Under The Sea!
LC Van Savage
From time to time I’ve written briefly about a TV show in which I’m involved called “incredibleMAINE.” (Saturday mornings at 10:30 on MPBN.) Being a part of this show has given me the chance to meet many, many Mainers in many, many different locations doing many many interesting things. As I’ve said so often and as everyone here knows, our state of Maine is just overloaded with fascinating people who accomplish an enormous variety of achievements, and because of the show, I’ve had the honor of getting to see, and record a lot of them.
Maine is also overloaded with entrepreneurs, people who conceive a dream and an idea and work uncommonly hard to make those dreams and ideas come true. And they do it. Do all American states have this kind of talent and creativity in their populations? Sure, but I don’t live in those states. I live here, and it’s about here I wish to brag.
As a good example of all this, let me tell you about last weekend. Producer Marilyn Taylor, Director Dave Wilkinson and I, all of “incredibleMAINE,” two other adults and four kids 10 years old and under, met at the dock at Cook’s Lobster House on Bailey Island so we could board a most comfortable boat called the “Sharon Ann” owned and captained by one James Jones, with first mate, wife Sharon Jones. We would be shooting a show about this remarkable couple and what they do. Were we going on a merry ride over the ocean waves? Well sure, we did that of course.
As we sped along, we watched fat, wet silvery seals slide lazily down rocks on which they’d been sunning, splashing away as we approached. But most importantly, what we were going to see that day, thanks to Captain Jim, was the bottom of Casco Bay. Were we in scuba gear? Moi? Not on a bet.
Captain Jim steered his boat across the blue diamond waters on that absolutely perfect September Maine day, stopped and let down the anchor and invited us all to watch him do something very unusual. He climbed over the stern of the boat and stood on the deck thing that sticks out about water level at the boat’s back end, and you’re right, I don’t know much about boats. Once out there on that platform, Jim let down a small, strange little yellow, black and steel camera with a glass bubble lens on its front, called an ROV, (Remotely Operated Vehicle,) looking strangely like R2D2’s illegitimate child, attached to a 300 foot yellow covered cable. Down, down it went until it disappeared. We all then clustered around a large monitor in the boat’s cabin and got to see what that weird little underwater camera saw. Captain Jim had prudently attached a thick mesh bag to the ROV’s leash, filled with a heavy rock and two very dead fish.
From the ROV’s “broadcasting,” we got to see the bottom of the ocean and it was a surprise, and it was marvelous. Gasps, shouts, ooohs and ahs came from all of us. One little boy begged repeatedly to see a “big shark,” but we were assured there aren’t many Great Whites in Maine waters. Another pleaded for a “giant sea horse.” Another hoped for a sea turtle. The little girls hoped for a mermaid or some twirling, swooping seals, perhaps a smiling orca or a singing humpback or two, but no. And yet, even though none of these creatures showed up to be filmed and to achieve stardom on that beautiful day, we still saw a lot.
The sea bottom’s terrain, at least where Captain Jim anchored the first time, was rolling, small hills perused easily by the little ROV. Beautiful sea plants undulated and waved. Sponges moved to the currents, anchored by a slim root. Fat, shiny fish darted around. The people on board pointed and shouted out the kinds of fish they were, but being transfixed as I was, I didn’t care or pay much attention. Lobsters approached the rock/dead fish bag cautiously and began to pluck at the bait, delicately pulling out morsels with their thick claws. But something, who knows what, would suddenly spook them and they’d jerk away, backwards, throwing up a cloud of sand and silt. But they’d soon return. Lobsters aren’t totally stupid and they know an easy free meal when they see one.
Even though there was no audio, one just knew it was quiet and serene down there, almost beckoning. Watching everything moving and swaying was musical in a way. Captain Bill explained what everything was, named all the living things the little ROV sent back to us in clean, clear pictures.
Soon, the captain pulled up the anchor and we settled in another place which didn’t have the rolling hills terrain. This was a flatter, sandier ocean bottom, and it was covered with sand dollars, not the bleached white things sold in baskets in gift shops, but velvety, mossy green sand dollars, living things, anchored to the bottom of the sea. Sea urchins, crabs and star fish were their neighbors, other fish slid about, ignoring the ROV as it easily, gently skimmed the bottom of the sea, disturbing nothing, showing us everything. We’ve all seen these creatures on the beach, in films and in aquariums, but seeing them below our boat, not caring or noticing that we were watching, seeing them in their natural environs made them look somehow different to us, other worldly.
Alas, the young kids’ wild enthusiasm began to turn. They were hungry and a little seasick when the boat was anchored, tired and yes, finally bored. We had to go back. But Jim and Sharon Jones know about kids and are gentle and sweet with them. They kept the kids’ enthusiasm alive by letting them go above and steer the boat back home. Quite a beautiful sight and sound in that sun and wind, their hair flying back, their thrilled voices high and laughing.
I for one had always thought Maine waters would be murky and lacking in color. No. How wrong I was. Out there on that boat with the ROV sending pictures back up to us showed me that there’s a lot of color down there. Do you want to take a look at what Jim and Sharon Jones see all the time with their ROV? Take a ride with them on a fine Maine day. Check out www.nauticvideo.com to find out how to do that, and to look at all the photos they’ve taken. You’ll see what’s down there, waiting for all of us; colorful, beautiful and magical.
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