Once again, I got to sit on a plane for several hours, anxiously anticipating a week at SeaWorld. But when I got there, I checked in, dumped off my luggage, and met up with some friends I'd met the year before. We went up to the cafeteria and got pizza. Then we got to go into the park and go on rides and go shopping! I'd forgotten how much the Steel Eel had scared me the first time around! We played a few games in the arcade, too, and I won the Shamu Race game against a full field of campers, and won a big stuffed Shamu! :) I didn't hear the end of that one for awhile... We went back to the dorms, and had the usual introduction and orientation before getting ready for bed.
Day one this year was aquarium for our group! We didn't get to sleep in this time, though, instead we got up early and headed out to the waterski lagoon to go fishing. Fishing?? At SeaWorld? yes, we got nets and treid purse seining, which is one way that aquariusts collect fish for the exhibit. Our group split into two teams, and we had a competition to see who could catch more Texas cichlids. The water in that lake is suprisingly warm! Much warmer than a swimming pool. Actually, we were told that the lagoon is the second largest swimming pool in the world. I've always wondered what the biggest was... Anyway, our team lost the competition, but we had fun doing it! Hey, YOU try standing up on algae-covered, slick concrete while you try to walk up an incline. ;) We got some breakfast, then went to the aquarium, where we took a gallery tour and watched the dive show (this was the one day that the park was open while I was there). We then scrubbed some buckets for them, and headed over to feed the stingrays in holding. We got more shark teeth from the holding pool, to add to our collection at home. Also, we saw LK16, the Kemps Ridley Sea Turtle, who was sick. We visited the herpetarium and saw the baby slider turtles there - they were adorable!! Also, we grabbed whole chicken, and headed out into the park to feed the American Alligators! That was interesting. There was one alligator named Big Daddy who was gigantic!!! People kept asking us questions about the animals like we really worked there, that was awesome! After lunch, we fed the eels, the "California" tank, and the squid. Then, we got into our swimsuits to go snorkeling in the shark holding area! That was really fun - the tank was full of bamboo sharks and stingrays! The water got very cold after awhile, though, and we ran into the divers' locker and turned on the hot water full blast and had contests to see who could stand under the hot water the longest. ;) We got some shopping time in the park after that, and we saw the sea lion show (still Fools With Tools) and the new killer whale show, Shamu Visions. We had dinner at Jason's Deli, then got together for the classroom portion of the Beluga Interaction Program! We all tried on our wetsuits for the next day, then it was off to bed...
the next day was bird day! We got up and headed for polar, where we were given buckets of fish full of vitamins to feed to the penguins. We had to mark down each bird's number as it took a fish, which is easier said than done! The birds' bands are color-coded, and each color stands for a different number. So you have to read the sequence of colors from the base of the wing outward, then translate that into the numbers. That all wouldn't be so bad, if it weren't for the fact that low lighting makes telling some colors apart from others very difficult! that done, though, we shoveled the requisite snow, and set out food trays for the birds. Then came the fun part - we got our wetsuits on and got in the water with the penguins! That water was COLD, only 47 degrees! It was well worth it, though. Several of the penguins were very curious and coming over to check us out. One of them, Mr. Big, was just learning how to swim and wasn't very graceful, so he kind of flopped all over the place and soaked everyone when he came up for air. After lunch, we headed for the bird house. There, we fed a tawny frogmouth (which looks kind of like a little owl) and watched them band a duck. We fed all the birds there, then headed back out to feed the aviary birds, the flamingoes in the African exhibit, and the ducks in the koi pond. We fed the lorikeets again, as well, this time we fed them fruit. They were as noisy and nippy as ever, but I love 'em anyway! ;) We headed back to the dorm and had free time, then dinner at Fuddruckers. There was a huge rain/windstorm while we were there that blew a huge umbrella off a table and blew it away! We went back to the dorms, and since it was rainy we stayed inside and played TV Tuneage.
And then it was Kirsten's favorite day - Shamu day!!!!! We got to Shamu Stadium and did a walkthrough and counted respirations, then did breakout and scrubbed down the kitchen. We went outside and watched them weigh the whales. The whales there that year were Haida, Ky, Winnie, and Kayla. We watched them irrigate Kayla's tooth and take a urine sample from Haida, and I got to be the lucky "carrier of the whale pee." Woohoo! We had a bit of question-and-answer time with the trainers, then we headed to White Whale and Dolphin Stadium. That part was kind of a bummer, because they were putting a huge tarp up over the back areas to give the animals shade, so they weren't working with the animals at all that day. We did, however, get to see the new baby lag, Crissy's daughter, in the main pool, and that's one cute baby! We didn't do the BIP that day, either, that was put off until the last day. But we got into a HUGE guys-vs-girls waterfight, running around the food prep/receiving area/poolside with hoses. Even the trainers ran for cover! We headed over to the dolphins holding and saw Gilly (a bottlenose dolphin, so name because they found the dolphin trapped in a gill net), and Jump, the park's male lag. We also went to the Marine Mammal Community Pool for a bit and played with the dolphins there. I gave Mattie a nice, long rubdown, and everyone else was jealous! ;) After lunch, we did afternoon breakout at Shamu Stadium (putting the forzen fish in tubs to thaw overnight), then we headed out to the stage to have our pictures taken with a whale!! I got to give Ky a big hug! Then, we put on life jackets and got to jump into the med pool!! That water was freezing cold! It literally took my breath away as I got in. We swam over to the gate, though, and looked right through the gate at killer whales! They seemed as curious about us as we were about them! We were only allowed to stay in for a couple of minutes, though, cause the trainers didn't want us to freeze to death! Then we got to watch the trainers practice for the show they were putting on that night for a company's picnic. Then, we got the chance to try part of the trainer swim test - climbing the glass. Easier said than done!! Even with a running start it was hard to get to the top! Only a couple of people in our group could do it. My knees were completely covered in dark purple bruises after 45 minutes of trying! We all then went back to the trainers' office, and sat around and talked for about an hour. After heading back to the dorm, we had free time then had Ma's Tacos for dinner. It was pouring rain outside, so we just had free time that night instead of activities.
This year, Animal Care was kind of a bummer, but we also got a unique experience as well. We got up as usual and did the massive Animal Care breakout, then went over to the sea lions and fed them all. But when we got to the Marine Mammal Community Pool, the tank was drained low to get a blood sample from one of the dolphins. That took all morning, so we watched that for awhile then headed over to the holdpin areas to do the "dunk" where we got in the water and watched the dolphins through the gates! That was pretty cool! After lunch, they got the results back from the blood test and decided to move the dolphin to holding, so we got to watch an animal be transported within the park. We had our group review, then free time, and the scavenger hunt again after dinner. It was the exact same hunt as the year before! We still only came in second, though.
Our last day at camp was at Sea Lion, Walrus, and Otter Stadium. We did breakout and scrubbed down the kitchen, then watched them weigh the animals. Then it came time for photos!! I got my picture taken giving Rufus the California sea lion a signal, and also one of me petting Takena, a walrus. We did our review of animal training, then one of the trainers picked up our counselor and dumped her into one of the holding pools! Of course, we were all jealous that she got to go in the pool (which, by the way was empty of animals because they had been holding a water rescue class for the trainers) so they told us we could jump in! Of course we did, fully clothed. The water really wasn't all that cold, either. After lunch, though, it was time for us to do the Beluga Interaction Program! We donned our wetsuits and slipped into the water. The trainers let us swim around the pool for a bit and swim around before they brought the whales in. When they did, it was awesome! We were split into three groups, one group per whale. At one station, we gave signals for behaviors such as bows, speed swims, etc. At the next station, we gave the whales rubdowns and signals for spits and other stationary behaviors. Finally, the last station was for photos. We had our pictures taken floating with the whales, hugging them, getting kisses, and with the belugas spitting at us. The whole program was an incredible experience! The whales were absolute sweethearts about the whole thing, and seemed to enjoy it as much as we did! Well, we headed back to the dorms to clean, then had free time and dinner. After dinner was the test. Although Advanced Careers Camp has an essay test rather than multiple choice, I thought it was just as easy. Most of the questions were fill-in-the-blank and short answer, and the only real "essay" question was one that was very subjective. Then, since it was the last week of camp for the summer, we had an end-of-the-summer party at the volleyball pits, including a "talent show" which was absolutely hilarious! The guys did a skit where the Crocodile Hunter was supposed to wrestle Shamu, but Shamu ate everyone, including Terri. :) Alas, all good things must come to an end. That was the end of my week at Advanced Careers Camp, but I was more than determined to come back for another year...
Of course, they aways ask for your hometown newspaper's address and have you sign a PR release, but I never thought much of it. Lo and behold, my mom opens the paper one evening, and there's me and Haida! So, when they say they're sending photos and information to your newspaper, they really do!