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Friday, May 25, 2018

Close Encounters of the Sea Life Kind

Sea TREKkers across the globe enjoy an underwater adventure like no other. Donning helmets, TREKkers walk underwater and encounter a wide variety of sea life. From the smallest fish to the largest of stingrays and sharks, participants visit with all kinds of calm, cool creatures!

While each Sea TREK experience and location is unique, we’ve got some repeat visitors that frequent our TREKs and wow our underwater guests. Here’s a helpful guide, so that you will know whom you’re hanging out with while under the sea!

Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus)

The Atlantic tarpon inhabits coastal waters, estuaries, lagoons and rivers. Tarpons have a swim bladder, very similar to a lung, which fills with air.  This gives the tarpon a predatory advantage when oxygen levels in the water are low. Tarpons can get seriously large! They have been recorded at up to 8 ft. in length and can weigh up to 355 lbs. They have bluish or greenish backs and possess shiny, silvery scales that cover most of their bodies, excluding the head. They have large eyes, and broad mouths with prominent lower jaws that jut out farther than the rest of the face.

Sea TREK seeing snapper

Yellowtail Snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus) 

Easily identifiable, the yellowtail has a bright streak of color on its sides, running from head to tail. Adult yellowtails live over sandy areas near deep reefs, while smaller adults are found over hard bottom habitats, and juveniles live in seagrass beds. Yellowtail snappers are typically small, but can weigh up to 5 lbs. and measure up to 30 inches! The deep fork of their caudal fin helps them swim quickly through the water.

Yellowtails are often seen in schools, and create a vibrant, colorful atmosphere for TREKkers!

sea trek turtle sighting

Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas)

Who doesn’t love turtles? These docile creatures are among the largest sea turtles in the world, weighing up to 700 pounds! Their proportionally small head extends from a heart-shaped shell that covers most of the animal’s body.

Despite its name, a green sea turtle's shell is not always green. The smooth shell can be a blend of different colors, including, brown, olive, gray, or black. The underside is a yellowish-white color. Unlike most sea turtles, adult green turtles are herbivores, feeding on sea grasses and algae. Juvenile green turtles, however, will also eat invertebrates like crabs, jellyfish, and sponges.

Green sea turtles are classified as an endangered species that have undergone an estimated 90 percent population decrease over the past half-century.

Rainbow parrotfish (scarus guacamaia)

Colorful and clown-like, rainbow parrotfish possess deep green bodies, and orange fins with streaks of green extending toward the back and tail. Their teeth are fused to form a tough parrot-like beak, which it uses to scrape algae and other organic matter from the surface of coral. The coral is pulverized with grinding teeth in the fishes’ throats. Much of the sand in the parrotfish's range is actually the ground-up, undigested coral they excrete.

An unusual feature of parrotfish is that they are able to change sex, with young females becoming fully functional males. Rainbow parrotfish start off as either females or males (known as primary males). Females may transition to male (secondary males), depending on what is needed for reproduction within a given population.

cownose stingray during Sea TREK helmet dive

Cownose Stingray (Rhinoptera bonasus) 

Cownose rays are common and often spotted during TREKs. They are typically brown-backed with a whitish or yellowish belly. Although the coloration is not particularly distinctive, its shape is easily recognizable. Cownose rays get their name from their unique forehead, which resembles the nose of a cow.

Cownose rays grow rapidly, with male rays often reaching about 35 inches in width and weighing approximately 26 lbs. The cownose ray feeds on clams, oysters, and other invertebrates. It uses two modified fins on its front side to produce suction, which allow it to draw food into its mouth and crush the food with its dental plates.

Cownose rays are one of the most docile species of ray, which is why they are often used in touch tanks and aquariums. You’ll frequently see these friendly rays in aquarium Sea TREK experiences.

Nurse Shark (Ginglymostoma cirratum)

Though it may appear frightening, there’s no need to cue John Williams. The nurse shark, while huge, is typically not interested in humans, but prefers to dine on shellfish and coral. They are gray-brown and have distinctive tail fins that can be up to one-fourth their total length. Unlike most other sharks, nurses are smooth to the touch.

Nurse sharks are nocturnal animals that rest on sandy bottoms, in caves, or rock crevices in shallow waters during the day. A social animal, nurse sharks can occur in groups of up to 40 individuals.

While most fish, including sharks, must keep moving in order to breath, nurse sharks can remain motionless while resting on the sea floor.

sea trek puffer fish

Pufferfish (Tetraodontidae)

Look but don’t touch! Pufferfish developed their famous “inflatability” because their slow, somewhat clumsy swimming style makes them vulnerable to predators. In lieu of escape, pufferfish use their highly elastic stomachs and the ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water or air to turn themselves into a virtually inedible ball several times their normal size.  Some species also have spines on their skin to ward off predators.

Pufferfish range in size from the 1-inch dwarf or pygmy puffer, to the freshwater giant pufferfish, which can exceed 2 feet in length. They have four teeth that are fused together that continuously grow throughout their lives.

Diet includes mostly invertebrates and algae. Some puffer fish crack open and eat clams, mussels, and shellfish with their hard beaks.

Sea TREK Sergeant Major Damselfish

Sergeant Major Damselfish (Abudefduf saxatilis)

Sergeant majors earn their name from their brightly lined sides, which are reminiscent of the insignia of a military sergeant. They are brightly colored in shades of orange, red, yellow and blue, and are characterized with forked tails and a nostril on each side of the head. One of the larger damselfish, the Sergeant Major often reaches lengths of six or seven inches, though some have been reported to reach eight inches in length.

Sergeant Major Damselfish are feisty, and can be aggressive toward other fish when protecting their nests. Perhaps they have earned their prison stripe exteriors.

sea trekker holds sea urchin

Sea Urchins (Echinoidea)

There are about 950 species of sea urchins, and they live in every ocean. Sea urchins come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, from the long and slender slate pencil urchin to the pincushion likeness of the purple sea urchin.

Sea urchins survive by primarily eating algae. They eat using a structure called Aristotle's lantern. It is made up of five hard plates that come together like a beak. They use their beak-like mouth to scrape rocks clean of algae. This scraping can wear down the plates, so new teeth grow to replace worn-down ones. Sea urchins move slowly, crawling with their tube feet, and defend using their sharp spines, which are sometimes toxic.

Sea Urchins have a rich fossil record dating back approximately 450 million years!

Arrow crab (Stenorhynchus seticornis)

The Arrow Crab has extremely long legs! The legs of an Arrow Crab can be more than three times its body length. It’s named Arrow Crab due to its triangular shape.

Like most crustaceans, arrow crabs shed their exoskeleton as they age. The new skin hardens with calcium carbonate, which is acquired from seawater and by ingesting their old shell. Arrow crabs are nocturnal and territorial, although they do enjoy the company of sea anemone.

sea trek dance with fish

While we can’t guarantee you’ll share your TREK with these specific ocean dwellers, we can promise you’ll have an amazing encounter with fascinating sea life, and a great TREKking experience! How many have you seen on your TREK?
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Thursday, May 17, 2018

PART 5: Tips & Tricks for Travel Savings

So many options, so little time! Planning a vacation used to be simple. You would call the airline, book your flight, then call the hotel of choice and do the same. But today, the Internet offers us additional opportunities to book travel, and perhaps save a bit of money, too. But with so many online options, how do you know what is actually going to save time and money, without adding a lot of frustration?

We tested several options, including a few popular online “discount” travel sites; direct-to-entity websites; and the old-fashioned way, calling on the phone! We used the same flight and hotel information, so that the comparison would be fair. While we can’t guarantee results would be the same with every flight and hotel combo, we can share our findings.

Our fantasy trip has us leaving Sacramento, California and traveling to Boston, Massachusetts. Our departure date is September 20th and we are returning September 23rd. We selected the Doubletree Hotel, Downtown Boston as our hotel of choice. We used the same United Airlines flight (selecting “non-refundable:” each time), and accommodations (two people, king room).

book travel on phone


Expedia provided two options, booking each entity individually, or booking a “bundle and save” package.

Expedia individual options: hotel: $873.47; airfare: $793.20 = $1666.67, “bundle and save” option $1634.38

Result: The “bundle and save” option was a bit better of the two, saving us a little over $32. The site was fairly easy to use, but we could not see the flight numbers for every flight in the list of options for our dates, so it took some searching to find the exact flights we were looking for. Additionally, Expedia partners with many other travel sites, and the constant pop-ups reminding us that we could go elsewhere were distracting.

EXAMPLE 2: PRICELINE.COM hotel:  $885.58; flight $793.20 = $1678.78

It was a bit annoying to try to find the same flight to compare apples to apples. Priceline does offer a bundling option, but it was not easy to navigate. We could not get the exact same flights we were searching for, so we skipped it.


Much like Expedia, Orbitz offers two options: booking hotels and flights separately, or “bundled”.

Orbitz, individual options: hotel: $873.74, flight $793.20 =1666.94

Orbitz “bundled” option: $1669.51

Result: Interestingly, the “bundled” option cost us an additional $2.57!


We went to the websites for both United Airlines and the Doubletree Hotel. Each site was very easy to use, quick and painless. We simply input the specifics and had pricing in no time! $893.20
doubletree website: $922.47
total: $1815.67

Result: While much easier to use, the $1815.67 total was quite a bit higher than what the travel sites offered.
Call for travel reservation


Call United Airlines:  $843.20 (includes $25 over the phone booking fee)
Call Doubletree Hotel: $922.47 = $1765.67


  • The quickest way to get the pricing was via the individual/direct websites for United and Doubletree.
  • What took the longest? Calling! 
  • Most annoying? It was a toss up between going to individual travel sites and calling on the phone. The travel sites’ constant pop-ups and ads were distracting. Calling required pushing lots of buttons before finally getting to a human.
  • Most affordable? The “bundle and save” option via Expedia. Savings between $32 - $181 compared to the other methods of booking.

It’s clearly worth the effort to shop around when traveling. Depending on your level of patience, savings can be fairly substantial if you spend some time researching your trip. What’s your favorite method to book a trip? 

Terrie Carrozzella is the Web Designer & Social Media Manager for Sub Sea Systems. Want to contact Terrie about Sea TREK helmet diving, Clear Lounge underwater oxygen bar, or FunCat electric catamarans? Email her here!

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Celebrating Mother's Day Across the Globe!

Springtime for most of us means flowers are in bloom, migrating birds return to backyard feeders, and for some, extra sneezes and tissues. It’s also the season to celebrate moms! This year, Mother’s Day in the U.S.A. is May 13th and it’s a day we honor moms, moms-to-be, or any woman who has influenced us throughout our lives.

The U.S. shares this special day with others who honor their favorite matriarchs with special treats and tributes. From Australia to Peru, traditions vary slightly, but all focus on that very special someone.

mothering sunday

The tradition of celebrating Mother’s Day began much earlier in England than it started in the United States. Named “Mothering Sunday”, the tradition began in the 16th century, and is considered to be the original Mother’s Day. The holiday has interesting roots! Initially a religious observation honoring a return to the church where one was baptized, in later times, Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off to visit their mother church, usually with their own mothers and other family members. It was often the only time that families could gather together. The tradition of Mothering Sunday stopped with the advent of the Industrial Revolution in England, when work conditions and life patterns changed. In modern times, the original meaning of Mothering Sunday was lost and has taken the form and name of Mother’s Day.

Australia celebrates moms on the same calendar date as the U.S. Customarily, Australians don carnations as a symbol of love for their “mums”. A colored carnation signifies that a person's mother is living, while a white carnation is used to honor a deceased mother. Besides their own mothers, children honor their grandmothers and other women who love and care for them. As a mark of respect, children pamper their mums on Mother’s Day by treating them with breakfast in bed, and with gifts and cakes.


Ethiopian moms enjoy a massive celebration! Mother’s Day is an incredibly special day, honoring the love that a mother blends in her child’s life. Unlike other countries where Mother’s Day is a celebration of a single day, in Ethiopia, it is celebrated for three full days! Mother’s Day is not only a time to celebrate motherhood it also sets the tone for a new season. The three-day feast, known as “Antrosht”, includes massive meals with family and friends, and the preparation of traditional recipes of the country. Children bring the recipe’s ingredients while their mothers relax and enjoy the feast. Male children are responsible for bringing the meat, while girls bring vegetables, butter, spices and cheese. After the party, mothers and daughters rub each other’s faces with butter. After eating, families sing, dance and enjoy each other’s company.


Mother’s Day in Japan is called “Haha-no-hi”. Celebrated the second Sunday of May, children make it a point to get up early in the morning to gift their mothers with the sweet message,“Okaasan haha no hi omedetou“, and flowers as a token of love. Children also buy gifts for their moms, like pin flower silk kimonos, baby and mother kokeshi dolls, and fragrant cards.

“Muttertag”, or Mother’s Day in Germany, is observed on the second Sunday of May, with an exception for a year when Pentecost falls on the same day. Mother’s Day is then celebrated on the first Sunday of the month. Muttertag is celebrated with extreme merriment! The day has been specifically designated for showing love and respect to all the mothers of the Universe. Prior to World War II, it was a tradition to honor mothers in Germany with gold, silver and bronze medals. These medals were called “Karnickelorden”, and denoted the “Order of the Rabbit”. Children make it a point to honor their mothers by giving them cute Mother’s Day cards, unexpected surprises, small souvenirs and various other gifts. Members of the family plan to spend the day together preparing meals for their mothers.

mothers day peru

The Peruvian people organize dinners, lunches, trips and parties throughout the week in which Mother’s Day falls. The day becomes a celebratory moment and an opportunity to spend time with family and friends. Some really unique activities surround the celebration, including gathering at a graveyard over food and drinks to honor deceased Mothers. At the entrance gate of the cemetery, heart-shaped icons reading “Feliz Dia Mama” (Happy Mother’s Day in Spanish) are placed along with balloons. Peruvian children buy small gifts and cards for their mothers and read them poems, and families get together for recreation and high tea. It is not uncommon to see children of all ages going the extra mile, organizing surprise parties, preparing special meals and taking advantage of every opportunity to make their mothers feel special.

las mananitas

Mother’s Day in Mexico is celebrated on a fixed day, May 10th, and is celebrated in a highly colorful fashion. According to a custom in Mexico, sons and daughters make themselves present in the house on the eve of Mother’s Day. The day is celebrated with gusto, as churches in Mexico organize special masses. The highpoints of this event include an orchestra, which plays "las mañanitas", and the distribution of tamales and atole, the traditional early-morning meal, which is served to all local mothers.  It’s estimated that 200,000 extra waiters are put to work in Mexican restaurants for this special day, and families enjoy long tables piled with kilos of carnitas and barbacoa. A decent Mother’s Day lunch can easily clock in at five hours!

France’s version of Mother’s Day, or “Fete des Meres”, takes place in late May or early June, based on the Pentecost. It was not officially celebrated until 1950. On this day, moms relax and rely on their children to cater to their needs and to the chores. Gifts are given and short poems recited. A special family medal known as the “Médaille de la Famille” is traditionally gifted to parents. The day ends with a relaxing, celebratory meal.

Fete des Mere

Mother’s Day in Serbia, as well as several surrounding countries, comes with a fun and unusual tradition. Mother’s Day is part of a series of holidays — including Children's Day and Father's Day — which take place on three consecutive Sundays in December. On Children’s Day, kids are tied together and must promise to behave in order to be untied. The following Sunday, for Mother's Day, it's mom's turn to be tied up; to be set free, she must give her children treats and small gifts. Finally, the next Sunday, it’s the father's turn. He's tied up until he gives his family Christmas gifts. Then everyone sits together to celebrate Christmas.

These unique celebrations all have one thing in common. They all give moms a special day, meant just for her. What traditions does your family have, to show mom she’s special? Share yours below!

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Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Here We Grow Again! Sea TREK, Sanya Atlantis!

Sea TREK Sanya Atlantis

Just back from a whirlwind tour across the globe, our Director of Water Operations and Safety, Carl Hanson, claimed some additional frequent flyer miles last week, as he traveled to Hainan, China, to visit our newest Sea TREK location– Atlantis Sanya! Carl, accompanied by Keenan Mayfield, Sea TREK Field Operations Specialist, checked in to train new Sea TREK staff and ensure flawless operating procedures were in place, prior to opening this exciting new entity!

Sanya Atlantis Sea TREK tank

Modeled after Atlantis The Palm, Dubai, the $1.74 billion Atlantis Sanya is an impressive and massive resort. Overlooking the South China Sea, the resort offers unparalleled excitement and larger than life experiences. The unique, ocean-themed destination features more than a dozen restaurants; a vibrant range of bars and lounges; a spa and fitness center; shopping; and luxurious accommodations.

The highlight of the resort is an incredible marine and water park, with adventures in every corner. Thrill rides and slides, dolphin and sea lion encounters, and diving opportunities combine with an aquarium teeming with over 86,000 residents, including sharks, rays and other distinctive marine life. The aquarium is the perfect environment for the soon-to-open Sea TREK attraction!

Sea TREK training, Sanya Atlantis

Carl and Keenan’s workweek in China included installation of the Sea TREK system, and the training of four new Guides and a Training Coordinator on everything from daily operations, to customer service and safety procedures. They administered a classroom session reviewing the Guide Manual, ran safety drills, and practiced mock-Sea TREK tours. All with a language barrier, a dab of jet lag (over 40 hours of total flight time), and a significant time change.

However, with all of the hard work and challenges, Keenan and Carl still managed to take in some sights and enjoy the area’s cultural offerings. They tried interesting foods like spicy pickled fish head soup, and another soup with a local spice or herb that numbs your mouth! They also “ate a lot of noodles” according to Carl.

sea trekker boardwalk tour china

The adrenaline junkies explored Atlantis Sanya’s Aquaventure Waterpark and went on an intense water slide with a floor that drops out, launching you into a near free fall! Keenan and Carl had the chance to experience a little Sanya nightlife, and they also checked out the small island of Wu Zhi Zhou. The island is bursting with activities, including Sub Sea’s FunCat electric-solar catamarans and two seasonal Sea TREK operations.

Sea TREK Sanya Atlantis

Atlantis Sanya officially opened to the public on May 1st, and the Sea TREK adventure will open in the coming months. We’re so excited to welcome Atlantis Sanya to the Sea TREK family. Be sure to check out their website for updates and more info:

Sea TREK Sanya Atlantis team

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Perseverance and Pushing Forward - Recovering from Irma

The gorgeous island of St. Maarten is known for its laid back vibe, relaxing beaches and hot nightlife. A visit to this dual-governed entity (the north side is distinctly French, while the south side is a Dutch territory), is often described as two vacations in one!

But, things dramatically changed for St. Maarten and its residents on September 6th, 2017. Hurricane Irma ravaged the tranquil island. Buildings and infrastructure were heavily damaged. Winds up to 240 miles per hour (386 kph) ripped off roofs, downed power lines and destroyed homes. The hurricane caused approximately three billion dollars in damage, and dozens of people tragically lost their lives due to this incredible storm.

Sea TREK St. Maarten– a highly successful Sea TREK operation that has been in business since 2009– sadly, was not immune to the devastation caused by Irma. We asked Whitney Keough, co-owner of Sea TREK St. Maarten, about the storm’s damage…

 “We lost everything on the Sea TREK platform (a custom floating platform where Sea TREK operated)- it was floating but that was it.  The generator and compressor eventually worked – they were in the hulls, not on top. The helmets were everywhere. We did manage to get them and repair them. The boutique/office building, tanks, dive gear, remote air console, many hoses, manifold, TV, snorkel gear, etc. were all gone.  The customer benches were gone. Rebuilding the underwater track (raised underwater Sea TREK trail where guests walk) took 3 months, due to swells and bad visibility. Each piece of track weighs one ton, and we used 5000-pound lift bags. We also had to replace the handrails. Other dive shop operators volunteered to help with this. It was a very dangerous and difficult operation. Many times we had to stop and try the next day, because we had to be able to see around us, and see our team. Fortunately, our site enhancements were not badly damaged. The helicopter is almost all still there, the submarine is ok, and the King Neptune statue and canons were all ok. We lost some sunken boats, but we have plenty to choose from now to sink. We are still rebuilding our Tiki Hut tour, which was destroyed, too. This will take another few months and more money than we have, so we will ask help from family and friends.”

We asked Whitney how many days Sea TREK was closed due to this damage, and she replied, “From Sept 6, the day of the storm, until February 1, 2018.  Then, most of Feb and March, we had to cancel due to huge ground swell and bad visibility. We worked about 10 days in 2 months.”

Clean up efforts began almost immediately, with neighbors helping neighbors to clean up yards and streets and tack tarpaulins over gaping holes where roof sheets, or even whole roofs, used to be. Aid poured in from all over the world, and two major cruise lines, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, also assisted by evacuating several thousand travelers and bringing food, water and ice to the island, while organizations such as 4Ocean joined forces to clean beaches and waterways. In one weekend, groups removed three tons (6,000 lbs) of trash!

In the weeks after the storm, the Dutch and American governments, various airlines, and other N.G.O.s donated more than three hundred thousand pounds of food, water, tarps, tents, and hygiene products. Dutch Royal Marines took over the airport, which was first built by the U.S. military, during the Second World War, and accepted only military and relief flights for a month. St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association helped distribute aid across the island.

Sea TREK had its own work to do to begin recovery. “My husband, Bobby, and what was left of our crew (many had to go find jobs to survive), did the rebuild.  It was 6-7 days a week and 8-10 hours a day. With the exception of one medical appointment for Bobby, he did not have a break- nor did the crew. We had some insurance, and my family helped, too, but it did not cover everything, so we will be digging out for some time,” shared Whitney.

While there’s still work to do, St. Maarten tourism officials say that 88% of households have electricity. Restaurants and other small businesses are reopening. Both airports are fully operational and run around 60 flights a week from 12 airlines. St. Maarten’s cruise port welcomed its first ship in late December, with the arrival of Royal Caribbean's Grandeur of the Seas. On the Dutch side of the island, around 80 percent of the restaurants are open, and 1,600 hotel rooms are available to book.

While many hotels throughout the island are still closed, the island’s attractions are operating, including catamaran cruises, diving and snorkeling excursions, zip lines, and of course, Sea TREK. Whitney and her staff are still working to not only repair damage, but to also make improvements; larger shaded area, better design for the compressor and generator areas, and bigger office, boutique and storage areas. 

We asked Whitney what her biggest takeaway has been from the challenging experiences Irma brought to St. Maarten, and to Sea TREK. She responded, “that you can never really prepare for a Category 6+ hurricane. And to be thankful for blessings we do have.”

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Rolling Right Along... Moving Forward with Aquaticar!

DEAL Show Dubai Aquaticar

Aquaticar, the world’s first underwater driving experience, was featured at the DEAL trade show in Dubai last week. Our staff, who met up with our partners Cloward H2O, traveled 26 hours and approximately 8,000 miles with trade show materials, a sleek model of Aquaticar, and lots of excitement, knowing they were about to share the unique Aquaticar technology with a brand new audience!

We asked Kyle Mayfield, Sub Sea System’s Vice President of Production, about his travels and the trade show experience:

Q: How long did it take you to fly to Dubai?

KM: Our trip took us 26 hours door to door

Q: Why do we do this trade show?

KM: The DEAL show gives SSS an opportunity to not only make new contacts in the Middle East’s premier tourism and entertainment destination– Dubai, but also gives us an opportunity to meet with our existing clients in the region.

Dubai DEAL show Aquaticar

Q: How long did it take to set up the booth?

KM: This well-oiled machine took two people only two hours to set up…that’s like an hour a person!

Q: What were some of the questions or comments you received about Aquaticar?

KM: Some people were familiar with Aquaticar from the IAAPA show in Orlando last year, while others were seeing it for the first time. The reaction continues to be the same- impressed and intrigued! Most people are interested in how it is propelled and how guests are able to breathe underwater.

Q: What other cool things were displayed at the trade show?

KM: We stayed busy at the booth and had limited time to look around, but my favorite of what I saw/experienced was curling at the Xtraice booth.

Aquaticar model

Q: How many hours were you at the trade show booth?

KM: Including set up and break down, 24 hours…dang!

Q: While we can’t reveal who is interested in Aquaticar, can you comment (without being specific) about the interest level?

KM: We received strong local interest in Aquaticar and look forward to our next visit! ☺

The key feature of the booth at DEAL was a scale model of Aquaticar. Our team painstakingly built a replica that would show all of the features of the car. The model took a team of three over two hundred hours to build! From 3D printing, to molding, to ensuring the wheels turned, to creating the tiny logos… the car is truly an exact replica; complete with functioning canopy, wheels and rotors!

Aquaticar underwater driving

On the home front, our staff has been working hard on advancing Aquaticar to the next phase. Our giant test tank is now equipped with a track! And, we’ve moved the test car into the tank to test its speed and weight. (As a side note, we are also testing a new Sea TREK helmet in the tank, with improvements expected on comfort and noise reduction).

What’s next for Aquaticar? Stay tuned as we continue our journey developing this amazing underwater adventure!

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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Discover the Great Barrier Reef!

We’re super excited about our latest and greatest Sea TREK operator, Reef Magic Cruises in Cairns, Australia! This gorgeous location along the Great Barrier Reef provides TREKkers a unique opportunity to obtain a “bucket list” checkmark!

Australia is known for cute koalas and playful platypus.  It’s also an amazing place to view incredible sea life. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which is one of the seven wonders of the natural world, hosts 1,500 species of fish, 411 types of hard coral, one-third of the world's soft corals, 134 species of sharks and rays, six of the world's seven species of threatened marine turtles, and more than 30 species of marine mammals. The Reef is also home to approximately 40 species of sea birds. Whew! That’s an impressive population!

The Great Barrier Reef (GBR) is massive. In fact, it is the largest living structure on the planet. So big, in fact, that it is visible from space! The reef stretches 1,430 mi (2,300 km) along the Queensland coast, covering an area of over 132,819 square miles (344,000 square kilometers). To keep this in perspective, this equates to 70 MILLION football fields, or the size of Japan!

leatherback sea turtle
Leatherback Sea Turtle

The average depth of the reef’s inshore waters is around 115 ft (35 meters), while its outer reefs plunge to more than 6,561 ft (2,000 meters). This, combined with its tropical climate and warm waters, creates the ideal environment for its residents.  From the tiniest of coral and microscopic plankton, to the large leatherback sea turtle, the reef keeps its residents happy by providing intricate ecosystems. The reef’s rich biodiversity helps it to maintain a stable and healthy coral reef system, which in turn, provides food and shelter for its population. GBR has one of the most diverse habitats on the planet!

surgeon fish great barrier reef

Everyone who lives on the reef has a job to do, to contribute to the ecosystem. A great example is the surgeonfish, which is essential in the process of sediment removal. These fish consume between 8 and 66 grams (.3 oz to 2.3 oz) of algae per fish, per day! They get rid of their stomach contents in a different location from their eating grounds, and around one third of the sediment they eat via the algae is deposited off the reef, in deep water. This process helps maintain the reef, and possibly specific algal habitats in particular, which are a valuable food source for herbivore fish.

Pretty, but Evil- Crown of Thorns Starfish

Like many of the world’s great reefs and waterways, the GBR’s existence is threatened by several factors, including declining water quality. During tropical floods, runoff containing fertilizer and pesticides is dispensed into the reef's waters, which harms its delicately balanced ecosystem. The runoff problem is made worse by the loss of coastal wetlands along the Queensland coast, which act as a natural filter for toxins. The area of wetlands in the Great Barrier Reef catchment has decreased by over 50%, according to the Great Barrier Reef Coastal Wetlands Protection Program. Additionally, pollution from mining, seabed dumping, climate change, overfishing, and coral reef predators such as the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish, all contribute to the decline of the Reef.  Tropical cyclones also contribute to disturbances on the Reef; causing fragmentation, sediment plumes, and decreasing salinity.

Bluestripe Snappers

Thankfully there are efforts being made to protect the Reef and its inhabitants. Australia has permanently banned the disposal of port related capital dredge material in the entire World Heritage Area. Australian and Queensland government investment in Reef management and research activities is projected at more than $2 billion over the coming decade. This includes:

$140 million in funding for the Reef Trust

$100 million for improved water quality announced by Australia’s Prime Minister

$100 million in addition to the current $35 million per year from the Queensland Government for improving water quality and further reducing the impacts of fishing

And, over $29 million has already been allocated by the Reef Trust to improve the quality of
water flowing into the Reef, enhance species protection and control outbreaks of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish.

Queensland has established the Great Barrier Reef Water Science Taskforce to provide advice on the best approach to achieve up to 80% reduction in nitrogen run-off and up to 50% reduction in sediment run-off in key catchments by 2025. Organizations such as the World Wildlife Federation and The Nature Conservancy are also involved in the protection of the Reef.

Reef Magic's Marine World Platform

Our new Sea TREK family members at Reef Magic Cruises are also taking great measures to ensure the health and longevity of the Reef. Their Sea TREK operations are on a platform attached to a pontoon. The nearest rock/coral formation is 4 meters below any TREKker, so coral is kept safe from potential human contact. During the tour guests learn about the Reef and its importance. Additionally, Reef Magic has its own in-house, self-funded Crown-of-Thorns Starfish removal program. They have strict rubbish and waste removal, and no-straw policies, and their vessels run on low emission engines. Reef Magic holds Advanced Eco Accreditation, issued by Eco Tourism Australia, and has been awarded certification as a Climate Action Business.

So, if you’re planning a visit to Australia and the Great Barrier Reef, consider a fun and educational TREK with Reef Magic Cruises. You’ll experience an unforgettable journey to a very special underwater world.

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Around the World in Thirteen Days!

We’ve got a lot happening at Sub Sea Systems– we’re developing new products, opening new Sea TREK locations, and doing quite a bit of international travel! In March, our Director of Water Operations and Safety, Carl Hanson, took what can only be described as a “lengthy journey.” Carl traveled from our home base in California to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and then to Australia. He returned with stories to share, and some amazing photos and videos, too.

Where did you go?

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, then to Cairns, Australia.
With stopovers in:

  • San Francisco, California
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Abu Dhabi, UAE
  • Chennai, India 
  • Singapore
  • Bali, Indonesia
  • Sydney, Australia
  • Los Angeles, California

(yes, all in one trip!)

How many miles did you travel? 

21,837 miles in 13 days (FYI: the circumference of the Globe is 24,901 miles)

What was the purpose of your travels?

I traveled first to Dubai, where I did a site inspection of the Sea TREK program at Atlantis The Palm. I made sure that they are current with safety standards, and updated them on our product line. I also offered some ideas on how to improve their program. Atlantis The Palm is an award-winning location, and was the 2017 Sea TREK Operator of the Year; so it was nice to be able to meet the hard-working staff that made it happen. I also visited the Dubai Aquarium, and talked to them about potentially adding Sea TREK to their lineup of aquarium activities.

In Cairns, Australia, I worked on installing a brand new Sea TREK system for Reef Magic Cruises, replacing their outdated Sea Walker system. I worked with staff to ensure they were trained on our system and well versed on our safety standards. I also visited the Cairns Aquarium and talked about the potential of adding Sea TREK to the aquarium.

Did you have any down time? What did you do?

I didn’t have much down time, but I got to dive the Great Barrier Reef every day that I was in Cairns– a big ticket item on my Bucket List! I also got to enjoy my Easter holiday with a nice dinner and great company– the new Training Coordinators at Reef Magic.

What was the highlight of your trip?

Walking off a steep drop off (intentionally), in the Ambassador Aquarium at Atlantis The Palm, Dubai, while wearing a Sea TREK helmet. It was about a 32 ft (10 m) free fall! Awesome!

The highlight of my Cairns trip was learning how a different helmet diving program was run, teaching the staff about our amazing Sea TREK product, and seeing them get excited about this new opportunity.

Did you encounter any unusual sea life?

Nothing really new, but I met a huge Maori Wrasse named Wally! He's a Great Barrier Reef native.

What was the most surprising cultural difference you encountered?

In Dubai, I did not realize it is against the law to kiss your spouse in public!

What were the people like in each location?

The people of Dubai were very friendly, however, everyone I met in Dubai was not from Dubai! I met people from India, Philippines, Kenya- all over the world, but not from the region itself!

The Australian people are very laid back, very relaxed. They're also hard-working!

dubai atlantis the palm sea trek

What was the first thing you did when you got home?

I went to work!

("We told Carl to go home and rest, but sure enough… within a couple hours after landing, he showed up at the office. He’s extremely dedicated and enthusiastic about his job! However, we encouraged him to go home and get some sleep. We needed him rested for the remainder of the workweek!" –Hannah de Bie, VP of Marketing)

Where are you headed next?

In just a few weeks I will be headed to the brand new Atlantis resort in Sanya, China with Keenan Mayfield, Sea TREK Field Operations Specialist. We will be installing and setting up a new Sea TREK operation, as well as training and certifying the staff. This will be the third Atlantis property to offer Sea TREK!

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