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MSC hopes to make splash with camera

POULSBO — It used to be that in order to get a good look at marine life deep in Liberty Bay, a chilly dive into its waters was necessary.

No more.

Now, all that’s needed is a trip to Poulsbo’s Marine Science Center, home to a new piece of technology that’s bringing the vibrant marine life of one of the arms of Puget Sound straight into the center’s exhibit hall.

The “Spyball,” created by England-based company Submertec, has been up and running at the MSC since early January. Controlled by a joystick, it allows visitors to the center access to a 360-degree, full-color view beneath the ripples of Liberty Bay.

The camera, which weighs about seven and a half pounds and is about six and a half inches in diameter, has provided an unprecedented view of the bay’s marine life. Installed near the edge of the breakwater in Liberty Bay, the spyball has already spotted ducks, crabs, sculpin, sea stars and salmon, said Barb Erickson, education director at the MSC.

“The only underwater stuff we see around here is when the tide goes out,” she said. “This is the (local marine life’s) real environment, a chance for people to see what’s really there.”

Erickson added that operating the camera can even help kids with hand-eye coordination as well as their observation skills.

“It takes a little patience,” Erickson said of using the Spyball. “Which can be a good thing.”

The idea to add the camera came out of the plan three years ago to form a Liberty Bay Station to monitor the activities of the Poulsbo water body. Stations that checked various environmental factors in the bay, such as oxygen and acidity levels, were in place before the camera was added.

The MSC’s Director of Operations Patrick Mus with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Mat Wilson, dove and installed the camera about a month ago. MSC volunteer Jack Archer built the mount for the camera to be used in its new underwater home.

“Kids love it. Adults love it,” Mus said. “It’s a chance for non-divers to see what’s going on down there.”

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