Monday, October 25, 2010

84-Year-Old Aquarium Diver Still Cleaning Tanks

A labor of love, to be sure.

No doubt most of you have visited the Tennessee Aquarium but how would you like to jump in the water? Well now may be your chance. The Aquarium is currently looking for volunteers.
And one man is proving you're never too old to dive in.

Once a month, Irby Hartley gives his scuba gear the once-over. A life-long diver, he was thrilled when the Tennessee Aquarium came to town. "I said wow, I would like to be able to do that and not have to to all over the world to do it," laughs Hartley.

As a volunteer, Hartley can keep up his scuba skills, keep down the cost of his hobby and keep Chattanooga's top tourist attraction clean all at the same time. He and 180 other divers scrub the coral and wipe down the windows while watching out for the danger lurking nearby. The saltwater tank is filled with several different kinds of sharks. "They (safety divers) have a pipe, a plastic pipe we call a bump stick that sort of puts up a portable fence and shows them that this is our territory," says Hartley. "And hopefully they won't come in there and we haven't had any problems, they've learned to respect that."

Actually Irby says the smaller fish are more of a problem. They are constantly nibbling on the divers and impossible to keep away. It's just something he's learned over his lifetime. By the way, did we mention that Irby is 84 years old? "A lot of them don't know it," he says grinning. "I don't tell them unless they ask."

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