words: Jeff Jetton, photos: Dakota Fine, video: Robin Bell
It’s not every day that we get scooped on our own story, but it’s also not every day that we take members of the band Animal Collective to the National Aquarium in Baltimore to scuba dive. If you haven’t booked your tickets to see Baltimore’s finest indierockers DJ the BYT New Year’s Party, you’d best get yours today.
BONUS: we have a pair of tickets to give away to the Aquarium AND a pair of tickets to our NYE to give away to this (if you want just one of them-note that in the comments). To enter to win leave us a comment telling us who your spirit animal is AND WHY. good luck!
You may have previously read a little bit about our exploits on some major blogs like Pitchfork or Domino Records’ website. But while those other guys may have beaten us to the punch on breaking the story, we more than make up for it where it actually counts: we’ve got all the pictures and videos from the dive!
We’d been planning a dive with Animal Collective for over a year but due to the band’s heavy touring schedule and a few ‘animal emergencies’ at the aquarium we had to scrap several visits. Starfish finally aligned a while back and we were able to get Geologist and Deakin up to the aquarium for a day. It was a homecoming of sorts, the guys actually had their Senior Prom at the aquarium back in high school.
If you aren’t too familiar with Animal Collective, we can start by saying they’re probably the most well-reviewed band of the past decade. Their increasingly accessible music has been blowing more and more minds as each successive album brings them additional mainstream success. Their most recent, Merriweather Post Pavillion was at the top of most critics’ year end lists and notably Spin’s album of the year.
Unfortunately, (AC member) Deakin was feeling slightly under the weather and it was decided at the 11th hour that he’d be unable to participate in the actual diving and would have to lend a hand from the banks of the aquarium as moral support.
After a brief safety and instructional session, we made our way over to the Atlantic Coral Reef exhibit and geared up to drop in for a forty minute dive with the fish (and giant Moray Eel) of the Atlantic Ocean.
The Animal Collective dudes are fairly well-known for their interest and activism in the oceans and ocean conservation. In fact, they recently created a line of shoes with the company Keep where all profits are donated directly to the Socorro Island Conservation Fund.
“After much discussion we decided we wanted to give money to a small under-funded organization to which we felt a personal connection. Josh and I have been scuba diving together for a number of years and the Revillagigedos was one of the most amazing places I have ever seen. Hopefully this project will protect the animals of the Revillagigedos through at least one more fishing season and draw more attention to the global problem of illegal fishing.” says Geologist.
High fives were the communication choice of the day as we began interacting with the throngs of children visiting the aquarium for school field trips.
Seriously, these kids couldn’t get enough of seeing the divers in the tank.
Apparently some of the fish enjoy being showered with pebbles. We were encouraged to scoop up handfuls of little stones and slowly let them drop to the floor, causing scores of fish to poke their heads under the rock stream in some sort of odd cleaning ritual. It’s like crack for fish…
After the first dive and a short break, we made our way over to the Wings on the Water exhibit and geared up to dive with the rays, skates, sharks and one giant sea turtle.
This particular sea turtle has quite a story. She was rescued by the Riverhead Marine Foundation off Long Island, New York. SHe was cold-stunned and her left front flipper was severely infected. The Aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Program (MARP) was called upon to provide treatment. MARP determined that the flipper must be amputated to save the turtle’s life.
Because it might not survive in the wild, MARP obtained a special permit from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service so that the Aquarium could provide the animal with a permanent home. The turtle adapted to life in the exhibit and she is very active, in spite of the missing flipper.
We were also frightened a bit by being in such close proximity to giant stingrays. After all, it was just these types of rays that had savagely attacked the Crocodile Hunter, if you’ll recall. One of these particular creatures jumped out of the water and into his boat and drove a spiny barb right through his heart, killing him instantly.
We were assured that it was completely safe to dive with the ‘gentle giants’ though, and that the death of Steve Irwin was just a freak accident.
After the dives we took a quick dip into the warmer depths of the gear wash tank. It seemed more like a jacuzzi than something to wash off our equipment, unfortunately there were no jets, but we made do.
Special thanks to the National Aquarium for giving us the opportunity to dive at their facility. If you’d like more information on how you can dive at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, go here.
And don’t forget to tell us what YOUR spirit animal is and why in the comments section. The winner will receive a pair of tickets to see Animal Collective DJ at the BYT New Year’s party…