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On a cold December day, Steve Lane and I decided to go diving at Innerkip, Ontario. Both of us were wearing wetsuits, and the other divers in drysuits looked at us a bit strangely. We had been diving weeks earlier when the water was a cold 40°F, but knew it would be even colder now as ice was enclosing the surface. Here’s a picture of Steve holding a piece of ice I took just before our dive. A nearby dive instructor told us not to breathe through the regulator above water to test it, as this would cause regulator freeze up.
The ground was covered with snow, and a few snowflakes were falling. All that protected us were 7 mm neoprene wetsuits, so we braced ourselves for the upcoming dive. I didn’t pay much attention to the advice given earlier about regulator freeze up. Now ready to begin my dive, I realized that the warm moist air I had breathed into the regulator to test it had condensed and frozen on the diaphragm, so I couldn’t get air through it. I made a few sharp exhales and managed to free up the reg before making a giant stride entry into the water. The icy water at 33°F entered my wetsuit and swirled around my skin causing me to gasp … I was instantly numb! As the dive progressed I became much colder and began to shiver, all while slowly losing the ability to kick properly. All we could manage was a twenty-one minute dive. Shivering, we exited the water with our faces frozen, but feeling good. My fingers were useless in removing the fin straps, so I had to manage with the palms of my hands. This was the coldest dive either of us had ever experienced, and it was awesome.
Steve and I headed out to Sarnia, Ontario to do some shipwreck diving. Our goal was to explore the Monarch which sank in 1913. This is a small wooden steamer with a metal clad hull. A steel cable secured near shore, rests on the river bottom and extends down to the shipwreck in 55 feet of water. As we worked our way along the cable by sliding our hands along it, with only 4 foot visibility, it became obvious just how fast the water was moving. The strong current pulled our bodies horizontally so that a few inches of water always remained between us and the sand. With arms extended and a solid grip on the steel line we continued sliding our hands down the cable toward the wreck. At the zone where the reverse current which is closer to shore, and the main river current met, our bodies were flipped up and over the lifeline in the opposite direction as we entered the much swifter current from Lake Huron. Finally we reached the ship and explored its hull. It seemed like we were mountain climbing since we always had at least one handhold on the wreck in the wild current. Before releasing one hand, I’d have to grasp another piece of the wreck with the other. This is how the whole dive progressed, hand over hand. During the dive, a thunderous roar grew in my ears and my body began to shake from the vibrations in the water. The sound continued to grow louder, and light was blocked out from above. A gigantic freighter was passing over our heads spinning its huge propeller above us! What a dive!
British Columbia Diving
While I was underwater teaching Richard a Night Diver Specialty, a two foot mud shark darted toward my dive light and then bolted off under Richard. I saw the shark smack into him, snagging its teeth in the soft fabric surrounding his weight belt! I asked Rich if he was O.K., hoping he wasn’t going to panic on our night dive. He was calm and smiled back at me while the shark twisted and wiggled attempting to escape. Now came the part of trying to get the shark free without dropping the weight belt. Unfortunately, pushing down on its head with my dive light didn’t work, because the upper teeth were also trapped. I had to slightly loosen the belt away from Rich’s body, and move the lead shot around to free the animal. Shortly after this encounter, we performed the required three minute lights out exercise of this course while resting on the bottom. I nearly had the fright of my life. In the mild glow from the moon, I saw something BIG glide between us! When our lights finally went on, a large harbour seal was swimming nearby hunting for perch.
Sewailu and I enjoyed a sunny day of diving at Coopers Green. The dive site is a small island just off shore, which has rocky slopes leading down to about 60 feet of depth. Red and white painted greenlings were abundant, and peered up at us as we began our descent. We experienced a sharp and distinct thermocline at around fifteen feet. Above this depth the plankton bloom created poor water visibility, while the water below was crystal clear. Sewailu and I hovered just below this barrier, looking up at what seemed like the underside of rippling surface waves. Adding to this unusual effect were small surf perch that would swim up and fade into the darker water above and then reappear in the cooler clearer water below. Once during the dive I casually looked for Sewailu, but couldn’t see her anywhere. I looked left and right, up and down, but she was nowhere to be seen! Eventually I caught onto her game and noticed her just above me, moving as I did to avoid detection. We had a great day of diving.
Phosphorescence from plankton glowed around our fins, as my dive buddy and I kicked out of Whytecliff bay to begin our night dive. When we started to descend, a seal was spotted swimming along the wall only ten feet away. As we rounded the point heading toward the anemone beds, Fleur excitedly signalled that she saw two more harbour seals. The larger dark seal remained at the edge of our light zone throughout the dive. However, its smaller grey spotted companion seemed unafraid and would use our light beams to hunt for fish. When my dive light shone on a perch, the seal would often dash out of the surrounding blackness, only a few feet in front of my face, and snatch a quick meal. My hand moved toward the spotted coat, and lightly touched the animal’s side. Immediately I felt a quiver as the seal sensed my touch. The seal did not try to swim away quickly, but rather continued at the same slow pace. Our aquatic friend remained with us throughout the entire dive. Once we surfaced and started kicking back to shore, we saw our friendly seal swimming below us. Fleur and I kept looking down, while floating in about six feet of water, waiting for our companion to visit us again. As I was slowly kicking along the surface with the dive light pointing downward, my head pushed into something soft. I thought I swam into my dive buddy, and was surprised when I looked up to see it was the seal! What a fantastic dive.