Authors: Franklin W. Dixon
READ ALL THE MYSTERIES IN THE
HARDY BOYS ADVENTURES:
Secret of the Red Arrow
Mystery of the Phantom Heist
The Vanishing Game
Into Thin Air
Peril at Granite Peak
The Battle of Bayport
Deception on the Set
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T WAS THE LAST DIVE
of the morning. From the water's depths, I checked the air tank pressure on the high-tech dive computer I wore around my wrist like a watch and signaled to the other divers in preparation for my rise. It wasn't until I reached the surface that I saw the big gray dorsal fin slicing through the water and heading straight at me.
I could practically hear the
theme music reverberating through my head as the fin grew larger and larger. I glanced around, but there was nowhere for me to go. The beast sped closer until its sleek gray snout rose out of the water mere inches from my face.
It was a hugeÂ .Â .Â . dolphin! The playful animal leaped over my head and slid back into the water on the other side, chattering happily.
“Great job on that last dive, Joe,” my supercute scuba instructor, Aly Hawke, called from the side of the ginormous water tank. “I think Scooter approves.”
“Well, I have an excellent teacherâ” I started to reply just as Scooter the bottlenose dolphin spit a fountain of water in my face, ruining my attempt at being suave. I think he was jealous.
“Thanks, Aquaman,” Aly giggled. “Now hop on out, do an equipment check, and then you can head over to the reef for the opening-day celebration.”
Scooter gave my backside a helpful nudge as I climbed out of the dolphin tank at Bayport Aquarium, where I was taking a scuba certification course. I had a feeling diving skills would come in handy somedayâand for more than just fun.
See, my brother Frank and I have this knack for solving mysteries. We've been doing it ever since we were kids in our hometown of Bayport, and over the years I've learned that it never hurts for a detective to know a few extra tricks. It might still be a while before Frank and I could get our investigators' licenses (not that that ever stopped us before), but soon I'd be a card-carrying scuba diver.
Frank and I had both caught the ocean bug on our last big case, which had us spending a lot of time on the waterfront aboard a restored Revolutionary War ship. The ship was docked just across the harbor from the Bayport Aquarium, which had given Frank the idea of volunteering
at the aquarium to help out with the grand opening of their new exhibit. Predator Reef was going to be the world's largest indoor habitat of its kind, designed by world-famous architect Bradley Valledor. Mobs of visitors and news media had been lining up all morning for the exhibit's big reveal.
Frank tried to get me to volunteer too, but I wasn't as interested in learning all that marine biology stuff he's always going on about (I get enough of that in science class, thanks!). But when he told me the aquarium was offering scuba-diving classes? Well, that's more my style. Exploration! Adventure! Danger! Not that diving in the dolphin tank was exactly dangerous. It was pretty mind-blowing, though. I think the technical term for it is “flipping awesome!” And it wasn't just the dolphins that were blowing my mind.
Aly was only a few years older than me, and she was already a master diver, so she was talented as well as pretty. And she really did look extra cute in her scuba gear. She had scheduled our class early so we could finish in time for Predator Reef's big ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon. She was taking part in the festivities too, diving in the tank to feed the fish along with the rest of the BAD team (that's what the Bayport Aquarium Divers call themselves).
I wasn't involved in the exhibit's prep and planning like Frank or Aly, but I was excited to see it. They were keeping it under wraps until the big unveiling, and from everything Frank had told me, it sounded totally out of this world:
hundreds of different species of sea animals, including a giant turtle, rays, and small sharks.
I was looking forward to seeing the BAD divers in action too, although not all of them were as enticing as Aly. There was one in particular I actually wouldn't have minded seeing eaten by a shark. Aly's ex-boyfriend Carter was as clueless as he was obnoxious. I really didn't know what she had seen in himâother than the fact that he was featured in national scuba-diving magazines and that all the girls at Bayport High seemed to be gaga over him.
Did I mention that I really, really don't like the guy?
When he showed up in the dolphin arena after class, it was almost enough to ruin my morning.
“Hey, babe,” Carter called to Aly from the staff tunnel. “You done babysitting the newbies yet? We've got a hot date to get to.”
Aly rolled her eyes. “Having to work together as dive buddies is not a date, Carter. And I'm not your babe anymore.”
“Sure you are, you just don't realize it yet,” he said. He looked so smug, I didn't need a special computer to know my annoyance meter was rising to dangerous levels.
“Show her some respect, man,” I said as I packed up my dive kit.
“Mind your own business, newb.” Carter didn't look so smug anymore. But he did look angry. I don't think Scooter was the only jealous one. “Babe, tell me you're not interested in this twerp?”
“You have water in your ears, Carter? I thought she asked you not to call her that.” I stood my ground as he stalked toward me.
“Sheesh, knock it off, Carter,” Aly said. “Joe is just taking my class. Besides, it's none of your business even if I was.”
I have to admit that I liked the way that last part sounded. Now it was my turn to look smug. But Carter sure didn't like it. He might have actually been getting ready to do something about it too, but Scooter had the last word, slapping the pool with his tail and soaking us both in a sheet of water.
Aly laughed and gave Scooter a kiss on the nose. “Aw, my hero.”
She looked back over her shoulder at Carter and me and shook her head as she walked off. “Boys.”
I think just maybe the little sparkle in her eyes was meant for me.
Carter must have thought so too. He waited until Aly was out of earshot and stared me down before chasing after her.
“You'd better watch your back, newb,” he said, just low enough so none of the other divers could hear. “You're gonna be fish food when I'm done with you.”
ORAL REEFS ARE THE CITIES
of the sea,” I told a group of kids and parents gathered around me. We were standing in front of a big blue curtain that was blocking the entire tank area; the curtain had
printed on it in bold letters surrounded by the silhouettes of circling sharks. When pulled back in a few minutes, the curtain would reveal the world's largest replica coral reef.
Joe sometimes makes fun of me because I get so psyched about this stuff, but how could you not? As an aquarium volunteer, I'd gotten a sneak peek at Predator Reef, and it was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen. With a whopping four hundred thousand gallons of salt water and thousands of beautiful and bizarre sea creatures, it was like entering another world.
“Reefs really are some of the world's most fascinating ecosystems,” I continued, eager to share my enthusiasm with the kids. “Just like the houses and high-rises in a city, different types of coral provide homes for all kinds of fishâand each has a different job to do. Everything in the reefâfrom the tiniest clown fish to the biggest predators, like sharksâserves a purpose in an intricate web of life. Reefs aren't just beautiful and interesting, though; they're crucial to the health of the entire ocean, which is why it's so important to protect them.”
And that was one of the big reasons I was so fired up about the new exhibit. The world's reefs and their inhabitants were disappearing at an alarming rate, and Predator Reef was going to be a great tool to teach people about the importance of conservation. All I had to do was look at the amazed expressions on the kids' faces, and I knew I was really getting the chance to inspire them.
Catching crooks would always be my first love, but after volunteering at the aquarium, I could also see myself becoming a marine biologist someday. “Frank Hardy, Deep-Sea Detective” has a nice ring to it.
During our last case, I'd been volunteering at the Bayport History Museum, a short water-taxi ride across the harbor from the aquarium. While I was still really interested in local historyâin fact, later that week I was supposed to go on a tour of a tunnel that was used by the Underground Railroad to smuggle escaped slavesâit was
nothing compared to the excitement I felt about Predator Reef.
The exhibit's humungous tank was going to be the centerpiece of the aquarium. It was designed so you could see it from above or below the surface depending on which level you were on. The surface of the tank filled the center of the aquarium's lobby so you could look straight down into the water from there or from any of the aquarium's upper levels. Even better, you could go down to the lower level to get an underwater view through a giant panoramic window that brought you face-to-face with all the different creatures. Skilled artists had sculpted synthetic coral for the exhibit, so no living reefs would be harmed collecting the real thing. The whole project really was like a bustling underwater city full of brightly colored fish of all sizes, along with trippy-looking rays; exotic bottom-dwelling zebra sharks with cute smiley faces and long, sail-like tails; and a whole school of ultra-sleek blacktip reef sharks.
The sharks weren't the main attraction, though. That honor went to the aquarium's unofficial mascot, a five-hundred-pound giant green sea turtle named Captain Hook. Captain Hook had gotten her name when a great white shark took a big bite out of one of her front flippers, leaving her with a skinny flipper that looked like a hook. Together with the black patch marking over her left eye, the name just seemed to fit.
The aquarium had made Captain Hook the main focus of Predator Reef's marketing campaign, featuring her in TV commercials, online videos, and billboards. Her sweet-natured personality was as big as she was. It was no wonder the kids in my tour group were itching to see her in person.
“When do we get to meet the big turtle?” one little girl asked.