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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Baby, It’s (Getting) Cold Outside!

Here in most of the US, days are darker and temperatures are dropping, as humans are wrapping themselves in scarves and hats. While many of us are preparing for skiing and sledding season and are donning our fuzziest sweaters, we may not be aware of what other living creatures are doing to prepare for winter. While we’ve heard about snoozing bears and bird migrations, what does sea life do when the colder weather hits? Where do fish go when it freezes?

Totally Tolerant

Creatures such as some shark species that have been around for millions of years have learned to adapt to different surroundings, and are not bothered by cooling temperatures. Sharks living in icy waters are known as endotherms, with the biological ability to raise their blood temperature to complement their surroundings. Endothermic creatures are usually large, with well-insulated bodies. They store fat immediately beneath their skin, which helps generate warmth. Their diets contain an abundance of high-energy, easy-to-digest foods that constantly keep their body temperatures high.

Unique to endotherms is the ability to shiver when cold. This rapid, rhythmic contraction of skeletal muscles creates its own source of heat by the physics of muscles burning energy.

Dolphins, sea lions and walruses are also endotherms. In fact, pudgy newborn harbor porpoises pack an astounding 43 percent of their total body mass in blubber!

Herring migration

Movin’ On Down the Road

Not every sea creature increases its body weight to protect itself from icy waters. Like many land animals (and heat-loving humans), some fishes and aquatic life migrate. Many animals that frequent coastal waters - from herrings to great white sharks - head south for warmer waters during winter.

Humpback whales, for example, migrate about 3,000 miles on average; one of the longest migratory journeys of any mammal on Earth. Humpbacks migrate to give birth. The water in Antarctica, where humpbacks spend their summer months, is just too cold for newly born baby whale calves to survive. They use their time up north to get nice and fat on their mother’s milk, which allows their little bodies to build up strength and withstand the colder waters on the journey home. Humpback whales return to Antarctica, when water temperatures warm up, for food! Antarctica is teaming with delicious krill, and the whales spend their summer feeding and building up their strength for the next winter migration.

Southern right whales are similar to humpbacks, in that they feed in Antarctica in the summer and then migrate north to Australia to breed and give birth (especially in southern corners of Australia, around the Great Australian Bight).

Atlantic herring migrate in schools to areas where they feed, spawn, and spend the winter. This superfish swims rapidly, allowing it to migrate over great distances in a short period. And, speaking of great distances, Adélie penguins travel about 11,000 miles to migrate to their winter-feeding grounds, the longest migration of any penguin.

turtle in ice

Let This Sink In

Some animals have to take special steps to withstand lowering temperatures. In areas with extreme freezing temperatures, it’s often hard for creatures to find warmer waters. These creatures, known as ectotherms, have become accustomed to lowered temperatures and, as such, they have developed ways to stop themselves from freezing.

Ectotherms are cold-blooded animals, which means that the animals’ regulation of body temperature depends on external resources, such as sunlight or warmed rocks. Ectotherms include most fishes, amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates. The body temperatures of aquatic ectotherms are usually very close to their aquatic environments.

For ectothermic creatures to survive the cold winters, they have developed specific strategies to ensure they can keep warm. Using the technique of basking, creatures such as turtles lie in the heat to increase their body temperatures. When their body temperatures become cooler, they move around less and slower, to help conserve heat and energy. In this resting state, fishes' hearts slow down, their need for food and oxygen decreases, and they move very little. Certain species of cod, flatfish and polar fish have a reduced metabolic rate and produce antifreeze molecules called glycoprotein to reduce the freezing point of their body fluids.

Burrowing strategy is also used to protect creatures from cold air and cooling waters. The layer of ice that forms on top of a lake, pond, river, or stream provides some insulation that helps retain water temperature. Because warm water sinks in very cold freshwater, fish in these water bodies often gather in groups near the bottom. Some species, like koi, may burrow into soft sediments and go dormant like frogs and other amphibians, but the majority of fish simply school in the deepest pools and take a "winter nap."

Most turtles burrow into the mud in winter, and become inactive during the coldest months. However, some turtles have an unusual ability to survive very long periods of time without oxygen. These turtles enjoy their normal activities throughout the winter.

So, next time you’re feeling chilled, and you’re ready to crank up the heat, be grateful that you don’t have to pack on extra pounds or find a warm pool of mud to borrow into!

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Friday, November 23, 2018

Aquaticar Takes A Journey!

It’s a busy time of year at Sub Sea Systems, with several staff members journeying to trade shows. Last week, our crew spent serious time and energy at the massive International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) expo in Orlando, Florida. Sub Sea joined forces with our partner, Cloward H2O in our decked out 20 ft x 30 ft booth on the eye-popping trade show floor.

The IAAPA expo provides a platform for companies in the amusement and attractions industry to showcase their best products and services, make connections, and share ideas. According to Blooloop, an attraction industry publication, this year’s expo was notable for its record-breaking scale. The expo hosted 42,000 registered attractions industry attendees, more than ever before. And, 1,151 companies exhibited, covering over 9 miles of trade show floor! Attendees had the chance to converse and form partnerships…and get a great workout at the same time!

IAAPA got things rolling with a kickoff event that showcased the latest news and hottest trends in the industry. The event featured a 60-minute, multi-media presentation and had an audience of nearly 1,800 Expo attendees. A presentation of what’s new in the industry highlighted new projects and rides that debuted in 2018, and provided a preview of what’s to come in 2019 and beyond. 

Another exciting event at IAAPA was its awards presentation. IAAPA’s Brass Ring awards are presented to amusement parks, water parks, zoos, aquariums, museums, family entertainment centers, and suppliers from around the world to honor excellence in food and beverage, games and retail, human resources, live entertainment, marketing, new products, and exhibits. Last year, Sub Sea Systems won the 2nd place Brass Ring award for Best New Product / Best New Concept for a Major Ride / Attraction. Additionally, IAAPA offers a prestigious Applause Award, which honors one park whose management, operations, and creative accomplishments have inspired the industry with foresight, originality and sound business development. We’re excited to congratulate this year’s recipient, Xcaret Park– who also happens to be a distinguished partner of Sub Sea Systems, and home to the largest Sea TREK program in the world!

For Sub Sea Systems, participation was quite the undertaking. Preparation started at headquarters in Diamond Springs, California, where each product was carefully packaged for the lengthy trip. Crates were built with the greatest of care, to ensure items arrived in perfect condition. It’s quite a challenge to ensure a 1300 lb. Aquaticar traverses the nearly 3,000 miles without damage! The vehicle on display showcased our latest model, which included updated viewing lenses on the canopy and a new interior finish, underwater communication, emergency air supply, self-steering components, and a new wheel/tread design. And, the lime green body finish generated a lot of buzz at the show! The booth also showcased a Sea TREK demonstration helmet and custom display stand that enabled guests to try on the helmet, a scale-model replica of the Clear Lounge underwater oxygen bar, a scale-model replica of the Aquaticar vehicle that individuals could push along a segment of track, swag, brochures and more!

While the truck did the lengthy transport, our team departed airports from several locations…China, Amsterdam, and of course, California. They convened at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, and rolled up their sleeves to unpack and set up. Between unpacking, set up, time spent at the booth, and the final, 6-hour breakdown and repacking, our representatives spent over 40 hours in just four days. They shook hands, handed out brochures, and met with leading innovators in the industry. Although the expo requires hours of hard work, the real work begins after the show closes– business cards to sort through and follow ups to be made. We’re excited for new business partnerships and can’t wait to share details as they develop!

The team did have opportunities for a break. Vice President of Production, Kyle Mayfield said, “It’s hard to spend a week in Orlando and not have a little fun. We managed to get away and bowl, golf, experience a quick ride called Starflyer, and race go-carts. Nothing over the top, but I don’t think we had energy for much else.“

We appreciate the opportunities that IAAPA offers for businesses like Sub Sea Systems and our partners. And, we are thankful to our amazing staff for taking it all on!

Sub Sea Systems is exhibiting at IAAPA’s European Attractions Show in Paris, France next year and at the Orlando Expo in November 2019.

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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Get Ready for Holiday Travel

Traveling during the holidays can be exciting. The hustle and bustle, combined with the anticipation of spending time with loved ones, can really enhance the spirit of the season. But, traveling during holidays can also be expensive and unnerving without thoughtful planning. Here are a few money saving, stress-reducing tips that will ensure your trip will be joyful!

Travel ON the holiday
While airline prices might skyrocket the closer you get to a holiday, prices are generally lower if you travel on the actual holiday. Although it may not always be ideal, Thanksgiving and Christmas travel can save you a lot of extra cash. According to online travel agency Kayak, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day are two of the most economical times to fly. You can also save big if you fly out Christmas Eve. The flight booking tool, CheapAir, estimates that travelers flying out Christmas Eve will save an average of $76 compared to a flight just two days earlier. You’ll also find quieter airports and less road traffic.

Consider alternatives to (bland) hotel reservations
Hotels often charge top dollar at holiday time. If you aren’t staying with family, check out, or similar sites. Not only can you score an apartment or small home for what you might typically pay for a hotel, digs often include a full kitchen, which can save you money on dining out. For example, a very popular, lower-priced hotel in Boston charges $133 per night for a double room during the holidays. For $135 per night during the same time period, you could rent a charming studio apartment with a full kitchen, and a private patio to watch the snowflakes fall. Another five bucks a night gets you an apartment that sleeps 4 and offers a washer/dryer all to yourself, and even a gorgeous gas fireplace to open gifts by.

Utilize other (smaller) airports
If you’re fortunate enough to live within a reasonable distance to multiple airports, seeking out smaller airports can really save you time and stress during the holidays, and might save you some cash, too. For example, the bustling San Francisco International airport forecasts 130,000 passengers flying in and out between Friday, November 22nd and Sunday, December 1st! SFO’s daily maximum parking rate for long-term parking is $18 per day; the international garage is $28 per day; and the domestic garage is $36 per day.  In comparison, one could drive to the smallish, low-key Sacramento Airport, with economy parking at just $10/day.

holiday driving on quiet road

Seek alternate routes when driving
Sometimes the fastest route isn’t the quickest! If you’re driving, avoid a last-minute scramble or traffic nightmare by ensuring you’ve got directions for a different route ahead of time. Mapping out an alternative and having it ready can save you a major headache. We recommend the Waze app for real-time, user generated traffic updates and alternative routes. Or, consider taking that scenic drive right out of the gate. Taking in holiday scenery, colorful lights, and winter’s beauty can put you in the right frame of mind before attending those high-energy family gatherings.

Don’t wrap before you go
It might seem more convenient, but wrapping your gifts before flying off to spend time with distant family is not ideal. The Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has very specific rules regarding restricted items, and your gifts could end up getting opened for inspection or, worse, confiscated and destroyed. Whether the presents are going into checked luggage or a carry-on, ignorance of TSA regulations regarding prohibited items can leave you gift-less. Even simple gifts such as a child's snow globe or gel candles are prohibited. Rough baggage handling can also result in your homemade cookies crumbling, while your vac-packed gourmet coffee can set off an x-ray machine. If you can, ship gifts ahead of time to family members. You might even save money on baggage fees. For additional savings to both your wallet and your back, you can ship your own gifts home, too!

flight rebooking on phone

Be phone ready at the airport
Dreaming of a White Christmas? Snowy weather may look festive, but it can wreak havoc on travel plans. Flight delays and cancellations are not uncommon during the holiday season. Before you depart for the airport, put the phone number of your airline customer service department into your phone’s address book. If you have a flight delay or cancellation, you may be asked to line up with all the other delayed travelers, to attempt a rebooking. Calling the customer service department while you wait in line gives you an advantage over those just queuing up. You might reach someone on the phone faster than you can get to the rebooking counter. Consider, too, adding travel insurance to your trip. While severe weather cancellations might mean your trip doesn’t go forward, at least you can rest easier knowing you won’t experience a financial punch.

Traveling during the holidays doesn’t have to turn you into a stress-riddled Scrooge. With careful planning, you can enjoy those tasty turkey trimmings during the “most wonderful time of the year!”

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Thursday, November 8, 2018

OdySea Aquarium for the Win!

Even though October is in the books and many of us are thinking about turkeys and football, Sub Sea Systems has one more nod to Halloween and all things orange.

With a focus on tricking out their locations, Sea TREK Operators were challenged with a Halloween decorating contest, with the only stipulation being that they could not add anything permanent to their Sea TREK locations or equipment. Otherwise, they were free to be as creative as they wished!

Operators donned costumes, submerged scary creatures, and decorated to the max for Halloween, hoping to grab the top prize. We are delighted to share some cool images from the contest, and also want to recognize the winner, OdySea Aquarium, for their dynamic displays and fun frights!

OdySea Aquarium Halloween Costume underwater

We checked in with OdySea’s Sea TREK Manager, Shannon Aldridge, and asked her to share with us their approach to the contest:

What was the inspiration for your displays?

The inspiration for our SeaTREK during A-scare-ium weekend at OdySea Aquarium was monsters! We brainstormed to come up with a theme that would work well for decorating our deck as well as the helmets. We printed a photo of all the Monsters University characters to get some helmet ideas! Underwater, we went with more classic Halloween items that work well for sinking – pumpkins, skulls and bones, tombstones, etc. Our sign for the weekend read “Monster Mash”.

Odysea Sea TREK decorations

Who helped put the displays together?

Putting everything together was a team effort! Many of us enjoy crafting/decorating/holidays, so everyone jumped on the project once I was given the green light to deck out SeaTREK. One team, one dream!

How long did it take to put the displays together?

We worked on getting all the decorations made (we made almost everything from scratch), starting Thursday night and running throughout Friday. A-scare-ium officially started at 4pm on Friday, October 26th, so we had many of the exhibit items sunk and ready to go. Then, Friday night into Saturday morning we finished decorating the SeaTREK deck and all 8 of our guest helmets.

What was the most difficult part of putting the displays together?

The most challenging part of our display was decorating the helmets! We had to come up with materials that wouldn’t damage the helmets or cause any harm to our animals, so electrical tape ended up being our best option. I now have a wide variety of colored tape available for the next event! It was also challenging to come up with designs that were not too alike, did not interfere with safety and did not take away from guests’ sight. We made it work and came up with some very fun designs!

OdySea Sea TREK Skeleton

What was the reaction when guests saw the displays?

We received a lot of positive feedback from guests! Our Guest Relations Manager came up to the deck at one point because he had heard some SeaTREK guests talking about how cool our theming was and he didn’t realize we had gone all out decorating helmets and all; he was blown away when he got up here. All other team members were very impressed with what we were able to accomplish as well.

OdySea aquarium display

How did sea life react to the displays?

Our animals were hardly phased by the decorations on the helmets, but the items we sunk in the exhibit were extremely fun for them. They mostly enjoyed the pumpkins, as they provided both enrichment and a fun new menu item!

What other events does OdySea have coming up? 

Our big event coming up at OdySea Aquarium right now is National Geographic’s Monster Fish traveling exhibit! We are currently installing everything this week and we will have all the displays from November 10th, 2018 through May 5th, 2019. The displays and interactives are very impressive!

Our Night Life theme for November 2018 will be “Fish & Sips”, where some of our team members will be leading a painting session during the event, like Painting With A Twist!

We will also see the return of SeaTREK Santa in December for the holiday season with some fun changes compared to the last two years of appearances! I am also hoping to deck out SeaTREK for the holidays, like what we did for Halloween!

Congratulations, OdySea, for winning the top prize! 

We would also like to recognize other fantastic contest entries! The best photo was taken by Coral World Ocean Park in St. Thomas. Their photo of a sea turtle munching on pumpkin “brains” was selected as our favorite pic. And, De Palm Island wowed us with a spooky video of their underwater “graveyard”.

Special thanks to all operators who participated! 

turtle eats pumpkin on Coral World

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Thursday, November 1, 2018

Time for Trade Shows!

Don’t look now, but Christmas decorations are at the ready in your nearby department store and it’s time for some of us to start hauling in the firewood. It seems like September and October went by in a flash!

At Sub Sea Systems’ headquarters, ‘tis the season for travel and trade shows. Staff members book flights, pack up our huge and colorful booth and swag, and head off to share our innovations, make new contacts, and learn more about our industry.

This year, we’ve already set up and displayed at WWA trade show and in just a couple of weeks, we’ll head to IAAPA show for another big undertaking. So, what are these shows exactly, and what is involved in putting forth our best effort? We interviewed Kyle Mayfield, Sub Sea’s Vice President of Production, to learn more about the shows and what it’s like to take them on. Here’s what Kyle had to share about the trade show experience.

WWA trade show booth

What is the WWA?
WWA is the World Waterpark Association, a trade organization that provides education and networking for the waterpark and aquatic attractions industry.

The event we attended is their annual trade show that brings vendors and operators together.

Why does Sub Sea Systems participate in the WWA?
Waterparks are a relatively new and emerging industry for our products, and this show provides a great venue to share what we do. It also helps us stay current with emerging trends and attractions in the industry.

What products did SSS feature at the WWA?
With Aquaticar being our newest innovation, it took front stage, but Sea TREK, Clear Lounge and FunCat were represented too.

How long does it take to set up the booth? What’s the trickiest part?
We had a new booth and several items to assemble and prepare this year, but we still got it up in less than 2 hours. Just getting everything there in one piece is the trickiest part- the rest is following instructions and trying not to spill your beer (thoughtfully provided by the show organizer).

What product drew the most attention from show attendees? 
Everyone is instantly drawn to Aquaticar! And, with our mini Aquaticar model on display, it just begs so many intriguing questions.

Coming up next is IAPPA. What makes IAAPA unique?
IAAPA– International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions– is a massive show representing all parts of the amusement industry, from creative designers to manufacturers and suppliers of anything and everything that one can find at major entertainment attractions.

Why do we exhibit there?
This is THE show to see and be seen. It provides a wealth of contacts, connections and exposure for our products.

IAPPA trade show - packing up aquaticar

What is the most challenging part of displaying at IAPPA? 
For us, it is two-fold. We need to create a booth that makes an impact and features all the cool things we do… while also being challenged with the logistics of shipping 2000+ lbs. of materials. This year, we shipped a very large crate containing a full size Aquaticar, Sea TREK helmet, mini models, brochures, stands, and more. It will travel cross-country via rail, and must arrive on time and completely intact (fingers crossed!). I’m pretty sure this year’s crate could double as a luxury apartment in San Francisco.

IAPPA - packing up for trade show

What do we display at IAPPA?
For the second consecutive year we are sharing a large booth with ClowardH20– a world-renowned aquatic engineering firm. Sub Sea is displaying our latest production version of Aquaticar (sporting an eye catching shade of green). We will also show off representations of our Aquaticar track system (scale model), Sea TREK helmet (8’ helmet display lift), and a scale model of Clear Lounge.

What are the benefits of being at this show?
Exposure! Connections! Fun!

What’s the best thing you’ve seen in past shows? 
A 5000-gallon fish tank filled with people wearing these crazy breathing helmets. ☺

Are you a trade show aficionado? What’s the best SWAG item you’ve ever snagged at a trade show? Share below!

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