Despite the best efforts of our algae-munching Giant South American turtle (Podocnemis expansa) and other fish, the Amazon Flooded Forest windows still need to be cleaned manually to keep them algae-free. Our team of experienced staff and volunteer SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus) divers give the Academy’s Amazon tank a nice scrub-down about three days per week. This usually takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, although the time of day varies. One or two divers will enter the tank and clean, while another diver serves as a “Dive Tender.” This person monitors the entire process from the surface, ensuring the safety of those in the water.
Here is a brief video of one of our SCUBA divers entering the Amazon Flooded Forest and cleaning the tunnel:
In addition to wiping down the tunnel, divers also scrub the back windows near the elevators and occasionally the “fallen tree” which lies in the middle of the exhibit. Each dive lasts approximately 30 minutes to an hour. It takes quite a bit of elbow grease, but we think the end result is worth it:
Below is a picture of the gear our divers use when cleaning the Amazon Flooded Forest. These items help our divers see and breathe underwater, and maintain neutral buoyancy so they are not constantly floating or sinking during their dive.
When all the gear is put on, it looks something like this:
In addition to dive gear, communication between divers is also very important. Because SCUBA divers cannot talk underwater, they communicate with hand signals and other body language. You may have observed our divers in the past give the “okay” sign with their hands to let each other know that the dive is going well. As a visitor, you can also communicate with our divers through the glass. They always appreciate a wave to say “Hello!”