Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Coming Home

Dave Allen, Delaware Expedition

The big day! Chris got up around 2 am to partially drain the holding tank. The rest of us got to sleep in until 4. The first step was to fill up the truck's tank with water at a nearby boat launch. Since the truck is equipped with a generator and heavy duty water pump, this only took a few minutes.

Jackie running the hose to the water. Notice the sand filter, generator and most importantly, the caffeinated beverage!

With the water level of the tank lower, I got my first good look at the rays!

The rays were collected from the tank with a large hoop net...

... and slightly less effectively with plastic collecting bags ...

... and then hand delivered to Jackie who was waiting in the back of the truck.

Now that all the rays were in the truck, all that was left was to drain and clean the holding tank. Watching Chris and Brian scoop out sediment and uneaten ray food (quahogs) I started thinking about all of the hard work that our aquarists put in to make sure we have amazing exhibits and healthy animals. They are at once marine biologists, explorers, plumbers, truck drivers and educators. Above all, they don't seem to mind getting their hands (or feet) dirty.

Notice all of the sediment (among other things) that was left in the bottom of the holding tank.

Since the rays would be in the truck for up to ten hours, whoever was riding in back had to monitor water quality. The Star Trek tricorder-like thingy that Jackie is holding is used to measure dissolved oxygen and tell us to add or reduce the O2 coming from the cylinders. Temperature, ammonia from the rays' waste and pH were also monitored. When the acidity increased, pre-portioned bags of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) were added.

Here the water comes very close to the edge. Notice the design for the transport tank doesn't include a watertight cover. My experience in the back of the truck reminded me of being on a log flume ride: At some point, no matter what you do, you are going to get wet. So you might as well just enjoy the ride.

Fast forward about ten hours; we arrived at the Duxbury holding facility where the other rays were being held. Before they could join the others, the cownose rays were treated with anti-parasite medication and given a five minute freshwater dip.

Despite the stresses of being collected and driven in a noisy truck for most of the day, the rays began schooling as soon as then joined the other rays. I feel really fortunate to have experienced this leg of the collection trip and now I'm really excited for our new shark and ray exhibit to open next year.

Here is an underwater video of our cownose rays is Duxbury. If you look closely you may spot an Atlantic stingray and a southern stingray.

- Dave

1 comment:

  1. Gorgeous. I can imagine how tiring it must have been but it bet te satisfaction of a job well done would greatly outweigh fatigue.