Hi everyone, I’m Yasmeen Smalley, the 2014 National Park Service Submerged Resources Intern! This amazing opportunity stems from the generosity of both the Submerged Resources Center (SRC) and the Our World-Underwater Scholarship Society.
My summer adventures began last Saturday when I flew from Boston to the SRC office in Denver, Colorado. I had spent most of the previous night packing frantically, so I arrived in Denver bleary-eyed but excited to meet the people who would be helping and coaching me throughout my travels. Brett Seymour, the Deputy Chief and Photographer at the SRC picked me up at the airport, and we made our way to Boulder, where I would stay with Dave Conlin, the Chief at the SRC, his wife Michelle, and their energetic dog Luke.
Normally all of the SRC staff convenes for a barbecue, but because half of the staff is currently doing work in Florida we had a small get together at Dave and Michelle’s, which was a great way to be welcomed to Colorado.
Since I arrived on a Saturday, we had all of Sunday to explore the natural beauty of the area and for me to get settled in. Since I grew up in Houston, Texas and attended school in Rochester, New York, I’m used to living in a very urban environment. While Denver and Boulder are both cities, they’re very close to beautiful foothills and rock formations, including one called the Flatirons. Being able to drive by these beautiful mountains each day is a wonderful change from skyscrapers and pavement!
My first day “on the job” was spent driving around Denver with Brett to different medical appointments; I got a chest x-ray as well as several blood tests, with a physical and audiology test scheduled for later in the week. Being poked and prodded is necessary to ensure safe diving, but it’s certainly not my favorite part of the process! The second half of the day was much more enjoyable- I got to try on gear that I’ll be using in the field! My travels will take me to Yellowstone, Biscayne, Dry Tortugas, and Channel Islands National Park, as well as the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Because of the variability of water temperatures in these parks, my exposure suits will range from rash guards to a drysuit.
The rest of my week has followed the same format; medical tests in the morning, and then gearing up in the afternoon. Brett and I also went to a local dive shop to use their pool for some dive tests. My current residence in New England doesn’t allow for much diving during the winter months, so it was good to get in the pool and become familiar with the new gear. Besides a fin floating away during a “ditch and don” exercise, all went smoothly!
The next step was to prepare all of my gear for our two-week trip to Yellowstone. We leave on Monday, and will be loading our gear into a truck and trailer. Due to the equipment-heavy nature of underwater photography and videography, none of the SRC staff can “pack light.” For myself I have a large dive bag, a bag containing my drysuit and thermals, a Pelican case full of camera gear, a dry bag full of my clothes, and a backpack with electronics and personal items. Whew!
Since yesterday was Friday the 13th and a full moon, I decided to take my camera gear and explore some of the Rockies in search of some magical pictures. After a few hours driving around in the dark I found the perfect spot to photograph.
And as if my week wasn’t eventful enough, I had a minor trip to the ER yesterday! While loading gear into the trailer I accidentally dropped a 75 lb tank on two of my fingers, resulting in a small “Tufts” fracture of the tip of my index finger. I’m not superstitious, but fracturing my shutter finger on Friday the 13th definitely makes me a little more wary of things that go bump in the night! Luckily I’ll still be able to dive (I verified this with Dave multiple times in the ER) so I just have to wait for it to heal and use my middle finger for the camera shutter in the meantime.
Hopefully the next couple days go smoothly, and pretty soon I’ll be diving in Yellowstone!