By Kelsey Shore, AquaVan Coordinator

As the Vancouver Aquarium AquaVan team arrived back last month from Vancouver Island, the final and shortest tour of the year, I looked back and marveled at all of our adventures on the road, bringing the wonders of aquatic life to communities across Canada.

Since March, the AquaVan Team – Lydia Gibson, Sarah Evans and Ken Ho – have travelled over 19,500 km through four provinces, including the Northwest Territories for the first time, on five tours.

This year, the AquaVan team delivered 70 days of school programs to over 9,000 students and engaged over 21,000 people through community events.

I started my role as the onsite AquaVan Coordinator in September of this year, learning the ins and outs of AquaVan administration. I quickly learned that calling the AquaVan complex is a bit of an understatement. For starters, there’s the physical AquaVan itself, a 32-foot truck (which the team has named Jenny), with salt water aquariums, fish and invertebrates (we leave the whales and dolphins here at the Aquarium), props, a mobile habitat and everything else the team needs to provide programming for six-week tours on the road. A minivan packed full of the team’s ‘life in a bag’ (or 2 or 3) travels with the AquaVan truck.

Back in the office, there are all of the details: schools, community events, sponsor events, media, accommodations, vehicle maintenance, and graphics. And then there’s the magic that happens when all of the logistics are put in place and the AquaVan team gets to actually deliver the programs.

By 9 a.m. on October 21, the day we left for our final tour of the year to Vancouver Island, we had the minivan packed (I definitely had more than three bags), the truck tanks were filled with salt water and we had all of the maps and paper work we needed to hit the road. After a rainy ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Nanaimo and an equally rainy drive to Courtenay, we arrived at the Best Western Plus in Courtenay, B.C., where we would spend 10 of the next 12 nights.

Thus began our long days on this tour, which typically started with continental breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and truck check at 7 a.m., followed by the drive to the school we would be teaching at for the day, set up, teaching, pack up,  and the drive back to the hotel.

Full moon sighted along the sea wall in Courtenay

Sunrise from the hotel

By day we educated youth, bringing hands-on experiences, our conservation mission and our school programs to inspire students to make positive changes in aquatic conservation.

 

 

By evening we transformed into elite runners, weight lifters, workout connoisseurs, hikers, cyclists, drop-in synchronized swimmers, pool sharks and food critics. With guidance from past experiences and knowledgeable school principals, we were set up for many incredible dining experiences.

 

Hearty meal at the Mad Chef Cafe

AquaVan team member Sarah Evans stretches before a run in Courtenay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A jaunt to Port Hardy on Oct. 26 for a community event decidedly shook up our tour. The 7.7 magnitude earthquake on Oct. 27 off of Haida Gwaii put the Northern Vancouver Island community on evacuation notice. Pulled from our beds (while still in my PJs) we went on a self-directed tour of Port Hardy before finding the Civic Centre. We spent 4 hours playing Dino-Opoly (the team bought the dinosaur version of Monopoly when they were in Drumheller in September) before returning to our ocean-side beds at 1 a.m.

The team playing Dino-Opoly during a tsunami evacuation.

AquaVan team member Lydia Gibson taking a break to enjoy the views on a bike ride around Inland Lake near Powell River.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the evacuation notice was behind us, we travelled back to Courtenay for five nights. With Halloween-related e-mails pouring in from our friends and co-workers back here at the Aquarium about a pumpkin carving contest, costume contest, and a Halloween bake sale, we had to do something to celebrate. We spent Oct. 31 preparing our costumes and went out for dinner all dressed up.

After a long week of programming, we boarded a ferry to Powell River where we spent the weekend (a whole weekend off!) relaxing, hiking, biking, working out, reading our books, enjoying the fire place at my mum’s and being privy to some delicious home-cooked meals. We wrapped up the tour with two school programs in Powell River and headed for Vancouver along the Sunshine Coast.

With the 2012 touring season all wrapped up we’ve set our sights to 2013. We are currently booking our Lower Mainland Tour, Jan 14 – Feb 22, and the spring Thompson Okanagan tour, March 11 – April 19.

For more information on our upcoming tour dates and the AquaVan program, please visit our website, or send us an e-mail aquavan@vanaqua.org.