Today was my second day at the aquarium. You don't get a blog post for the first day, because I am lazy.
We started the day with food prep, which is easily the most disgusting thing I've ever done. There's a kitchen with a walk-in freezer that stores all the food for the fish, which is mostly krill, shrimp, sardines, market squid, anchovies, and salmon steaks (for the sevengill sharks). It also has ginormous refrigerators for the food to thaw. The food is in trays, and you have to transfer it to big feed buckets. By hand.
The little krill wasn't so bad; it was so small that a big handful of it just feels like mush. It's smelly, but still cold so not horrifically bad, and transferring this is easy peasy. There's a ton of it so it takes a while and you have to rinse it, then press it through the net to get the excess water out, a bit like pressing watery cheese through a cheesecloth. No, the next step up is when it gets gross. This krill is larger, several inches long, and when you pick up a giant handful, you can feel all the legs
. Every single one. Fortunately, the krill was still cold, so my fingers went a bit numb and I stopped being able to feel all the legs
Next was the market squid, which were in a big metal bucket, sitting in their own juicy greyish brown soup. These were fine at first - hey, no legs! - but after the first couple of handfuls, I felt something... sharp. I thought it was a squid beak at first and had to step away for a minute or two and do something else (I weighed the other food buckets) before I was ready to reach in again. It turned out not to be the beaks that were sharp, but the squid ends. They feel like soft thorns, which is not at all what I was expecting.
Food prep done (yay!), I went upstairs to set up my gear. I brought my own BCD this week because I really don't like the ones the aquarium supplies, which are generic BCs that require weight belts, which turns out to be really uncomfortable for me because I am short, and the BC fights with the weight belt for placement and makes it hard to bend. I <3 my BC; it's made to fit women, it zips up instead of buckling, it's back-inflate, and it has trim weight pockets. SO MUCH BETTER. I do like the aquarium's wetsuits; they are semi-dry and in good shape. They're too long, of course, so they bunch at the knees and elbows, but all wetsuits do that on me.
Before we could get in the tanks, the vets had to perform ultrasounds on three of the bat rays, who were suspected of being pregnant. Two people got into the quarantine tank, which is waist-deep, and cornered the rays with a hammock-like net, inasmuch as you can corner anything in a perfectly round tank. The first ray took this treatment and the ultrasound with surprising equanimity. She didn't start protesting until she'd been in the examining net for quite a while. The next two were harder to catch, and flapped their wings in protest. I don't know exactly how big they were, but bat rays
can get to a wingspan of 6'. They are not small, so the flapping caused a good deal of splashing. Once the second one was out, she insistently spy-hopped by the net.
I couldn't really read the ultrasound, but it sure looked like there was a baby bat ray in the first one. (The topside of the aquarium is loud, so it was hard to hear what the vets were saying.) The next couple ones were less clear, and I was setting up my gear nearby, so I didn't pay close attention.
In the tanks! We started with T2, which has the big fish and the sharks. We vacuumed the bottom (HUGE PAIN OMG VACUUMING UNDERWATER IS HARD), scrubbed the acrylic tunnels, and did an underwater broadcast feed of the squid to the bat rays, skates, and shovelnose guitarfish*. During the vacuum, Riah found two mermaid purses (skate eggs).
Lenny, the six foot blind sturgeon
, is a pest. He was right at my elbow as soon as I got in the water with the bucket of chum, and he turned upside down and made nomming motions with his mouth. That's clearly learned behavior, as he's fed by hand. Someone shakes a rattle underwater and lowers a target, and he bops the target with his nose, turns upside down, and receives his food from above. Later, when Riah and I were on the bottom with our buckets in the narrowest part of the tunnel, between the acrylic and the protruding rock work with barely enough room for us, Lenny chose that moment to swim right between us. I had to put out my hand to make sure he didn't thwack me with his tail on the way out.
The bat rays, especially the big females, are like puppies. Once we got further down the tank, they surrounded us, wanting to be fed. The skates and guitarfish were too shy to be fed by hand, but the rays were happy to take food directly. I nearly put my knee on one eager ray.
Oh yeah, that tank? That's the one with the sevengill sharks.
The biggest one is nine feet long.
*I am not making up