While paging through the Sunday Inquirer in search of Back Channels, I came across an article on Evelyn Dudas - Call Her the Diva of Diving
She is a legend in the local dive community. I recall learning of her exploits as I trained for PADI Scuba Diving Certification. I didn’t dive the Andrea Doria or Stolt Dgali, but I did visit the famous ‘Flour Wreck” off the cost of New Jersey. After completing my training, I set out with another goal in mind – earning a spot as a volunteer scuba diver in one of the world’s largest Open Ocean tank at the NJ State Aquarium. At the time, this was a highly competitive spot among local scuba divers. This was evidenced by a president of local scuba club spending a year volunteering in the gift shop in hopes of earning a spot on the team to no avail. Not dissuaded by the competition, I jumped in and applied for a spot on the team.
The application process was complex; involving proof of 25 logged and witnessed dives, a successful completion of a written exam, water skills test where one literally swam through hoops and an interview. I completed the minimum required number of dives just days before my scheduled interview and exams. The 25 required dives included all my open water training dives. When an applicant sitting next to me made sure to let me know he was certified in the Red Sea and had just completed his 300th dive, I realized it was game on. I redoubled my efforts and it paid off, this newly minted diver with a razor thin dive log became a member of the NJ State Aquarium Dive Team. It was a mere eight months between my very first open water certification dive at Willow Springs and my first dive in the Open Ocean Tank.
Hello World! Here I am posing for the camera inside the Open Ocean Tank:
The night before my first dive in the tank, I made sure to watch the perfect movie for my new adventure – Jaws. That first dive was simply magic – swimming in close proximity with abundant marine life who considered you to be part of the environment. That was cool, but there was the business with the sharks. They intimidated me for a good two months, as I slowly came to realize they were not cold blooded creatures intent on chewing me to bits – that responsibility belonged to the resident Loggerhead named Bobby. Luckily Bobby and I got along just fine – see the photo below:
Bobby was a cantankerous turtle who lived by a simple code. He either tolerated your presence in the tank or tried to kill you. Even the sharks did not bother with Bobby, life was good if Bobby allowed you to live. Swimming in the company of sharks who considered you part of the environment instilled in me a commitment to protect these remarkable creatures. No shark fin soup for me!
Check out my styling hot pink ankle weights as I inspect the condition of the tank before a dive. They were needed as I had to add more weight on to my dive belt that what I typically donned for an ocean dive, the ankle weights helped to distribute the excess weight needed in this tank. Pink..what was I thinking!
The following photo was made into a postcard – we loved posing for photos
Sometimes, not so much….