BAR HARBOR, Maine — To a casual observer, a close-up view of the harbor on Sunday afternoon probably didn’t look any different from the same view the day before.
But if you were a fish or a crab, you might have noticed a difference.
The bottom of the harbor is cleaner, thanks to the efforts of about 20 volunteers who chipped in Sunday morning to help find trash or lost items below the surface and fish them out. For the people involved, it was all just another day’s work for the League of Underwater Superheroes.
The league is a club of scuba divers from the Mount Desert Island area who get together to go diving. On Sunday, they gathered to do their bit for Earth Day, which is coming up on April 22, by collecting garbage they found on the harbor bottom.
Among the items they found were numerous pieces of metal and pottery, construction debris, some lost lobster traps and fishing nets, pieces of toilets and several old bottles. They also found a computer, a toaster, a caulking gun, an American flag and a credit card.
Some of the small creatures that came up with some of the items — crabs, a sea cucumber, a pipe fish, starfish and a type of small fish called an ocean pout — were kept to be donated to local nonprofit marine research and advocacy groups. Others were returned to the water.
Eddie Monat, a local dive instructor and tour boat operator who founded the league, said Sunday that members dive once a year in the harbor to clean up debris that ends up in the water. Bar Harbor gets a lot of boat traffic in the summer from recreational users, fishermen and cruise ship tenders, and people can’t help but drop or lose things beneath the waves.
“We’re trying to get as much stuff off the bottom as we can,” Monat said. “It’s really fun for people because you never know what you’re going to find. For some people, it’s the way they kick off the diving season.”
Eight people donned dry suits Sunday and dove into the 38-degree water to help find debris while the other volunteers stayed on Monat’s boat, Starfish Enterprise, or the dock to help pull out items divers brought to the surface. As each object was pulled onto the boat or dock, a description of it was written on lists that will be sent to the Project AWARE Foundation, an international organization with a mission of helping to preserve underwater environments.
“We’re just scratching the surface here,” Monat said. “You could do this probably every weekend all year long and still find plenty of stuff.”
Peter St. Germain, a town councilor and a league member who dove Sunday, said he was surprised to see that some vegetation has come back on the bottom.
“There’s a fair amount of eelgrass that’s growing back right around the dock here,” St. Germain said. “At one point it was diminished a lot.”
St. Germain said the water clarity seemed to be good and he could see schools of small cod and pollock swimming in the eelgrass.
“Generally, the harbor looks healthy, from my perspective,” St. Germain said. “It’s nice to have people do this and to monitor what’s going on.”