Super scuba heroes to rescue at Songo Lock

SCUBA HEROES ROCK IT AT LOCK —  (From left to right) Sully “Slay the Milfoil” Tidd, Michael “Milfoil Destroyer” Rust, Nicholas “Nix the Milfoil” Hall, and Lucien “Stop the Pollution” Sulloway strike a super-hero pose while Ella “Environmental Extraordinaire” Sulloway controls the underwater robot the 4-H club built. (De Busk Photo)

SCUBA HEROES ROCK IT AT LOCK —
(From left to right) Sully “Slay the Milfoil” Tidd, Michael “Milfoil Destroyer” Rust, Nicholas “Nix the Milfoil” Hall, and Lucien “Stop the Pollution” Sulloway strike a super-hero pose while Ella “Environmental Extraordinaire” Sulloway controls the underwater robot the 4-H club built. (De Busk Photo)

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Some local teens — belonging to a 4-H club that delves into underwater diving and water conservation — had their super-hero moment.

The doors of the Songo River lock would not budge. The State Park employees needed to be able to operate the wooden lock for the official opening on May 1. But, something seemed to be thwarting their efforts.

Help was only an earshot away.

Some nearby teens leapt into action.

First, they volunteered the use of an underwater robot with an attached video device that would allow visual contact with the floor of the lock. With one teen at the controls, the robot moved into position.

Ten large rocks turned out to be the culprit.

Out came the scuba suits and the breathing masks. Spectators who had been boating, fishing or picnicking at the lock gathered around and later cheered as a pair of teenage boys repeatedly dove down 10 feet, re-surfacing with a rock in each fist.

When the last rock was removed and the lock was finally opened, applause erupted from the crowd.

“I felt like a hero bringing up those rocks at the lock,” said Nicholas “Nix the Milfoil” Hall.

“It took a couple trips underwater, but I sniped out all of the rocks,” 16-year-old Nicholas said.

Another diver, Lucien “Stop the Pollution” Sulloway said, “making the lock move” was quite an experience.

“It felt like we had just saved the day,” Lucien said.

He added the job was not without its challenges.

“It was the coldest water I’ve ever met,” he said.

Michael “Milfoil Destroyer” Rust, also 16, said he “stayed above for motivational support.”

Meanwhile, Ella “Environment Extraordinaire” Sulloway, 14, said she preferred to control the robot and gather the underwater data.

“I like using the robot,” she said.

Lucien said he heard that helping to open the lock saved $600 for the State of Maine since professional divers would have had to be hired.

Coincidently, the 4-H group was at the Songo Lock on May 1 to meet with another group. They were planning to provide a demonstration of their robot and their scuba skills, according to 4-H leader Misty Sulloway, who is Ella and Lucien’s mother.

They just happened to be in the right place at the right time with the right gear, everyone agreed.

The 4-H Club, which is comprised of residents of Casco and Bridgton, began about four years ago. In that time, club members have built three robots, learned how to surface dive, and helped LEA with milfoil eradication on Bryant Pond.

According to Sulloway, a national grant provided $2,000 startup funds; and the goal was to “teach kids to work with community service organizations.”

“They are supposed to learn how to become leaders, and tap into the local agencies,” she said.

“The kids built the robots, put cameras in the robots, and used the robots for milfoil detection work,” Sulloway said.

She said about three years ago, when milfoil growth was invading several ponds, the 4-H group chose its project because it affected the communities in which they lived.

“Saving a place that is in trouble; and underwater diving, is stuff I like to do,” Lucien said.

The teen-aged boys agreed that diving was an awesome activity.

“Everything about being underwater is interesting,” Michael said.

“Diving makes you develop a respect for the underwater environment that you didn’t have before,” he said.

Sully “Slay the Milfoil” Tidd, 16, said he enjoyed “being in the water and seeing what is under there.”

Learning how to dive “is a good way to decide if you wanted a career in that or not,” Sully said, adding he would like a job working for LEA.

“I have thought about becoming an underwater welder. I’ve heard they make banging bucks,” Lucien said.

Michael pondered for a moment and concluded, “Even though it might not become a career, it’s fun.”

The teens said diving requires some adjustments — becoming familiar with the equipment, learning to breathe with the masks, and getting a handle on how to change the body’s buoyancy.

This summer, the group will once again be working with LEA in the water as they engage in weekly surface water trainings.

The next mission: To help Lakes Environmental Association (LEA) with a better way to keep milfoil at bay. Instead of putting rubber mats on the bottom of infected lakes and ponds, burlap is a more environmentally-friendly way to mitigate that problem.

The 4-H club is tasked with coming up with a design for the pegs used to hold down the burlap.

“The pegs should be biodegradable, inexpensive, and made out of recycled materials,” 4-H leader Sulloway said.

 

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