By Breana Ross

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    BALTIMORE (WBAL) — One of the National Aquarium’s longest-standing volunteers, who’s retiring after 42 years, hopes his story as one of the few Black scuba divers in the program inspires others.

When Carl Perkins enters the National Aquarium, he knows the routine like the back of his hand. He adjusts his oxygen tank, puts on his fins and straps up his goggles so he can take a deep dive into an aquarium tank.

“I actually started here shortly after the building was completed, and the program was really in its infancy at that time,” Perkins told 11 News. “I did it and kept doing it, and here I am.”

Perkins has volunteered at the National Aquarium for 42 years.

“We have few staff (members) that even have that type of longevity,” said Allison Potter, a senior assistant dive safety officer and volunteer diver coordinator at the National Aquarium. “We are fortunate to have volunteers such as Carl, who started volunteering here back in 1981 when we first opened to the public, and to have Carl have such a rich knowledge from the history of the aquarium up through today, it’s amazing to have.”

Perkins’ tenure as a volunteer diver has even outlasted his 39-year career in education. He said his passion for ocean conservation and marine life keeps him coming back for more.

“It’s a really big issue for me,” Perkins said. “I’m very concerned about our oceans and how we take care of them. It just so happens that I have this skill being able to scuba dive, so it helps me keep in touch with that.”

As a volunteer, Perkins gives educational talks to the public, helps clean the tanks and feeds the animals.

“At the National Aquarium, we do about 3,000 dives annually,” said Tanner Hughes, an assistant dive safety officer at the National Aquarium. “The volunteer team makes up about half of those dives, if not more, so it takes a lot of the work off of staff members’ plates in terms of feeding and general exhibit care.”

Perkins will dive into the aquarium’s tanks for the last time in July. While he retires as a volunteer, he hopes his four decades as one of the few Black scuba divers in the program inspires others.

“I hope to be a role model for all kids, no matter how many are interested in the oceans or interested in just scuba diving in general,” Perkins told 11 News. “It would be nice to have all groups represented as well.”

Perkins said he’s not done diving, he just wants to spend more time enjoying life and his family.

For more information on the National Aquarium’s volunteer dive program, visit the following website.

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