I have just finished my first week as the 2011 Our World Underwater Scholarship Society’s National Park Service Submerged Resources Center Intern—try saying that seven times fast! The flight from San Jose, CA to Denver, CO, was very scenic. After a quick stop in Los Angeles, part of the route took us along the Colorado River, over the Grand Canyon and Lake Mead, which were spectacular to see from the air. I arrived in breathtaking Denver, Colorado, through dense cloud cover over jagged peaks and lush valleys that reminded me that I was no longer in the arid Sonoran Desert of northwestern Mexico, which had been home for the past three years.
John Bright and Susanna Pershern from the Submerged Resource Center greeted me at the airport in a huge Chevy Suburban that would be entrusted to me for the week to get around town (possibly more for the amusement of my SRC officemates to watch me park it every morning then anything else!). Susanna is a photographer for the SRC, and would be orienting me to the camera gear that I am so graciously being lent for this internship. John is an MA student in Underwater Archeology at East Carolina University, and has been working with the SRC on park projects and his thesis research in North Carolina through the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP). They were both extremely welcoming and friendly, as was the rest of the SRC staff when we arrived back at the National Park Service Intermountain Regional Office in Lakewood, where the SRC office is located. There I met Steve Sellers, the National Dive Safety Officer who kindly hosted me during my stay in Denver, and Desiree Sousha, the program administrator who is helping with many of the logistical aspects of my internship, such as booking travel plans. Finally, I met Dave Conlin, the SRC Chief, and Sami Seeb, one of the underwater archeologists at the Center. Having been in contact with them for the last few months, it was great to meet them in person and I could tell that they are as excited for my upcoming adventure as I am! Together they are helping me plan my journey through the submerged National Parks.
If you were unaware, the National Park system includes submerged lands in addition to the terrestrial parks that many of us are so familiar with, such as Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks. These submerged parks are located throughout the US and its territories, and range from tropical reefs to frigid kelp forests and alpine lakes. In addition to their natural beauty and biological resources, many of these sites contain cultural resources as well, such as shipwrecks and remnants of human settlement. The SRC was born out of a large-scale inventory of cultural resources in dams in the southwestern United States (if you are interested in the history of the SRC, or underwater archeology and cave diving, I would strongly encourage you to read Submerged by Daniel Lenihan, the founder of what is now the SRC). The Center works with submerged parks across the nation to survey, inventory, and document submerged resources. Their projects vary widely in scope, and include the mapping of the USS Arizona, which was sunk by the Japanese in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7th 1941, and 3-D filming of pristine coral reefs in the Dry Tortugas off of Florida.
My internship, which is supported by the Our World Underwater Scholarship Society and the National Park Service, provides me with an incredible opportunity to travel throughout the United States to SCUBA dive at a variety of submerged parks within the National Park system. On of my main responsibilities is this blog, and I am looking forward to sharing all my adventures with you! As I have a strong background in photography and one of my ultimate goals is to be an underwater photographer, they are even providing me with an awesome underwater camera system to document my experience. I am so thrilled to have this opportunity, and at the same time humbled by the extraordinary generosity of the OWUSS and NPS-SRC in giving me this chance to pursue my dreams. Thank you, and I hope to make you all proud!