BAR HARBOR, Maine — Diver Ed is Mount Desert Island’s “underwater superhero.” Aboard the Starfish Enterprise, a 51-foot boat named by children, he explores and shares Maine’s ocean world.
For College of the Atlantic Family Nature Camp, Diver Ed’s cruise is the highlight of a weeklong program of educational, outdoor activities.
On a warm night in late July, Diver Ed, also known as Ed Monet, stood before two rows of yellow benches filled with COA campers. It was the evening before the last day of camp.
He tugged a black and red dry suit over his jeans and white T-shirt. “DE” was emblazoned on its chest. The 40-pound belt around his waist would drag him to the floor of Frenchman Bay.
He greeted everyone by the names written on their duct tape name tags. When the boat was anchored near the sea wall, he asked the children to come to the back of the boat and push him overboard.
With a net sack in hand, Ed dove down and collected creatures from the ocean floor. Through a microphone in his mask, he described what he saw. His voice sounded from the boat intercom.
Narrating the dive was Ed’s wife, Edna Martin, known on the boat as Capt. Evil. Two rescue Newfoundlands and a red-bearded youth called Smart Alex completed the crew.
Ed reported over the intercom that he was 53 feet down. Despite the darkness, he chose not to use an artificial light because he sees greater distances with natural light.
“He’s been hit by a shark before, on the long end of Porcupine Island,” said Capt. Evil. “It was a 10-foot mako shark.
“The big, 1,000-pound gray seals think he looks sexy. They’ve been known to grab him and pull him around the bottom. He’s gone from 60 to 90 feet in no time. It pulled his regulator out and filled his mask with water.”
After 10 minutes of scouring the ocean floor for sea creatures, Diver Ed surfaced.
Capt. Evil hauled out a large, high-definition camera, the same the Discovery Channel uses to film white sharks, and handed it to Ed as he bobbed in the water.
“Sharks have slammed into it and haven’t broken it,” said Capt. Evil. “So I thought, Eddy can’t break it. We had it for three days without breaking it. We called [the Discovery Channel] up and they said they only filmed the sharks for two weeks. Eddy does more dives in one week then they do in a year.”
On a flat-screen monitor, campers saw through Diver Ed’s eyes as he swam down the sea wall.
The deeper he swam, the greener the water became, shutting out light from above. The plankton floated before the camera screen like snow. As he moved along the rocks, the camera panned blood stars and colonies of sea urchins.
Diver Ed, former harbor master and discoverer of three underwater species, and Capt. Evil, with degrees in anthropology archaeology, shared their knowledge. A sea star has an eye at the end of each arm. Lobsters have been clocked swimming 15 feet per second.
Ed held Mini Ed — a small plastic replica of himself — in front of the camera and made him kiss sea stars and frilled anemones, which sting their prey and suck them into their mouths.
A blur passed and Ed zoomed in on a shredded fish, lobster bait left behind.
“These lobsters treat the traps like a fast-food restaurant,” said Capt. Evil as Ed
panned over to a turquoise lobster trap. “But one day, they don’t come out.”
The camera paused on a colony of sea cucumbers — round, squishy animals that look like dark, bloated cucumbers.
“Sea cucumbers breathe through their butts,” said Capt. Evil as Ed pauses to look at a sea cucumber’s expanding and contracting breathing hole. “Eddy finds this quite amusing.”
A lobster sped out of a cave in the sea wall, and Ed caught it with one hand, holding it in front of his face. The lobster snapped at Mini Ed Number 123 and caught him with a tight grip, but he managed to escape with only a mangled arm. (Mini Ed Number 122 had met his fate earlier that day when a lobster shattered his body.)
Diver Ed surfaced and climbed aboard, dripping with Atlantic brine. Two children pushed buttons on his suit until it expanded like a balloon, and he waddled to the front of the bench rows.
He and Capt. Evil dumped the sea creatures into trays of water. The “brave” children were invited to sit upfront.
While educating, Ed rolled a sea cucumber in his hands until it tightened into a ball. He held lobsters in front of children’s faces and demonstrated how a sea star might pry open a clam and eat its guts — the clam being a tiny girl sitting in the front row.
The treasure of the day was a giant, vibrant orange, 10-legged sea star, which he called a sea sun. Diver Ed placed the heavy creature on people’s heads without warning, children and adults alike.
After his lesson, he allowed everyone to gently handle the sea animals in the trays before the children helped him throw them back into the ocean.
“Goodbye!” said the kids as the sea sun sank into the aquamarine water.
Learn more about Diver Ed’s cruises at “Watch Mini Ed Number 115 lose his head to a giant crab” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XQ1FaEMexM&feature=related.