! Not so fast… Who knew that the sunscreen we wear to protect us from skin cancer can be toxic to the marine environments (coral and fish) we love and travel to for adventure and inspiration! Stream2Sea reports that worldwide 4,000 – 6,000 tons of it washes off our bodies – in the very same sunny warm blue water places we so love to dive in. Stream2sea is right in the sweet spot for biodegradable packaging, non-destructive compounds to help protect corals, and of course, protection from the sun for us – and products to keep us healthy and inviting to be around! For more info, https://stream2sea.com/ . There are even training modules at their website to raise awareness about the threat of sunscreen on marine environments. Well worth a visit at https://stream2sea.com/stream2sea-learning-center/ ! S2S are engaging and fun-loving folks, and you will enjoy visiting with them in person or on the phones.
All of which, taken together, means that Beneath The Sea is a founding pillar of our scuba diving community and helps pull together the people, organizations, product, services, and education opportunities – as well as many ways to pay it forward – for all those in our scuba diving space! Hats off to the Beneath The Sea team for, once again, hitting it out of the park. See you all next year, have an excellent year with lots of diving, and of course and always – fun and safe diving!