Sub Sea Systems — Our World is a blog dedicated to the unique experiences of Sub Sea Systems — Immerse yourself in our incredible adventures, company culture, and innovative programs and products.

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Peruse and Pursue Plastic Replacements

plastic substitutes enivornmentally friendly

Unless you’ve been living under coral, it’s likely you’ve heard of the environmental damage of plastics and disposable products, especially in our waterways. Thankfully we are becoming more aware of the dangers of these plastics. Photos of turtles with plastic rings around their shells, seals with gashes from fishing line, and seabirds with bellies bloated by debris have given humans a necessary wakeup call.

But, plastics and convenient disposables still play a roll in most of our daily lives, and it seems like it’s not yet an option to remove them completely. The bright side is that more and more eco-friendly products that can replace some of these commonly used items are coming onto the market.  Here are a few replacements that you can integrate into your routine, to assist you in your personal quest to help save our planet!

silicone ice cube trays

Reusable Silicone
When it comes to offering a highly durable and reusable plastic substitute that doesn’t leak and doesn’t contain the chemicals commonly found in plastics, silicone is an ideal replacement. Silicone is safer for human health than petroleum-based plastic. It contains no bisphenol-A (BPA), which doctors, scientists and regulators have deemed a human health hazard.

Silicone is highly durable and more ocean friendly than plastic. Silicone is made from silica, which is found in sand. Silicone endures extreme fluctuations in temperatures - from very cold to oven hot - without melting, cracking or otherwise degrading. Silicone products include:

bamboo utensils
Bamboo replacements
Bamboo is the ultimate natural resource. The shoots can be picked for eating (stir fry anyone?), and the wood of older canes can be treated and used as anything from decorations to bicycles! A fabulous trend right now is utilizing bamboo fibers for fabrics and clothing.

Bamboo is eco-friendly. It absorbs carbon dioxide and releases a major amount of oxygen into the atmosphere. Moreover, bamboo belongs to the grass family, so it does not require pesticides, fertilizers or irrigation to enhance growth. Bamboo is antibacterial and hypoallergenic as well as innovative and beautiful. A few household items that you could consider are:

Long before plastic wrap was on the market, there was beeswax. Ancient Egyptians used it as a preservative, and artists have used it to strengthen clay in sculptures and model making. Of late, it’s become the magic ingredient for everything from candies to candles.

Several new start-up companies have figured out a way to use those same adaptable characteristics to benefit food preservation. etee,  based in Toronto, Canada, spent about a year researching the properties of beeswax in an effort to create a pliable food wrap that didn’t have to be chucked into the garbage after one use. etee discovered that by adding essential oils and soy or resin to the beeswax, and then infusing organic cotton with the mixture, they were able to create a flexible “sticky” wrap that was not only reusable but had antimicrobial properties to help guard against food spoilage. Additionally, bees wax can be easily washed in light, soapy cold water and reused as many as 150 times. You can currently purchase the following items:

Plant Starch
Plant starch is considered a bioplastic, meaning it is derived from a renewable resource. It is made from a mix of 70% plant materials like corn, potatoes, and other vegetables and 30% fillers (like polypropylene) for strength and heat tolerance. While most single-use containers are currently made from cardboard bonded with plastic, making them unsuitable for recycling, plant starch materials are recyclable and renewable; they can be grown again and again.

And, here are a few things that you may have heard about, or will be seeing in the very near future!

edible seaweed water bubbles

Seaweed water bubbles
UK startup Ooho has created an alternative to the traditional plastic water bottle– a water bubble made of seaweed. The H2O is protected inside a gelatinous plant-film, so it's biodegradable and entirely edible. Meaning in the future, you might be eating your water, not just drinking it. Their aim is “to provide the convenience of plastic bottles while limiting the environmental impact.” They have developed a manufacturing process that makes this both more efficient and cheaper than producing plastic bottles. The process produces 5x less CO₂ and uses 9x less energy vs PET production.   

edible six-pack rings

Edible six-pack ring (point to blog)
Saltwater Brewery has developed a material for their six-pack rings, which are not only biodegradable and compostable, but also edible! Made of barley and wheat remnants– byproducts of the brewing process– this packaging will actually benefit sea life by providing an additional, safe food source! See their video here:

Mushroom root
With Mycelium (mushroom roots), packaging is literally grown. Ecovative Design, a New York-based biotech company, gathers agricultural waste, mixes it with the mycelium in molds, then literally grows the packaging.

Bagasse sugar cane plastic replacement

Bagasse is a byproduct of sugarcane processing. Due to its malleability and stickiness, it can be easily molded into packaging suitable for food delivery and food service industries. Unlike the frequently used polystyrene, it’s certified biodegradable and compostable.  Read about it here:

Shrimp shell bags
To offset the more than one trillion plastic bags used around the world annually, bioengineers at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. are taking a unique approach. They’re developing biodegradable bags out of shrimp shells. For now, the project is aimed specifically at Egypt, where there is a huge overabundance of crustacean shell waste. The shells are collected, boiled in acid to make them less brittle, and stripped down to a plastic bag-like material. Just two pounds of shells can yield 15 biodegradable shopping bags! Check it out:

While it may not be feasible to rid the planet of plastics, every step we take as individual contributors, and every piece of plastic we replace with an environmentally friendly alternative, can help make the earth cleaner and greener, and perhaps save a living creature or two.

Sub Sea Systems is committed to conservation. Check out our program, Reef Alliance. Be a part of the solution not the pollution.

reef alliance logo

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Part 5, Get to Know Sub Sea Staff!

Next in our series, "Get to Know Sub Sea Staff" we'd like to tell you all about our Sub Sea Systems' heroine, Hannah de Bie. Hannah’s list of responsibilities is longer than an octopus arm, and nothing short of astounding. From handling the company’s marketing endeavors, to establishing and working with new operators, Hannah does it all with perpetual positivity!

What is your job title?
VP Marketing & Communications

How would you describe your job to someone you just met?
It’s complicated! I start off by sharing that I’m the head of marketing for my family’s business, and that we’re in the tourism industry– we take people on guided underwater walking tours. (*insert bewildered look here*). Then I pull out my phone and proceed to share photos. It’s amazing to see how many people are familiar with Sea TREK, our flagship program, or have even tried it. They’re always shocked to learn that the corporate office is in Northern California, of all places.

sub sea systems hannah de bie

What is the best/your favorite part of the job?
I love my job– and for many different and varying reasons. Here are just a few:
  • I am beyond passionate about our products and company mission. To put it simply, I love what we do. It’s extremely rewarding to hear customer feedback, read online reviews, and see photos and videos posted by guests; some even share that Sea TREK or Clear Lounge was a life changing experience! To be involved in that is incredible. Through our business we also have an extensive, worldwide platform to promote conservation and educate people about the fragile marine environment.
  • I get to work with my family… my whole family– siblings, parents, uncle, and dogs… and, we all get along! It’s very unique to be involved in a family-owned business, and to see it thrive and grow through a 2nd generation. As my brothers and I start our families, I can only hope interest is sparked in the 3rd generation!
  • I have the opportunity to travel to some pretty exotic destinations, and work with people from all over the world. I enjoy learning about other cultures, trying local cuisine and getting to know people from every corner of the globe.
de bie family

What do you do in your spare time, away from work?
99% of my time is dedicated to raising the newest member of my family– my son, Hank! Being a Mom is the hardest (and most rewarding) job on the planet. He has a BIG personality and it’s truly amazing to watch him grow.

My husband, Evan, and I also enjoy cooking– self-proclaimed “foodies”! I recently started making sourdough bread, too.

You were recently featured on the very popular tv show, “House Hunters”! Tell us about that experience. 
Yes! That was an experience of a lifetime! During a business trip to Singapore I happened to meet a former House Hunters producer. We started talking and I shared with her that I was in the market for a new home. One thing lead to the next, and within a couple weeks we were filming! It’s incredible to see how much work, and how many hours of filming, are required to produce a 25-minute show (Five, 8-hour days!) The crew was fantastic, and our realtor (in real life), Garrett Abben, also filmed with us. Overall it was SO much fun, and will be a great memory to share with our son when he’s older. Check out the episode, "Quirky vs Functional in California, Season 137, Episode 12" online.

sea trek with Hannah De Bie

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Treat others the way you would like to be treated. (What a world we would live in if this was everyone’s mantra?!)

What are you most proud of?
My son! Every day I look at him and think, “I made you!” Having a child is pure magic. It’s miraculous!

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpower to be? 
Breathing and seeing underwater! I’ve always wanted to be a mermaid. Being a redhead and in the underwater tourism industry… the Little Mermaid is my all time favorite Disney movie (surprise surprise!). I want to be a part of Ariel’s world!  Hahaha.

Hannah is already a superhero to all of us at Sub Sea Systems, and we can’t tell her often enough how much we appreciate all that she does to make SSS an awesome place to work!

mayfield family

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Cool and “Crazy Colorful” Sea Creatures

Did you know…? Under our oceans and waterways, there’s a world of living color! Purples, greens, reds and more create a living rainbow under the sea, with hues that defy nature and seem almost impossible. Here are a few examples of this striking sea life!

man o' war

Portuguese Man O’ War
Devils of the sea, the Portuguese man o’ war lures you in with its gorgeous purple-blue translucence, only to inflict an incredibly painful, venomous sting when physically encountered!  This species is predatory. It uses its feeding tentacles to paralyze small fishes, pelagic crustaceans, and other invertebrates. It can also give humans a painful reminder of its ability– just ask President of Sub Sea Systems, Jim Mayfield, who felt the excruciating sting firsthand during a dive in Mexico!

The man-of-war has no means of propulsion, so it simply drifts, riding the currents of the ocean. They frequently form legions consisting of over 1000 colonies that float around together. Because they drift along on (somewhat) predictable winds and ocean currents, it’s possible to anticipate where and when the creatures will show up. For example, the Gulf Coast’s man o’ war arrive in the winter months.

hippo blue tang

Hippo (Blue) Tang
The hippo tang is so beautiful, it was used as a model…for the cartoon character, Dory, in Pixar/Disney’s “Finding Dory”!

This vibrant yellow, blue and black fish, found in Indo-Pacific waters, helps control the algae population on sponges, turtles, and coral reefs. Juvenile blue tang are herbivores (like Bruce, the shark), and play a major role in keeping algae from getting out of control.

Like all surgeonfish, the hippo tang can extract a razor-sharp caudal spine located at the side of its fin when threatened. They thrash their bodies and use their “scalpels” to cut whatever is trying to harm them. Obviously, Pixar decided to leave this trait out of Dory’s character.

Colorful Mandarin Goby Fish

Mandarin Goby
By far one of the most mesmerizing fish, the vibrant mandarin goby is found in waters from the Ryukyu Islands off the coast of Japan, to warm Australian reefs.

The Mandarin goby is not just beautiful - it’s also a complex creature.  This goby is covered in tiny spines that can inject toxic mucus into anyone who tries to handle it. It contains two types of secretious cells on its colorful epidermis – one that produces a thick mucus coating to protect it from the elements, and another that produces a toxin to protect it from predators. Not only is this toxic mucus coating dangerous, particularly if it makes it into a predator’s open wound, but it smells disgusting! The stink is not incidental. The mandarin goby needs the odor and the spines, because it lacks one of the most basic protective measures in the marine world: it doesn’t have scales.

discus colorful fish

Native to the Amazon River Basin in South America, discus are patterned in shades of green, red, brown, and blue. Highly social, discus typically form groups that may number many dozens of individuals.

They form pair bonds when they are about 75% of their adult size, and tend to remain life-long partners. Discus are great parents, and even secrete a slimy substance through their scales for their fry to feed off for the first couple of weeks of life.

The grace and elegance of the discus has fascinated fish enthusiasts from around the world since they were first discovered in the 1800s. However, excessive captive breeding has led to the fading of their dark stripes. Today, the discus is listed as a threatened species, meaning that if the situation progresses unchanged, the discus will be threatened with extinction in the wild in the near future.

ribbon eel

Ribbon Eel
The chameleon-like ribbon eel swaps out its colors as it ages. The juveniles and young adults, which are all born male, are jet black with a yellow dorsal fin. In adult males, the black is replaced by blue, and adult females are entirely yellow or yellow with some blue to the posterior.

These carnivorous eels feed on small fishes like guppies, fathead minnows, and other crustaceans. They use their clamped nostril to attract the prey and then using their strong jaw, they catch them. Their dragon-like appearance makes them one of the most intriguing creatures to observe, but they are typically seen with only their heads protruding out of reefs and coral.

juvenile garibaldi

The vivid orange garibaldi, the state fish of California, is the largest member of the damselfish family. In their natural habitats, Garibaldi’s are solitary fish and are very territorial. The males carry the spores of specific species of algae in their cheeks, and plant it on flat rock surfaces. This algae is then groomed by the fish, who defends it against encroaching males and sea urchins. In spring, females lay eggs, which hook onto the algae that the males tended.

Garibaldi have been known to charge at divers, perhaps in an attempt to protect their territory and defend eggs. When disturbed or approached, Garibaldi fish emit a thumping sound, which can sometimes be heard by divers.

Blue-Ringed Octopus

Blue-ringed Octopus
Dazzling yet deadly, the blue-ringed octopus is not the innocent sea occupant it appears to be. This golf-ball sized creature’s venom is 1,000 times more powerful than cyanide and can kill 26 humans within minutes. It’s no surprise that it’s recognized as one of the most dangerous animals in the ocean.

Native to the Pacific Ocean, the blue-ringed octopus can be found in the soft, sandy bottom of shallow tide pools and coral reefs. When not seeking food or a mate, blue-ringed octopuses often hide in crevices, shells or marine debris. If you catch them outside of their cozy hiding spots, it’s easy to see how the animal gets its name: when threatened, bright blue rings appear all over its body as a warning signal to potential predators.

Fortunately, the blue-ringed octopus isn’t aggressive; it’s only likely to bite humans if cornered or handled.

giant clam

Giant Clam
Not only could you take an afternoon nap inside its shell, the giant clam also dons an amazing array of colors. Its mantle is usually a mixture of yellow, red, green, blue, pink and brown. This massive mollusk can reach 4 feet in length and weight up to 500 pounds!

Like most corals, some anemones, and other reef organisms, giant clams utilize a combination of methods to obtain food. The majority of their energy is derived from symbiotic algae living within their cells, providing the clams with excess energy that they make via photosynthesis (the use of sunlight to convert carbon dioxide into food/energy). In return, the algae have a safe place to live and receive the nutrients necessary to photosynthesize. The beautiful colors characteristic of individual giant clams are actually a result of the symbiotic algae.

The seductive colors of the giant clam are somewhat wasted, because giant clams are hermaphrodites. That means that one animal has both male and female reproductive organs and can self-reproduce.

Want to check out more amazing sea life? 
Visit our Pinterest board "The Amazing Ocean"

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Thursday, January 3, 2019

Our Year in Numbers!

2018 has been a fast-paced, exciting year for Sub Sea Systems! From new Sea TREK locations to a zippy, brightly colored Aquaticar, the year has been full of firsts combined with continued, steady growth. We’ve traveled across the globe (a few times!) and encouraged more and more people to Trek, play in Clear Lounge, or take a spin on a FunCat. We made new friends and developed an exciting new product. All of our efforts continue to reflect our goal – to introduce more and more people to the beauty of the underwater world! Check out the 2018 Sub Sea Systems’ Year in Numbers, and stay tuned for more excitement in 2019. Cheers!

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