The Maine wilderness is well known as a playground for outdoor enthusiasts.
But few of the millions of visitors who flock here every summer are aware that the ocean is an equally vast and captivating environment just below the surface.
A local business shows visitors just how that looks. Called Diver Ed’s Dive In Theater, the boat tour uses some unusual technology to show passengers the world beneath the waves.
“For most people, you look at the water and see this blank green world,” said Ed Monat, owner of the business and a longtime diver. “For us it’s really exciting, because when you go down there you never really know what you’ll see.”
And what he sees, passengers see on the tour.
Using high-tech video equipment and a video screen onboard his vessel the Starfish Enterprise, Monat relays real-time footage to passengers as he dives. His business partner and wife, Edna Martin — or Captain Evil, to the passengers — describes what they are seeing and hearing from Monat.
“On the Dive In Theater, we are always wowed by something,” Monat said. Using a distinctly theatrical approach, he reveals scallops, sea cucumbers, lobsters, crabs, and a slew of other marine life. Onboard, Edna describes the role each creature plays in the ecosystem.
“The important thing is to educate people on how important everything is to the ecosystem,” Monat said. This mission to simultaneously educate and entertain began decades ago, when Monat was a student at College of the Atlantic.
He traveled to schools to teach youngsters about the ocean. He would bring with him a tank full of live sea creatures, hoping the hands-on approach would be more captivating than rote learning. He began the Dive In Theater as a late extension of this work, and the boat tour is oriented toward younger passengers.
Though an active commercial fishermen during the winter, when he harvests scallops, Monat said he and the business steer clear of politics. “It purely for going out and having fun,” he said of the tour.
The two-hour diving tour culminates with Monat bringing sea creatures onboard the deck of Starfish Enterprise. Passengers are able to hold and examine them. They get to hold a starfish or witness firsthand how certain crabs use detritus as camouflage.
“I bring people out to care about the environment,” Monat said.
Monat also created the League of Underwater Superheroes, a diving club on Mount Desert Island. The club offers residents opportunities to dive with Martin and Monat year round. Opportunities range from gathering scallops to playing underwater hockey at the local YMCA and diving at shipwreck sites along the New England coast.
Monat and Martin also collaborate with college students on research projects, and their two deckhands this summer both happen to be college students.
The Dive In Theater is scheduled to begin trips Memorial Day weekend and run into the fall. For more details about times and tickets, call 1-(800)979-3370 and visit www.divered.com.