Behind the Scenes: Snow Day at the New England Aquarium

Chris Bauernfeind (left) and John Hanzl (right)
Chris Bauernfeind (left) and John Hanzl (right) –Courtesy of John Hanzl

The National Guard has been called in to assist with snow removal. The MBTA is shut down. Schools are closed.

But the fish and animals that call the New England Aquarium home still need to eat.

Enter the “storm team,’’ a skeleton crew assigned to keep everyone – from Myrtle the green sea turtle to the midnight parrotfish – fed.

John Hanzl has worked at the Aquarium for 14 years, as an aquarist and now a diving safety officer.

Chris Bauernfeind (left) and John Hanzl (right) —Courtesy of John Hanzl

“My supervisor called me last night. He said ‘If the MBTA is shut down, you’re on the storm team.’ And the MBTA is shut down, so here I am,’’ Hanzl said.


Hanzl told he woke up at 7 a.m. The walk from his South End home to the Aquarium took an hour. Chris Bauernfeind, a senior aquarist, walked from Jamaica Plain, in snowshoes.

Hanzl and Bauernfeind were two of about 18 to 20 staffers working Tuesday, down from the usual 80 to 100.

The “storm team’’ includes veterinary staff as well as aquarists, water quality specialists, and members of the facilities team.

Hanzl and Bauernfeind spent the day feeding the 1,000 animals who live in the giant ocean tank.

Chris Bauernfeind, senior aquarist, enjoys a snow day at the New England Aquarium —Courtesy of John Hanzl

With no staff around to help with food prep, Hanzl and Bauernfeind had to fend for themselves. “We cut a lot of fish,’’ Hanzl said.

The residents of the giant ocean tank generally get fed four times a day. Today they will eat only twice.

“We did one big double feed this morning at 11 a.m. And then we’ll do another double feed at 2 p.m.,’’ Hanzl explained, adding that the adjusted schedule isn’t “ideal’’ but poses no risks. “The fish are probably like ‘woo hoo’ when they see how much food they’re getting at a time.’’

Despite the skeleton crew, Myrtle the green sea turtle still got her vitamin, and Ari, the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, got squid tacos.


Overall, being on the skeleton crew is “awesome,’’ according to Hanzl.

“We can have music playing. It’s a more relaxed vibe,’’ Hanzl said, adding that today’s playlist has been mostly “the Stones.’’

The Aquarium will re-open to the public on Wednesday.

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