No one knows the bottom of the Magothy River as well as Richard “Dick” Carey.
For 18 years, Carey has led weekly dives to the bottom of the Magothy River to monitor the restored oyster reefs and water quality.
“I like to go underwater,” said the 82-year-old Carey. “It’s very comfortable.”
Carey became a certified SCUBA diver in 1980 and a certified instructor in 1981. At one point, Carey had a group of 45 divers that he took with him. Now, his Magothy River dive team is composed of roughly 15 people.
Sundays are dive days, and Carey does the water monitoring mid-week.
“We all get on a boat and go swimming in the Magothy,” Carey said.
Bob Royer is a member of the Magothy River Association and does water quality monitoring at the North Shore station. He’s been on Carey’s boat to go diving a few times.
“He’s very skilled in knowing how to do the water quality monitoring and interpret the results,” Royer said. “You get to know intimately where all the oyster beds are and how they’re doing.”
The Magothy River Association is different from other watershed groups because it has its own dive team. The fact that the group is able to monitor oyster growth and survival in the Magothy means that organizations like the Oyster Recovery Partnership and Chesapeake Bay Foundation have been willing to help add oysters to the river every year because it’s been proven that the oysters do well in the Magothy, said Sally Hornor, vice president of the Magothy River Association.
“He has been a critical part of our ability to restore oyster bars in the river due to both his diving and his interaction with the oyster groups that are spread out throughout the watershed,” Hornor said of Carey.
However, the Magothy presents a unique challenge to new divers: It’s dark underwater. To help teach new divers how to navigate the Magothy, Carey lined their goggles with aluminum foil while they were learning how to do oyster collection in a pool.
“We said, ‘This is what it’s like to swim and dive in the Magothy River,’’ Hornor said. “They can’t see anything, so they have to do it completely by feel.”
Through the Magothy River Association, Carey traveled to Liberia after a World Bank employee went diving with him and learned about the bacteria testing he does in his water quality monitoring.
“She worked with the Magothy River Association to put together a tool kit for doing water quality work in developing nations,” Hornor said. “Dick went down to Liberia years ago and taught citizens down there how to do water quality monitoring.”
Through Carey’s work and dedication to the Magothy River, many people have been educated about the importance of maintaining the river.
“It gives you total connection with the river being out there. You’re out there when nobody else is,” Royer said. “It really gives you a little bit more incentive to understand why we’re trying to save this.”