The event in Atlanta yesterday was another great success, both in terms of public and press turnout. After leaving our hotel in the early morning and walking a few blocks to the massive, ship-like building of the Georgia Aquarium, we were greeted by a team of excited employees and eager early arrivers. There was a buzz in the air that was almost palpable, reminding us of the feeling we got when we first walked onto the scene in Dallas and were welcomed by a similarly remarkable crew. It wasn’t long after we arrived that the event began and a number of brilliant speakers took the stage, each of them unique but delivering a similar message about the importance of innovation, inspiration and discovery.
Tong Tong, left, documenting the aquarium’s cafe with Nafsika at lunch.
Chuck Kalb of Rolex with key DEEPSEA CHALLENGE team members, displaying their commemorative Rolex expedition watches.
Dijanna Figueroa, left, and David Gallo, middle, talking to Sven Lorenz from the Charles Darwin Foundation.
As the sub sat on display for the next five hours, many visitors came and went. Hundreds of people, some very young and some very old, marveled at the sight of this bright green machine and listened intently as the on-site expedition scientists and engineers explained the intricacies of the sub and its feats. One little boy, who was there even before we arrived, asked question after question, engaging Dr. Chris Symons in an impressive dialogue that allowed her to show off her expertise and left him in awe. Mission accomplished.
We must admit that this job comes with perks. Throughout the day, we all took turns being led around the incredibly beautiful aquarium by seasoned tour guides. Walking through, we were awed by each and every exhibit, from the frogs to the albino alligators, and literally stunned silent by the aquarium’s biggest attraction— a 6.3 million gallon tank that holds a myriad of sea life, including massive sawfish, manta rays, and three fully grown whale sharks.
As incredible as it was to see these creatures through the glass on the the main floor, it barely compared to what we got to do next. On what they called a “behind the scenes tour”, we piled into an elevator and took it to the highest floor of the aquarium. When we stepped out, we we were standing at the top of the aforementioned massive tank, looking down into thirty feet of water to watch these creatures from above. Suffice it to say, a 15-foot whale shark swimming by at surface level, close enough to reach in and touch, was up there in the “best life moments” list for every one of us.
When we returned to the sub after our detour, we noticed something amazing: the same tenacious little boy was still there, five hours later, asking questions and discussing the sub at length with Chris. In a conversation with his mother at the end of the day, she said that he had insisted on staying the entire time, inspecting the sub and wanting to learn everything he could about it. In the short time that we’ve been on the road, we have met a lot of children like this who bring the STEM method of education to life in a highly personal way, teaching us as much as we have taught them and providing us with the necessary fuel to continue on this journey. With all the time and energy we spend making calls to press outlets and various venues, trying to make sure we are making as big a media splash as possible, it has meant everything to have moments like this that remind us of the significant number of young lives that have been changed from the time we left Los Angeles just six days ago.