January 4, 2016
Scuba Diving with Tank the Turtle
Written by: Sophie Gaze
Dive Immersion Senior Divemaster
I have been working here for four years now, and can’t think of many things that have gotten our Dive Immersion staff buzzing quite as much as Tank the green sea turtle’s introduction into Ocean Voyager Built by The Home Depot. It’s not every day you’re told that, in addition to whale sharks and manta rays, your job description will now include diving with a 400+ pound green sea turtle!
Before moving into the Ocean Voyager habitat, Tank was off-exhibit in the holding pool. We were able to watch the aquarists train him to feed from a dedicated location, and every day we grew more and more excited to get in the water with him. The dive team eagerly waited for the day the Zoological Operations team introduced Tank to the main exhibit, and on Tuesday, November 24 it happened!
I was lucky enough to be scheduled to dive the day that Tank was welcomed to his new home. That day will now be one of my favorite memories of this job so far. I can’t describe the feeling of excitement I felt when first I saw his head pop up at the surface to breathe in the main exhibit while I was setting up my dive gear for the day.
The moment I hit the water, I couldn’t help but let my eyes dart around, searching for his massive form. When I finally spotted him gliding in the deep end, it actually took my breath away. He is such a beautiful turtle! I was so excited to get a closer look.
We toured our guest divers over the tunnel and into the deep end, and they got their first glimpse of Tank as he cruised past the big window. After a few minutes, he got more comfortable and approached some of our guests who were kneeling in the sand. I’m sure this will be a memory that they will never forget either! I thought to myself what an epic experience this really was: Tank is the first turtle ever in Ocean Voyager, and I got to be one of the first staff members to witness this interaction.
I had the opportunity to work with Hawaiian green sea turtles while I was at university on Oahu. I never realized how much I missed them until I got to see Tank for the first time! Sea turtles are so beautiful to dive with because they add a grace that is so unique. Tank is definitely going to be one of the fan favorites among our SCUBA guests. I think our swimmers will really enjoy him too. He periodically has to rise up to the surface to breathe, so they will also get a close encounter with our newest resident!
We are so lucky to have Tank in our already awesome habitat. I am excited to hear what our guests both in and out of the water think of my new “coworker!”