Last week two of my daughter’s friends joined us at our summer house on Mount Desert Island in Maine. The three girls are 2009 graduates of The Nightingale-Bamford School, a Manhattan private school that has been recently thrust into the limelight because of associations with NYC Prep and Gossip Girls.
What do NYC private school kids do when they don’t have a script from Bravo?
They hike in Acadia National Park, read on the porch, kayak, visit an octogenarian friend, and play Scrabble on the dining room table. All right, they ruthlessly play Scrabble.
What surprised even me, however, was how interested they were in coming on a nature boat tour, to which I was invited by a friend who heads College of Atlantic’s Family Nature Camp. By 8:30 am we were in the car to Bar Harbor, where Diver Ed docks his boat at a pier off the picturesque College of Atlantic campus. Boarding the Dive-In Theatre, we were soon joined by some sixty others – most of whom with four-year-olds in tow.
We started our two-hour cruise into Frenchman Bay, a body of water so deep and cold that it provides a rich habitat for an array of sea life. The bay is spotted with small islands, which further enrich the environment. Suddenly the boat began to circle a small rock outcropping and there on the top sat a large bald eagle. Lying on rocks below and swimming in the area were about twenty harbor seals. Minutes of leaving this sighting, we spotted harbor porpoises gracefully creating arcs in the water.
But this was only the beginning of the show. We moored at a dive site and Diver Ed suited up with considerable fanfare. Fanfare isn’t really the right word. It’s more shtick. (Clearly, only his love of Maine and kids has kept Ed from stand-up.) He dove in with a collection bag, real-time video and sound equipment, and Mini Ed, his action figure alter ego, who would provide scale for the adventures on the ocean floor. We then learned that this was Mini Ed #104. The prior 103 had been unsuccessful in their battles with lobsters and crabs from the deep.
What happened when Diver Ed returned with critters in tow? We touched them, of course. Whether a beautiful sea star (starfish to the uninitiated), slimy sea cucumber, or angry lobster, these creatures of Frenchman Bay were taken into temporary (and protective) custody in touch tanks, as we learned more. Did you know that sea stars can not only regenerate lost arms, but themselves be regenerated from a single arm? We gently probed their varied surfaces. (I will not say the same for the four-year-olds who thrilled to the chaos of the touch tanks and, inhibition abandoned, initiated some aggressive dive-bombing with the lobsters.)
And how did the young women from Manhattan react? Let’s just say that their search for sea stardom in Frenchman Bay was an overwhelming success.
If you’d like more information about things to do in Maine, click here. You’ll find itineraries for a visit to Acadia National Park, suggestions for the best lobster pounds, and tips for restaurants and places to stay in and around Bar Harbor.