Fishers Island

By Axel Anderegg-Durwood

Over the course of my time in the Professional Diving program, my team and I have made many journeys to a variety of locations. In January of sophomore year, we were even fortunate enough to travel to the Island School in the Bahamas for a week-long dive expedition to complete our Advanced Open Water certifications as well as our Fish Identification Specialty Diver certifications. The memorable trip for my junior year, on the other hand, easily goes to the Fishers Island trip: a journey to Fishers Island Oyster Farm in which we were accompanied by sophomores and juniors alike from other CTE programs including Vessel Operations and Ocean Engineering. 


During the trip, we executed a large scale operation with the goal of recovering fallen oyster cages from one of the farm’s grow out sites. Ocean Engineering students deployed ROVs at the oyster nursery while Vessel Operations students transported the divers to and from the grow out site, at which the divers managed to retrieve numerous oyster cages as well as an abundance of stray oysters from the bottom. The students worked in perfect harmony, and much was accomplished as a result of the flawless teamwork. 


On our last night at the island, we organized a celebratory cookout on the beach. In addition to being quite the feast, this cookout also served as a time of reflection. At the conclusion of the cookout, the entire group sat in a circle around a fire. Each individual in the circle then took turns sharing their respective “roses” and “thorns,” or highs and lows, for the trip. When the rotation fell to me, I declared that the trip as a whole was a rose for me for two main reasons. For one, accomplishing tasks beneath the surface provided me with overwhelming sensations of satisfaction and pride similar to those that I experience at my current job for the Billion Oyster Project, despite the fact that not a single student was paid a single penny at Fishers Island. Regardless, I was able to do what I love, and in doing so I aided a larger cause. That was all I needed in order to feel I had accomplished something great. The second reason I listed was that the trip had left me with a glimpse into my future of working alongside my peers from other CTEs for a cause very near and dear to the heart of every Harbor School student: the Billion Oyster Project. Both on and off the water, we were one unit. We ate together, we played games together, we laughed together, and we worked hard together. This led to the formation of remarkably strong bonds and the further solidification of existing ones amongst the entirety of the student body on the trip. I was fortunate enough to experience an early development of my understanding of how all seven CTE programs work in collaboration to assist the BOP in achieving its goals. I continue to feel unsubdued excitement to further my participation and involvement in the BOP, and all largely in thanks to our trip to Fishers Island. 


The sophomore First aid training by Monica M.

In the sophomore diving class we are currently working on first aid. To get a true feeling about how a real emergency situation would work we get to act out scenarios and have classmates respond to our situation. This is great because I know that I learn from a more visual experience. Not only was it interesting to see how the other students would react but it was also very entertaining. I was told ahead of time that I would be acting out a scene where I collapse onto a carpet. The only thing the students knew when walking into class was that I was going to become a victim. When everyone was seated I collapsed onto the carpet and remained silent. Many students thought I actually collapsed but soon understood when two other students came in to assess the scene. From this scene we learned that it is important to manage your time well and make the best use of your time.

We also learned how to log roll someone into a recovery position if we have detected a pulse but they are unresponsive or feeling I’ll. We all got to demonstrate what we learned in the center of the class which was very intimidating but reasonable because in a real situation we should be prepared to do it anywhere with anyone one around. We are still training to become first aid providers but I can tell that this is a very useful course that anyone can benefit from.

Axel’s first Full Face Mask Dive.

For almost a month, my class has taken a very exciting new step in our diving education: we have initiated our training in full face masks! This unit has provided us with a proper introduction to the necessary skills and discipline for safe and effective use of full face mask, and we continue to practice and hone our skills.

Believe it or not, we kicked the unit off with a test! It was a test of each individual’s ability to read and follow directions. There was a hidden trick in it, and the majority of the class failed the test! The moral of the experience, as Lenny would later explain to us, proud of himself, was that the importance of carefully and thoroughly observing and following directions in this stage of our training could not be emphasized enough. As always, the majority of what Lenny and Zoe do always has a valuable lesson behind it.

We then got the opportunity to physically interact with and observe the full face masks in addition to watching instructional videos and (carefully) reading the user’s manual. We were taught to identify the numerous different parts of the mask, followed by how to properly don the mask and breathe from it. Then came the most exciting part: the pool!

In our briefing, we were given the layout of our expected accomplishments for the session. We would first station ourselves in the shallow end of the pool and submerge our heads with the masks in order to experience the unique sensation of a new field of vision and a new freedom of breathing (through the nose!!!). Next, we would transition to the deep end for equalization practice in the new mask. Finally, we would conclude with a move back to the shallow end for practice in removing the mask underwater and putting it back on. I was slightly intimidated at the initial thought of it, but I was ready nonetheless!

I was immediately overjoyed and welcoming to the experience from my first breath. The excitement was overwhelming. Though it was very hard for others to hear me, I could actually talk and breathe underwater at the same time! This was the closest I had ever come to being Aquaman.

We then moved to the deep end of the pool and descended, accustoming ourselves to proper equalization in the mask. This was not much trouble for me, for I do not equalize by pinching my nose, but by yawning. Therefore, the new mask made for no increase in the difficulty I had in equalizing.

It then came time for the final skill of the day: mask removal and refastening. My group and I gathered around in a circle and observed a demonstration performed by Zoe. Then, one at a time, Zoe observed the attempt of each group member, sitting right in front of them and ready to take prompt action in the case of a mishap. After watching some of my peers complete the skill, it was my turn. My heart began to gradually speed up. I was able to remove my mask without any trouble, for Zoe had showed us a convenient trick beforehand. I proceeded to breathe from my alternate second stage and fasten my spare mask to my head. I took all the time I needed to assure that every strap on the mask had been loosened entirely before removing my spare mask and sliding my head into the spider strap of the full face mask, only putting the mask itself on halfway. I waited, took one last deep breath from my regulator, and took it out, pulling my mask down over my face as quickly as I could and purging the mask’s regulator. When I took my first breath in, I was horrified to find that water remained in the oral nasal pocket and I inhaled water! I started to panic as my eyes widened and looked to the surface, and I debated standing up and surfacing. But I refused to and I persevered, forcefully exhaling and purging two or three more times before my mask was entirely cleared. I gave the “Ok” to Zoe and received the high-five of approval.

Overall, I had a positive first experience with the full face mask. I was able to grow comfortable in using it as well as take notes of and learn from my mistakes. I am eager to learn more and continue my training!

Deanna’s Salvage Job

My name is Deanna Souchet-Soto. I am a junior adventure diver in the program. Us juniors are currently working on receiving our Scientific Diver certifications. A part of our scientific diving certification requires us to learn a bit about salvage work underwater. This Tuesday, all the junior divers made our way to Bushwick High School for our first pool session in a long time. My group with fellow Junior advanced open water divers, Quincy, Danny, and Axel were specifically assigned to bringing and retrieving the lifeguard chair (that was thrown into the pool by Lenny, our instructor) to the surface. This required perfect buoyancy, knot-tying, and a calm thought process. My group came up with a plan on the surface, then edited it according to everyone’s opinion on the surface and lastly we went down to get a first look to see where in our plan needed change. It was a long process and needed to be continuously fixed. After looking at the chair in its place a couple times, we put our plan into motion. We had a failed attempt at using the lift bags to lift the chair out of the water the first time. Then the second we decided to use ALL the tools provided for us and tightened all of our “knots”. At one point, I got frustrated with trying my attempt at a bowline. Quincy, not even being my buddy, came in and took the rope from my hands, gave me hand signals to take a breath and reassess what was in front of me. I was able to tie the final knot. Both Quincy and I, with our buddies keeping watch, filled the lift bags and watched as our not so beautiful tough salvage job become a success. It was a great pool dive and an awesome first dive back for me. Speaking for my teammates, I think I can also say that for them. Below is a picture taken right after we all came to surface with the chair!

Thanks for attending the Giant Stride

Thank You to everyone who made the Giant Stride possible. We couldn’t do it without you!

We participated in a lot of fun activities like oyster painting, the cup game, cupcake decorating, pipe project station, oyster eating and others.

Oyster painting was a station where we used watercolors to paint oyster shells in whatever way we could think of. The cup game was two people pinned against each other tasked with stacking cups in a pyramid, and then returning them to one stack.

There was a huge dive helmet, over 40 pounds, that people were able to wear. The pipe station was a competition with two people, wearing blindfolds, racing against time to assemble some PVC pipes. We had a ton of fun stations run by students and most importantly, a ton of awesome food.

Monica M.’s Bahamas trip

As a student in Professional Diving at the Urban Assembly New York Harbor School you get offered many life changing opportunities that can really benefit you. Recently we were given the opportunity to go diving on the island of Eleuthera in the Bahamas. On this trip we got to develop new skills and continue to work on skills we already knew. We were not allowed to use our phones for the week we were on the trip. This was a challenge at first but on the second day we all grew to talk and learn more about each other. During our dives we worked on navigating in shallow waters. This wasn’t easy as it sounds since the bottom was filled with jellyfish. Buoyancy was key during this dive. We got to dive up to 80 feet deep which was very interesting because we started to notice that simple colors like red changed to dark brown. Most of our dives took place off of a dive boat which was surprisingly fun. As a class we got to experience a night dive which was scary at first but changed to be a breathtaking thrill. Personally my favorite part of this trip was the drift dive where we got to sit back and relax as the current pushed us effortlessly while enjoying the wildlife. Not only did we get to dive but we also got to meet with locals and learn how a low waste environment works. We learned more about the wildlife and the culture of the island. Overall this was an amazing trip and I am so glad that I was able to experience it with my classmates. I feel that I learned so much on this trip and I know that it will really benefit it as a diver.

The Giant Stride Fundraising Event!

Buy Tickets/Donate Here!

The Harbor School Diving students are putting together a fundraiser with several fun activities for the whole family. There will be opportunities to paint oysters, decorate cupcakes, race while blindfolded to do the pipe project, and many more fun games. Food will be provided from Cowgirl Seahorse, Paris Cafe, and Mark Joseph Steakhouse and delicious oysters from Fishers Island Oyster Farm, so come hungry!

A slideshow and pictures throughout the room will display the daily life of Harbor School Students and show the incredible dive sites we’ve been able to explore. With students organizing this fundraiser and running all the activities, there will be plenty of divers to talk to about the Professional Diving CTE program. The money raised from this event will go to much needed gear, trips to places like Dutch Springs and the Bahamas where divers get their certifications, and supporting the students at the New York Harbor School to pay for expenses they can’t afford.

Come show your love and support for the incredible students exploring unique career paths. This amazing event will be held at Melville Gallery at the Seaport Museum from 4:30-7:30 on February 13. The address is 213 Water St, New York, NY 10038. There’s a suggested donation of $30. Big thank you to the South Street Seaport for hosting us!

Thank you from the fundraising committee: Crismaris P., Hannah F., and Joanna A.