Thursday, December 18, 2008

Aquarium Style Championship Football Fever

University of Montana and University of Richmond football players enjoyed an evening of BBQ and fun at the Tennessee Aquarium while they were in Chattanooga for the 2008 NCAA Division I Football Championship. Everyone seemed to have a great time relaxing and marveling at the Aquarium's animals and exhibits. Two of the biggest stars of the evening were volunteer divers Angie Lewallen and Bill Hall, shown here decked out in Montana and Richmond football jerseys. Not only were Angie and Bill able to discuss their dive plans above the Gulf of Mexico exhibit, they could talk over their "playbook" underwater too.
Bill and Angie geared up with surface supplied air systems which are a bit different than SCUBA gear visitors are used to seeing at the Aquarium. Notice they don't have air tanks on their backs. The full face mask is attached to a set of air tanks that's out of the water. This setup also contains a microphone and speakers so they are able to talk to one another. They are also able to communicate directly with the person in charge of surface support for the dive. In this case, that was the Aquarium's assistant curator of fishes, Carol Farmer.
If you have seen the Secret Reef dive shows in the Ocean Journey building, you've seen a diver wearing a very similar system to the ones Angie and Bill are wearing in these pictures. During our Secret Reef dives shows, the diver interacts with someone from the Aquarium's education staff and answers guest questions.
The football players enjoyed watching Angie hoist Bill above her head and tackle him while sharks, rays and colorful reef fish swirled around them. Carol Farmer remarked after the dives, "I'm not sure who had more fun. The visitors or our divers."