I promised this was coming; it just took longer than I expected to get to. (Why does the kid being in school — out of my hair for long stretches of time each day — mean I’m only more busy? Weird.) But anyway, here it is: a quick and dirty look at how to make your own crab cam. (Our little adventure was featured over at BoingBoing the other day, which I thought was really awesome. Go science!)
Honestly, anyone can do this. You might not see much, but it was pretty fun for both of us to tinker and then wait for the results. Plus, it doesn’t really hurt your chances of getting a crab in the net. I’m just going to leave the case in the net from now on and hope something really cool happens to swim by while we’re out crabbing.
First, however, you need a case. My father-in-law was generous enough to loan us his underwater Walkman case for his iPhone — a little case you’re supposed to slip your phone into for tunes while swimming in the pool.
This project started off a lot easier than I expected it would, thanks to the case. Before we got it, Emme and I were drawing up plans for creating a plastic case of our own, but we were getting stuck on how to create a water tight seal while still including a hatch to insert and remove the iPhone. The Walkman thingie saved us a ton of time.
And yet … we quickly found that we needed to seal the case with something more water tight. It leaked like the Titanic on our initial tests, leaving me to wonder about how many people who ruined their phones after a simple dip in the pool.
But it was pretty easy. We made a trip to the hardware store and scouted around until we found some sponge tape — the same kind of thing you might find on … well, I can’t think of anything. Underwater crab cams?
We shellacked the sides of the case, basically making a new, better o-ring, and then tested the jesus out of it. Emme said we “might have overtested” but I was grateful for all the work, and she was pretty happy to pretend to be the sea lions. By the time we were finished, nothing leaked.
Except … for the closure on the case. Again, I thought, this Walkman idea sucks. The closure kept popping open underwater during our tests. The seal remained but if the closure popped open, water flooded in. (Swimming, swimming, yay, music … damn it!) So we determined to put the phone in a ziploc bag as a fail safe, hoping that if water leaked in, the phone might at least have a chance.
We also used plastic zip ties around the whole case, once we started filming, just in case the closure opened. We didn’t want the phone to simply float away. We were grateful for the zip ties when we were pulling the net up one time and a sea lion jumped in. We could see if from above. I pulled the net rope and the sea lion pushed downward, and you can guess who won? I only was able to pull up the net when the sea lion was good and ready to let me. And yet, the case remained, and the phone was still intact. Phew!
We had used metal ties to strap the whole case to the net, knowing there was a great possibility of sea lion curiosity. I had once lost my entire bait net to what I’m assuming was a sea lion.
In the end, it was a simple device. We simply made a crappy case watertight — well, more watertight — and then tied it to the bottom ofÂ a crab net and hoped for the best.
After discovering that filming from the button up probably isn’t the smartest thing in the world — the crabs merely sat on the lens, blocking our view — Emme and I started working on plans to move the case to the side, pointing toward the bait net, just to see what it looks like from a different angle. We’ll let you know how it goes ….
As I said in the video, we failed. A lot. We battled setbacks with the leaks and then were disappointed not to have filmed anything on that first day. But you know, as a parent, I was pretty grateful for those setbacks and failures. We came home even more excited, trying to think of ways to film better and improve our chances of seeing crabs underwater — our main goal.
It was enormously fulfilling to see Emme come up with ideas and solutions, and I’m hoping it made her feel pretty good to see those solutions actually take shape and be used. Scuba light? Her idea. And it worked! So this whole school-break project idea has become a thing. For Thanksgiving break, we built an Angry Birds catapult, which we still play with all the time, despite the onslaught of Christmas toys. And then this crab cam was our winter break thing.
I like that she’s thinking of ideas for new and better projects, and our “spring project” will apparently center around California Slender Salamanders, these amazing little creatures we see while hiking. We’ll see what happens.