Down East 2013 ©
The League of Underwater Superheroes has some sixty members, but the most famous of all has to be Diver Ed. The forty-two-year-old frogman can’t go anywhere from Boston to Florida without being recognized by some kid. Certainly not in his hometown of Bar Harbor.
But Diver Ed doesn’t mind. He loves his little fans and has a way of connecting with them that few adults can match. His superhero status also means that his business, Diver Ed’s Dive-In Theater, is booming. Three times daily in summer, Diver Ed and his cast of characters — Captain Evil, Mini Ed, Halo — take kids out on his fifty-one-foot boat The Seal to explore Frenchman’s Bay. They’ll leave the dock at Bar Harbor’s College of the Atlantic (COA), and Diver Ed — alter ego of the mild-mannered Ed Monat, COA grad and former harbormaster of Bar Harbor — will dive to the bottom with a high-definition camera to show those on deck the dangerous dwellers of the deep.
Well, they’re mostly just dangerous to Mini Ed, Diver Ed’s diving buddy, who has lost many appendages over the years to the crunching pincers of his archenemies, Jonah crabs and lobsters. In the Dive-In Theater’s nine-year-existence, there have been eighty-five Mini Eds. Mini Ed is a three-inch, Playmobil deep-sea diver.
During the two-hour tours Captain Evil — the actually quite-pleasant Edna Monat, Ed’s wife — does the narration, keeping in contact with Diver Ed via the microphone in his mask. They’ll trade jibes while the two Eds encounter all kinds of crazy creatures sixty feet below. Passengers watch everything on the six-foot screen mounted inside the cabin. It’s sort of like the Discovery Channel come to life but hosted by a kid-loving, wise-cracking Belushi.
The only job of The Seal’s passengers is to laugh. And they do so with gusto, howling at the undersea antics of Diver Ed. “Mini and a starfish sitting in the sea, K-I-S-S-I-N-G,” Ed will sing, and then he’ll see a lobster grab Mini Ed in its claws. He’ll then proceed to wrestle his buddy away. “That was too much work,” he’ll joke, out of breath. A few minutes later a sea anemone may lash out with a stinging tentacle, catching Mini Ed, who’ll fall to the bottom, unconscious. Diver Ed will administer CPR with a big-gloved finger. Up above, Captain Evil will crack, “You can see it’s a dangerous job diving with Ed.”
After a half hour underwater, Ed will have collected a bagful of lobsters, whelks, anemones, sea stars, sea cucumbers, and a whole host of other creatures, and he’ll bring them up for a meet and greet, touch-tank-type session that he calls “lovey-dovey time.” (This is how Diver Ed got his start; as a COA undergrad, Ed Monat would take a touch tank to schools.) After a bit of dancing, he’ll show the children Mini Ed’s new friends, squirting them with sea cucumbers and filling their heads with facts. (Lobsters, for example, can live for three days out of water.) This is Diver Ed’s true genius. Not only are these kids laughing at his playful routine, but they’re also — unbeknownst to them — learning.
“One of my favorite things,” Diver Ed says, “is when parents come up to me and say, ‘We were on the boat three years ago and the kids still talk about it.’ ” Some fans may even be future members of the League of Underwater Superheroes, Diver Ed’s dive club, which performs volunteer coastal clean ups, underwater repair work, and research for the College of the Atlantic and other area institutions. One particular boy comes to mind. “I was just talking to one kid who makes his mom push him into the bathtub backwards.”
And with that Diver Ed, superhero, laughs.
IF YOU GO
In August Dive-In Theater has three shows daily (except Sundays): 9:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. (weekends only). From September through Columbus Day there is one show daily at 1:30 p.m. Tickets are $35 for adults, $30 for seniors, $25 for kids under 12, and $10 for kids under 5. Reservations are required. Call 207-288-3483 or visit www.divered.com