Girl Scouts arrive at MarineLab.

Girl Scouts arrive at MarineLab, their base for the week long Aquarius Project. Click image for larger view and image credit.

Mission Logs

August 29, 2005

Written by the Girl Scouts during the Aquarius Project

Sunday, August 8, 2004
Stephanie, age 15, Illinois

Finally, after all these months I arrived at the Miami International Airport today to meet the eight people I will be living with for the next week. After everyone had made it to the airport, we were off on our way to Key Largo. First we had to take a minor food break, where we really got to warm up to each other and become comfortable with our group. After envisioning the place where I would sleep, eat, and dive for the next week I finally got to see it. It was incredible! I'd forgotten how small I felt next to the ocean and I couldn't wait to dive right in.

Being our first night there we had to take care of the basics. We were given a full tour of the Marine Resource Development Foundation's MarineLab. The six girls had all warmed up to each other and we were already buzzing about diving the next day, snorkeling and everything we'd go through in the next week. I could already feel my imagination taking me below the water as I started to create the picture in my mind of all of us diving together. It made my heart stop to only have one week with these wonderful girls. They're by far some of the most incredible people I've met. It was nice to have one common interest with everyone. We were there to do one simple thing; SCUBA dive! Finally, we had settled into our beds and spent a good part of the night talking about what tomorrow would bring. I couldn't have asked for a better trip!

Monday, August 9, 2004
Heather, age 18, Arizona


Girl Scouts pose with sancuarty superintendent Billy Causey.

After learning about the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) and marine protected areas, girl scouts pose with sanctuary superintendent Billy Causey. Click image for larger view and image credit.

Wow! I can't believe that I am actually here in Florida participating in the Aquarius Project. We woke up this morning and started the day with breakfast and rain; it's a good thing that the Florida rain doesn't last long. This morning we had a lecture from Billy Causey, Superintendent of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. He taught us about marine sanctuaries and the marine protected zones. I realized how difficult it is to accommodate everyone's different views.

After that we had a swim test and checkout dive in the Emerald Lagoon at the MarineLab. It was so nice compared to diving in the freezing waters of Michigan. We proved to the staff that we were all able to swim. Then, we donned our SCUBA gear and refreshed ourselves with all our equipment and some basic SCUBA skills. We dove in the lagoon and saw these huge Grouper fish that were more than 100lbs! We also swam to both the Jules Undersea Lodge and the MarineLab Habitat. It was so awesome to peer into the window of these habitats and see the aquanauts at work. It seemed like something from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I bet these habitats have really similar concepts to those predicted in the book Jules Vern wrote years ago.

We also visited the mangroves and learned how they work. Then we snorkeled around the mangroves and found horseshoe crabs and tons of jelly fish. It was amazing to see how all of the creatures interact in their natural surroundings.


Girl Scouts learn about invertebrates during a laboratory session.

Girl Scouts learn about invertebrates during a laboratory session. Click image for larger view and image credit.

A Girl Scouts snorkeling among the mangroves.

A Girl Scout snorkeling among the mangroves. Click image for larger view and image credit.

At night we learned about the coral reefs and what is being done to protect them. Finally, after that we did a lab on invertebrate diversity and saw all the creatures that live on a single rock. It was awesome to look under the microscope and see all the hundreds of creatures that we didn't even notice were on the rock before.

We are so busy here all the time, but I love all of the activities and the ocean, it's so great. I can't wait for tomorrow, another full day of activities and scuba diving to the coral reefs.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004
Laura, age 17, Arkansas

SCUBA diving is a daily activity.

SCUBA diving is a daily activity on the Aquarius Project. Click image for larger view and image credit.

Today we had two discussions in the morning. The first was about maritime history. Nancy Diersing from the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary taught us all about the ship wrecks that have occurred off the Florida Keys and the related archeology. We learned about the Mary Washington shipwreck among others and how these sunken ships make ideal marine life habitat. I was excited to visit and explore the shipwreck during our afternoon dive.

The second discussion was lead by Dana Wingate, an enthusiastic marine biologist from the MarineLab. She taught us about coral reef fish identification. It was fascinating when we went diving in the afternoon because we were actually able to identify some of the fish we had studied in the morning session. During the wreck dive we even got to feed the fish.

That evening we went back out to one of the dive sites we visited during the day for a night dive. My night dive was awesome! The first night dive I took a couple of years ago was the worst. Anything that could go wrong did go wrong. This dive, on the other hand, was a complete success! The fish we saw during the night dive were much bigger than the ones we saw during the day. The largest things we saw were parrotfish, crabs, and lobster. The bodies of the lobster and crab alone were about the size of my head!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Andrea, age 17, Oregon

Girl Scouts readying their gear to SCUBA dive to the Jules Verne Undersea Lodge.

Girl Scouts readying their gear to SCUBA dive to the Jules Verne Undersea Lodge. Click image for larger view and image credit.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away.” (Anonymous)

In March 2004, I received an email from a friend with a link to a destination that was thought to be ideal for me. The link led to the Aquarius Project on the STUDIO 2BSM, destinations web page. It offered an opportunity that was guaranteed to take my breath away, not just once but several times! I applied for the project and was one of six girls in the nation selected for the 2004 Aquarius Project.

On the third day of our project we prepared to SCUBA dive down to enter the two submerged habitats. We were in for a surprise. These habitats are only 25 feet underwater and we didn't need to use traditional dive gear. Instead, we used Kuaka Lines. This method uses a regulator, a device used to breath air, connected to a long tube that provides air from up on the surface. This strange new way of SCUBA diving was a blast! Once we were all connected to Kuaka Lines in pairs of two or three, we went underwater and followed an instructor named Chris to the Jules Undersea Lodge. I swam up to the lodge and was instructed to swim horizontally onto a platform about a foot above the lagoon floor. Once I was resting on the platform, I stood up, to emerge into the breathable air of the habitat. Removing my gear, I climbed up into the habitat. It had a bathroom, a living room, bedrooms and a kitchen. It was a small underwater apartment. The view out the windows definitely takes your breath away. Fish were swimming past me as though it were completely normal for a human being to be coexisting in their environment. For the next several hours I sat underwater with 10 people drinking hot chocolate and watching an appropriate movie, The Abyss.

This experience I had was very unique, but don't let that discourage you from thinking that you could have an experience just like it. No matter what age you are, you can participate in a STUDIO 2BSM destination, and, like me, have your breath completely taken away. I encourage you to look at other articles written by girls just like you, and maybe you too can do what all of us have done.

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined.” (Thoreau)

Thursday, August 12, 2004
Luisa, age 18, Florida

Girl Scouts studied alongside one another during the week long project.

Girl Scouts studied alongside one another during the week long project. Click image for larger view and image credit.

I believe that my most exciting and memorable experience from my STUDIO 2BSM destination was of course getting to experience the awesome dives and learning all about the environment and the ways that we can conserve it, but the best was meeting the other girls. I think that each one of them was amazing and I know that there is no other way that I could have possibly met them. I will always remember the girls that I met through the Aquarius Project. The most exciting and memorable times that I had were all of the nights that we stayed up until 1:00 AM talking about who we are and our dreams for the future. Those are the experiences that I am least likely to forget. They will shape my life now and in the years ahead.

Friday, August 13, 2004
Carly, age 16, Texas

SCUBA diving is one of the highlights of the Aquarius Project experience.

SCUBA diving is one of the highlights of the Aquarius Project experience. Click image for larger view and image credit.

Some of my favorite memories out of the entire trip were of course the dives. I had never been diving in the ocean, much less any place with clear open waters. The night dive was definitely my favorite experience out of the whole trip. Learning about the bioluminescence of the plankton was extremely interesting and exciting because I could see it glow right there in the water with my own eyes and hands. I never thought something like that was possible. Having my eyes opened to an underwater environment like the mangroves and the sea grass was also very enlightening. Seeing live sponges up close is not something I thought I would ever experience but there I was. The program ran extremely smooth for two very obvious reasons; we weren't the first group to go through this program so any big kinks had been worked out and the program was already predisposed to running smooth because it was planned and executed with the capabilities of the facilities already in mind. It was sad having to leave early due to the hurricane. I was truly looking forward to visiting the Aquarius Habitat. It was a once in a lifetime chance, but overall, this was a phenomenal experience.