Friday, December 9, 2011

Anchorage shipwreck explorer lives a life aquatic

Peninsula Clarion
KENAI, Alaska (AP) — Between 1910 and 1920, an average of one ship per month ran aground in the waters surrounding Alaska.
Although unfortunate for captains and crews at the time, the wrecks would provide a playground decades later for Steve Lloyd, an Anchorage based scuba diver and shipwreck explorer.
"I've always been fascinated by ghost towns, shipwrecks, abandoned factories and anything with a hidden story that's somehow tied to the past," Lloyd said.
Lloyd discussed his various shipwreck searches and other Alaska scuba diving adventures to a crowd of 50 people at Tustumena Elementary School last week. His discoveries include three lost Alaska shipwrecks.
The Alaska Steamship Company liner S.S. Farallon, which ran aground in lower Cook Inlet in January 1910, was Lloyd's first subject during his presentation. He located the Farallon in 1998.

Steve Lloyd poses by one of a wrecked ship’s bow anchors on a reef at the mouth of Port Graham in lower Cook Inlet in Alaska in this undated photo. Lloyd discussed his various shipwreck searches and other Alaska scuba diving adventures to a crowd at Tustumena Elementary School in Kenai, Alaska last week. His discoveries include three lost Alaska shipwrecks.
The ship's lifeboats carried 38 survivors to the shore of Iliamna Bay where they constructed tents from the Farallon's sails. The survivors — all men — were stranded in winter with little provisions or hope of rescue.
Unique to the shipwreck was amateur photographer and the ship's mail clerk John E. Thwaites. He took high-quality photos of the wrecked ship and the crew's trials of survival — for example, frostbitten men with burlap wrapped on their feet.
Details of the shipwreck, and the mission of six men who struck out in an open boat to seek help, are fleshed out in Lloyd's book "Farallon: Shipwreck and Survival on the Alaska Shore," published in 2000 by Washington State University Press.
During the presentation Lloyd showed clips of a BBC documentary of Alaska survivor stories that included the Farallon, which was filmed in 2001. He was the film's historical and location advisor and underwater videographer.
"For the film's camp scenes, we used my front yard in Anchorage," he said.
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In 1998, Lloyd learned to scuba dive. A year or so later, he was looking for a place within driving distance of Anchorage to dive from shore and practice. The remnants of Seward's old dock became his stomping grounds.
Lloyd has dived at the location about 100 times.
"In the summer, you can't see more than a foot or two underwater, so the only time I can dive (in Seward) is in the winter — the colder, the better," he said.
Seward is an optimal diving spot because of its historical importance.
Artifacts can be found in the water from multiple destructive incidents the growing town suffered throughout its history.
Like many boom towns of its era, the closely spaced wooden structures of downtown Seward were a fire hazard. Lloyd displayed pictures of the town's most destructive fire on the night of Nov. 23, 1941.
One picture displayed mounds of frosted debris, as the overnight temperature during the fire dropped to 18 degrees Fahrenheit, with a steady 30 mile-per-hour wind from the north.
"Bulldozers were called in to clean up the rubble. Any guess where they put it?" Lloyd asked. "I've never been able to confirm it in official records, but I'm pretty sure they pushed a lot of it into the drink. I've seen charred wood and melted glass underwater, and I think this is where it came from."
The town recovered, but it was struck hard by the Good Friday earthquake in March 1964. The land along the waterfront split into fissures, and a strip from 50 to 600 feet wide broke off and slid into the bay, Lloyd said.
"Although there's not much surge (tidal power) this deep, the bottom is gradually eroding away and exposing more than a hundred years of buried junk.
"Since Seward was a regular port of call for all steamship lines that served Alaska, one of the coolest things to find is a piece of china with a steamship company logo on it," he said.
The second Cook Inlet shipwreck discovery by Lloyd was the Torrent, lost along the then-uncharted coast on July 15, 1868.
"Everyone made it into the ship's boats, and after an hour of hard rowing against the wind and seas, they reached the beach at Cole Cove," Lloyd recounted.
Carrying 125 U.S. Army soldiers of Battery F, Artillery division — men sent north to protect American interests in the Cook Inlet region following purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867 — marks the wrecked ship's historical importance. The loss of the ship's supplies and provisions was a blow to the state.
"It's particularly telling when (Lt. McGilvray, the Army lieutenant commanding the expedition) lists under clothing, 'That in which they were dressed' and under arms 'Dry ammunition sufficient to load the small arms once,'" he said.
Lloyd used an illustration clipped from an East Coast newspaper drawn by an officer on the expedition to find the Torrent.
Using a distinctive pinnacle rock in the drawing Lloyd and a small group of colleagues narrowed their search area to a "small group of breaking reefs a half-mile offshore, which is where we eventually found the scattered remains of the Torrent."
Pictures of the ship's salvage found over the course of many dives were shown. Bronze drift pins used to fasten the ship's oak timbers, hundreds of pieces of copper bottom sheeting, bow anchors and portholes that had fallen away from the sides of the ship as the wood that held them was eaten by shipworms.
"The heavy iron and bronze pieces we found we so thoroughly scattered, we could tell the Torrent had grounded and moved across the reef as she broke up," he said.
The most significant find of the dives was the ship's lost mountain howitzer, which was an artillery weapon used by the army during both World Wars.
The large cannon barrel was found in a narrow channel between two steep faces of rock, Lloyd said.
"... I spotted the telltale green patina that bronze gets after long years in salt water," he said.
Several different types of cannon shot were also recovered from the area around the howitzer. Lloyd displayed an underwater picture of himself holding up a round of canister shot. The 50-caliber lead round consisted of about 30 rounds that would leave the barrel like a gigantic shotgun.
The howitzer was recovered for conservation and eventual display.
"We attached inflatable lift bags, which were filled with compressed air from a scuba tank to provide buoyancy as we swam the howitzer out of the crack in the reef," he said.
Conservation of the howitzer took place at the Texas A&M marine archeology lab. It was soaked in fresh water for two years and chemically stabilized, so the metal can be exposed to the air without further deterioration.
The state museum system now owns the Torrent's howitzer, and it is on its way back to Alaska.
"It is my hope that Pratt Museum in Homer will develop a Torrent exhibit that will allow the howitzer to reside there on long-term loan, where residents and visitors can learn about this little-known chapter in Alaska's history," Lloyd said.
Lloyd detailed many other dives during his presentation, such as the recovery of a floatplane from Legler Lake, the exploration of Ellamar Copper Mine in Prince William Sound and the discovery of the S.S. Aleutian shipwreck near Kodiak Island.
He also joked about his work on an Alaska episode of Man vs. Wild, a Discovery Channel survival television series.

Massachusetts man lives a life of adventure

Daily Hampshire Gazette
BELCHERTOWN, Mass. (AP) — He was swimming, very slowly, in about 150 feet of ocean water, trying to make his way through the darkened wreckage of a Japanese freighter from World War II. To avoid stirring the silty water any more than necessary, he didn't use fins, but instead pulled his way past an old catwalk in the freighter's engine room.
And that's when it happened - the crumbling path gave way and began to fall, sending other catwalks tumbling through the murky water. The diver cowered near the bottom of the ship, his hands covering his head, trying to avoid being battered by 250 pounds of corroded steel.
Just another day in the adventurous life of Peter Piemonte.
Piemonte, of Belchertown, laughs and shakes his head as he recalls this episode, which took place last November near the island of Peleliu (now Palua) in Micronesia, site of a famous invasion by U.S. Marines during the war.
"I remember thinking, 'I'm going to get pinned down here, and no one knows I'm even here,' " he says. "What a spot to be in. In the end, I was fine, I didn't get hit by anything, but there was so much silt stirred up, it was just pitch-black — I had to grope my way out."
That's a risk you take when one of your hobbies is deep-sea diving. There's also passing out underwater because of problems with your air supply, or getting decompression sickness — more commonly known as "the bends" — when you ascend too fast, allowing bubbles of dissolved gas to spread through your body.
But Piemonte, 57, knows a bit about handling risk — and minimizing it so that it doesn't get in the way of adventure. He's a longtime commercial pilot who's flown all over the world and navigated any number of storms and difficult, windswept landings. He's been diving off and on since his teenage years, fascinated with exploring old shipwrecks and the stories and artifacts they reveal.
Piemonte has pursued diving as a serious hobby for about 15 years, sometimes crewing with a research vessel based on Long Island that takes divers to famous wrecks like the Italian passenger liner Andrea Doria, which sank off the coast of Nantucket in 1956. The boat, the Garloo, also searches for possible wreck sites. Piemonte does cave and lake diving, too, sometimes alone and sometimes with other enthusiasts.
Sure it can be dangerous, he says, but the potential threats are outweighed by the challenge and thrill of discovery that comes with Piemonte's full-throttle pastimes.
"The idea of seeing something that no one has seen since it slipped beneath the waves is just fascinating," he says of diving. "You're looking at a moment that's frozen in time."
In late September, Piemonte was relaxing at his Belchertown home after 10 days of flying to various spots in the western United States. He's the aviation manager and one of three pilots for a small company that flies clients to business meetings and vacation destinations on a trim, three-engine jet — a Dassault Falcon 900. The plane operates out of Bradley International Airport in Connecticut, but Piemonte books the flights from his house.
It was a chance encounter at a small eastern Massachusetts airport in early 1973, when Piemonte was about 19, that led him to explore the air.
"I was working for a brick mason at the time who was taking flying lessons, and he took me up in a plane," Piemonte recalls. "It was kind of fun. Then sometime later, this buddy and I were bored, so we pulled into this place at the Beverly Airport that said 'Scenic Rides.' The guy behind the counter said, 'Why would a guy like you want to take a ride? For another $15, I'll give you a log book and let you fly the plane.' "
So Piemonte began taking flying lessons, though he says he had no intention at the time of becoming a professional pilot. He was more interested in exploring the outdoors on the ground: He was studying wildlife biology and conservation technology at a community college, and he also hunted and did motocross racing. He figured he would look for some kind of career in the outdoors.
But after a while, he says, "The siren song of aviation got really strong."
Once he got his pilot's license, he took on a variety of jobs out of that same Beverly Airport: towing banners, hauling freight, doing some flight instruction himself. In 1978 he was certified to fly small jets and began his career piloting corporate jets, working out of a couple of airports, including Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport. He's been with his current employer, Janus Equities, for about 20 years.
His schedule is highly variable from week to week, with the most typical trip lasting three to five days. He and a co-pilot shuttle up to a dozen clients per flight on three to four separate trips a month. Those journeys have taken him all over the world: to South America, Europe, the Caribbean.
"I've been very fortunate that my career has afforded me a tremendous amount of travel and opportunity to try different things," says Piemonte, who is single with no children. "I have enough time off between flights to do things I really enjoy like diving, golf and shooting and to have great friends and camaraderie."
Though he's lived in Belchertown since the late 1970s, when he started working at Barnes, Piemonte grew up in Salem. He first got the scuba-diving bug by reading about submarine warfare in World War II and the underwater explorations of Jacques Cousteau. Piemonte dived in the ocean, and also in inland waters like the Merrimack River.
His zeal for the sport waned a bit following an episode in 1978 helping a friend salvage a small plane that had crashed in the Merrimack.
"This was in February, and I spent a week in the water, in a wet suit, and I froze my ass off," he says with a laugh. "I said to myself, 'That wasn't any fun.' I didn't dive again in New England for a long time after that."
But in the mid-1990s, when his pilot duties began taking him to Mexico and the Caribbean, he took up saltwater fly-fishing and spear fishing. That prompted him to buy a 20-foot boat, which then prompted another thought: "You know, I could go scuba diving off this."
For some years he'd also been doing aerobatics in a rented propeller plane for fun — he was considering investing in his own plane — but he abandoned recreational flying once he got serious about diving again.
"I couldn't do both at the same time," he says. "They both demand your full attention, and I thought, 'If I don't drop one of these, I'm going to get hurt.' "
And Piemonte has been hurt. Once he was badly sickened during a dive when the carbon dioxide filtering device on his rebreather, which contains a mix of lithium and sodium hydroxide, got wet, causing the chemicals to foam up into a caustic cocktail. He burned his lips, mouth and lungs and had to use air from a spare oxygen canister to get back to the surface. "I was so sick," he says. "I couldn't taste anything for two weeks after that."
Even though scuba divers sometimes swim together, they operate as individuals; it's not like flying, where there's a co-pilot, Piemonte says. "You can't communicate," he says of diving. "Any problems you encounter, you have to solve them underwater ... That puts a burden on your equipment, your training and your ability to maintain control. You have to think your way out of the problem."
Sometimes that's not enough. He's lost a few friends over the years who ran into trouble like equipment failure that causes a rapid ascent and a fatal case of the bends. Just this year, he notes, five divers from the Northeast have died. "It's something you always have to be aware of."
But if you plan carefully, he adds, and you keep your cool in tight spots, you get the rewards — like investigating a sunken German U-boat, the U-853, near Block Island, R.I.; the Empress of Ireland, an ocean liner that sank in the St. Lawrence River in Canada in 1914; or the entwined wrecks of two coal-carrying schooners, the Palmer and the Crary, which collided and went to the bottom of Massachusetts Bay in 1902.
"Even though people will say I do risky things, I don't really agree," Piemonte says. "There is an element of risk, no doubt about it, but I always feel that my temperament, my equipment and my training will trump most any problem I encounter — and so far it has."
Piemonte's living room is a shrine to many of the underwater sites he's explored, a window to the past: old clocks, portholes, navigation equipment, well-preserved china and bottles decorate his mantel, cover his walls and fill his shelves.
"When I pass, I will give all my artifacts to people who value them," he says. "They'll be taken care of, they'll be displayed and in the end they'll go to a museum somewhere."
These days Piemonte's doing less diving, but not because of safety concerns. He is devoting more time to his newest hobby, target shooting with pistols.
He says he used to be a good shot when he hunted game birds, like grouse, with a shotgun. Piemonte jokes that he's having a harder time with small arms.
"Eh, I'm old," he says by way of explanation.
But that's a bit of an under-sell: Last year Piemonte, who makes his own ammunition, took fourth place in the senior classic division of a revolver championship hosted by the International Confederation of Revolver Enthusiasts in California.
Piemonte doesn't know what new hobbies the future might bring, but he figures whatever they are, he'll do them full tilt.
"I'm a busy guy," he says, "and I like bringing new challenges to my life."

Portion of Georgia reef reserved for researchers

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — A portion of a reef sanctuary off the Georgia coast has been closed to fishermen and scuba divers.
The Brunswick News reports that officials with Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary say the southern third section of the 22-mile reef will be reserved for research.
Although fishing and diving are now prohibited there, vessels will be allowed to travel across the area as long as they do not stop.
George Sedberry, superintendent of the Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, says the protected area will be used by scientists to study potential impacts from various activities on natural resources, including bottom fishing, climate change and natural events such as hurricanes and droughts.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Learn how to save a life with CPR and first aid training

Done properly and with adequate training, scuba diving is tremendous fun and relatively safe.
Still, functioning in an underwater environment is unnatural and potentially dangerous.
That’s why all divers, regardless of how often they dive, should become competent in life-saving measures.
After all, there aren’t many things more important than learning how to save a life. Unfortunately, too few of us really know what to do if we come across a person in trouble and in need of medical attention.
That was part of my motivation for getting certified on Nov. 12 in first aid, CPR and O2 provider. I hadn’t had a CPR, or cardio pulminary resuscitation, class since I was in Cub Scouts, and I was a little surprised by how much the certification class had changed.
First of all, the speed at which the chest compressions are admininistered is TWICE as fast as I recall. And this change, as recommended by the American Heart Association, has taken place in just the last two years.
Perhaps you remember saying “one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand” as the pace to provide the compressions used to restart the heart. In my most-recent class, we were instructed to deliver compressions at the speed of the beat to the Bee Gees tune “Stayin’ Alive.”
Sing it with me now: “Ah, ah, ah, ah, Stayin’ Alive, Stayin’ Alive. Ah, ah, ah, ah Stayin’ Alive, Stayin’ Alive.” Apparently disco is back in vogue.
The reason for the increased speed, according to our instructor, BJ Stapp, a firefighter, medic and instruction coordinator for Michigan CPR, is the need to deliver as many beats to the heart as possible in the crucial first five minutes after a person goes into cardiac arrest. The American Heart Association recommends 100 compressions per minute, exactly the beat speed of “Stayin’ Alive.” Going too slowly  doesn’t generate enough blood flow, and going too fast doesn’t allow the heart to fill properly between compressions.
For those of you still burning any disco records you can get your hands on, the beat to Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” will also work.
There are several other changes to CPR procedure, (too many to mention here), made as recently as five or six years ago, which is another reason to refresh your certification.
“What a lot of people don’t realize is that the first five minutes, the first couple of minutes that someone is having a medical emergency, are the most important,” Stapp said. “And that’s usually the time that it takes the medical responders, the professionals to get there. So if people can learn what to do correctly, and learn how to do it with confidence, they can make a big difference.”
Regarding scuba diving, Stapp said it’s not necessarily injuries caused by the dive that require the most medical attention, but rather inherent problems the diver had before he or she undertook the dive that are triggered under the application of the dive.
“What we don’t realize with the pressure changes and some of the activities and things that we are doing, there is a lot of demand on our bodies.  And all this demand can cause a lot of problems. They can be as simple as an underlying problem that we already have, like diabetes, or asthma, or something more serious like a diving emergency.”
The most serious diving emergency, according to Stapp, is a heart attack, most often brought about by physical exertion under the water.
“When diving, there is an increased workload on the heart. Because when we go under that pressure it kind of pushes the blood to the core of our body and makes our heart work more. And so when it works more, we have an increased chance for a heart attack,” he said.
Stapp spent about six hours Saturday teaching a small group of students first aid and CPR, and how to use an AED, or automated external defibrillator. We were also taught how to administer oxygen to victims in need. Each of the certifications is good for two years.
Most commonly, divers will need to inhale pure oxygen if they ascend to the surface too quickly. The oxygen helps push out the nitrogen loading caused by the quick ascent and reduces the chances of decompression sickness.
I also discovered breathing pure oxygen can cure my biggest problem: headaches caused by a high number of dives in a short period of time. When I go on a dive vacation, I try to cram as many dives as I can into that short period of time. I usually do a minimum of three dives a day, and sometimes four if I can squeeze in a night dive. All of that diving builds up carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood, and causes my head to feel like a large pumpkin. Stapp said taking deep breaths and long exhales just before asending to complete a dive can help, as well as taking in oxygen after the dive has been completed.
The students were put through a variety of emergency situations and taught how to respond. In addition to the CPR, students were also taught how to help someone who is choking by using both adult and infant manikins. First aid training included what to do for allergic reactions, heart attack, fainting, diabetes and low blood sugar, stroke, seizure and shock. The procedures not only provide aid for the victim, but also provide protection for those administering the aid.
Stapp said first aid and CPR programs are available through the American Heart Association, the Red Cross, fire departments, places that train lifeguards, local universities, and of course Stapp’s program, Michigan CPR, for which more information can be found at
This article and video are scuba specific. My general story and video about the CPR and first aid training can be found at with this link:
Don Gardner can be reached at

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Police postpone retrieval of cannon from river

DETROIT (AP) — Police divers on Sept. 7 postponed retrieval of a possibly centuries-old cannon from the Detroit River after strong currents and murky water thwarted efforts to raise it to the surface.
The divers were assisted by the U.S. Coast Guard until the operation was shut down, Detroit police spokeswoman Eren Stephens said.
No new recovery date was announced.
This photo shot by Sgt. Ken Stiel and provided by the Detroit Police department shows a cannon believed to be more than 200 years old in the Detroit River. Divers planned on recovering the cannon on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, before murky waters and a strong current forced a cancellation of the project. It's the fifth cannon found in the area in three decades.
Dive team members discovered the cannon about 200 feet from Cobo Center in downtown Detroit during a training session in July. It's the fifth cannon found in the area in three decades.
Once it's recovered, the Detroit Historical Society hopes to restore and preserve the cannon, which is more than 6 feet long and likely weighs about 1,200 pounds.
Three other cannons were recovered in the 1980s and a fourth was recovered by the department's dive team in 1994. Those are believed to be British and French. Detroit Historical Society Curator Joel Stone said the latest find will be studied to try to determine its age and where it came from.
"This is all kind of a detective thing," Stone said. "You get one piece of the puzzle, and then you get another piece of the puzzle."
The cannon could be one of several believed to have fallen into the river in 1796 when they were being transported by the British, Detroit police said. Cannons that have been found in the area, however, also may have gone down anytime up to the War of 1812, Stone said.
Sgt. Dean Rademaker, who took part in the dive when the last cannon was found in 1994, spotted what turned out to be the latest one in July. Department divers previously had been to that area of the river hundreds of times without finding it, Rademaker said.
"I thought to myself, 'You gotta be kidding me,'" he said of the discovery.
Divers more typically find cars and guns. In 2009 during a training session, they turned up a 6-foot, 300-pound bronze statue that had been missing for more than eight years from the Grosse Pointe War Memorial. The statue was returned to its suburban Detroit home.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Exploring the Eliza Strong shipwreck in Lake Huron

As promised, here is a short video of my weekend dive with Bruno's Dive Shop, located in Clinton Township, on the Eliza H. Strong. The Strong was  a barge that was carrying lumber when it caught fire and sunk on Oct. 25, 1904, about a mile from Lexington. She sits in about 20 feet of water and is home to many interesting treasures, including the old-fashioned square-headed nails and a sink that is still attached to the craft. In fact, during the video, you will see me "washing" my hands in the sink.
The video is courtesy of Michael Lynch, an instructor who runs his own Great Lakes diving site called, and Bruno's Dive Shop.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dives on the Strong and the Sport provide chance to watch father and son begin checkout dive process

Do to an unexpected change in my work schedule, I had been unable to do much diving this summer.
But I was able to get out recently and did a couple of wreck dives in Lake Huron near Port Sanilac and Lexington in Michigan’s thumb on the Great Lakes Diver, the dive boat owned by Bruno’s Dive Shop, which is located in Clinton Township.
I had the pleasure of meeting Stephen and Ryan Puckett, a father and son from Grosse Pointe Woods, who were doing there checkout dives for their open water certification.
Here is an interview I had with them before the dives, during their dive briefings with instructor Rick Davies from Brunos, and then after the dives.

Watching them deal with a combination of excitement and nerves while preparing for their first dive outside of the swimming pool brought me right back to when I was in their position so many years ago.
Am I ready? Can I do it? Will I remember everything from my training?
Since we were doing checkout dives, basically the final exam for new divers, both dives were relatively shallow. Our first dive was down to the Eliza H. Strong, a barge that was carrying lumber when it caught fire and sunk on Oct. 25, 1904, about a mile from Lexington. She sits in about 20 feet of water and is home to many interesting treasures, including the old-fashioned square-headed nails and a sink that is still attached to the craft.
Our second dive was aboard the Sport, a 57-foot tugboat that sunk in a storm off of Lexington on Dec. 13, 1920. She also has the rare distinction of having an underwater state historic site plaque, which was placed there in the early 1990s.
Thanks to some lousy weather, visibility was pretty poor for both dives, but for what I could tell, the Pucketts did fine.
It was great to get back in the water. It made me realize how much I miss it. I only hope I’ll have more chances to dive next year.
Soon, I will add some underwater video and photo stills of my two dives on the Strong and the Sport.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Explorers find 2 shipwrecks in northern Lake Huron

PRESQUE ISLE, Mich. (AP) — A team of underwater explorers has found two long-lost shipwrecks in northeastern Lake Huron.
Thunder Bay Marine Sanctuary on Wednesday announced the discovery of the schooner M.F. Merrick and the steel freighter Etruria in deep water off Presque Isle (PRESK' EEL').
They were detected during an expedition called "Project Shiphunt," which involved scientists and historians from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and five high school students from Saginaw.
Both ships sank after colliding with steamers in dense fog.
The 138-foot-long Merrick went down in 1889. Five crew members were killed. The intact hull was found resting upright on the lake bottom.
The Etruria, which was 414 feet long, sank in 1905 — just three years after it was launched.
A documentary about the expedition will be released Aug. 30.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

U.S. Congressman takes heat for diving with U.S. flag

(DiverWire) -  Last weekend US Congressman Allen West joined a group of military veterans and local divers to celebrate Learn to Dive Month in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The Republican Congressman, a certified diver, was one of several dozen divers to descend on the wreck of the Ancient Mariner near Deerfield Beach. During the dive, the group unfolded an American Flag and took turns posing for pictures.

On Tuesday, which is ironically “Flag Day” across the country, West took heat from a group of bloggers who pointed out the divers were technically “in violation” of the U.S. Flag code which states, (b) The flag should never touch anything beneath it, such as the ground, the floor, water, or merchandise
Given the current scandals in Washington, D.C., one might think skeptics could find something better to focus their attention on. West, in his first term in office, talked about the importance of flying the flag following the event. “I think it’s important wherever we are, that the flag flies,” said the 22-year veteran Army officer who is also a Master Scuba Diver. “It’s still America down there.”
Tuesday afternoon, the congressman’s office issued a statement, saying he participated in the event or bring attention to scuba diving near his district, and calling West’s actions “sign of respect for the flag.”

US Congressman Allen West (R-FL)
“He went diving with several disabled veterans who fought to defend the American Flag and this nation,” said West’s communications director, Angela Sachitano.
“In addition, Congressman West would like to wish everyone a Happy Flag Day.”
Controversy or not, the event was a major success. There were 33 people on the boat Aqua View with Jeff Torode and his crew from South Florida Diving Headquarters, who took the veterans for free. With calm waters and good visibility, everyone enjoyed great diving.
West told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper that he tries to dive “if not every month, then every other month,” either locally or in the Keys. Certified in scuba while in college, West got re-certified and then got his master diver certification after he retired and moved to Plantation.  “Diving is a great opportunity to connect with constituents,” West said, “and find out what their issues are.” It’s unlikely that any of West’s constituents would have a problem with the Congressman honoring his brother soldiers by proudly displaying the American Flag during a dive, but stranger things have happened.

The “soiled” flag is scheduled to be auctioned for charity, with the proceeds slated for the Diveheart Organization, which deals with teaching soldiers and others with disabilities how to scuba dive. Current bid on the flag is $500 and the auction runs through June 25. For more information, contact Force E at 866-307-3483 or visit

Friday, June 3, 2011

Shipwreck champagne sold to anonymous bidder

MARIEHAMN, Finland (AP) — Finnish officials say an Internet bidder has paid 54,000 euro ($78,235) for two bottles of 200-year-old champagne found in a shipwreck at the bottom of the Baltic Sea.
Auctioneers in Mariehamn say that an anonymous buyer from Singapore paid a world-record price of 30,000 euro for a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and 24,000 euro for a bottle of Juglar.
Both bottles are believed to be the oldest preserved examples of their respective brands.
Friday's auction was held in the capital of the autonomous Aland Islands, a Finnish archipelago situated between Sweden and Finland. Divers last year salvaged 145 bottles of champagne from the shipwreck, at a depth of 165 feet (50 meters) on the seabed.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Night diving: Scuba exploration in a whole new light

By Don Gardner
The ocean is much like New York City.
It never sleeps.
Sure, the sun may go down, the water’s surface may become dead calm, but that doesn’t mean everyone has packed it in for the night.
On the contrary. In fact, dusk literally brings on the second shift – ocean animals that are rarely, if ever, are seen during the day, go to work at night. That is the No. 1 reason to consider a night dive.
For five straight years, I’ve taken diving trips to the island of Cozumel, a diving mecca off the coast of Cancun on Mexico’s eastern boarder. For the first three years, I was intrigued by the prospect of night diving, but as a solo diver, I was a little nervous. Diving in pitch-black water, with a “buddy” I just met on the dive boat 10 minutes before? I wasn’t comfortable with that. Finally, two years ago, I took the plunge (pun intended). Now I wonder what took me so long.
Don’t get me wrong, night diving is a little spooky. And in a deep water column, it is possible to get a disoriented. But you can hit a dive site in the morning and do it again at night and see a COMPLETELY different set of animals. For me, the highlight of my three night dives has been seeing about a dozen octopi. Prior to night diving, I had never seen one in the wild. They are amazing to watch, as they move like a glass of water spilled over the craggy reefhead in search of a meal. Such mesmerizing elegance. I’ve also seen small schools of squid, watched a puffer fish blow up into a ball when startled by a diver’s light. I’ve seen fish sleeping so soundly that they don’t move even with a light shined in their face and a diver nearly making mouth-to-mask contact.
A Splendid Toadfish, shot by a friend during a night dive on Paradise Reef in Cozumel.
And a special treat in Cozumel is listening to the Splendid Toadfish, a beautifully ugly fish indigenious only to the island, croak to each other like bullfrogs, communicating in the darkness.
Night diving is a special treat not to be missed. Dave Leander, a dive instructor for Great Lakes Dive Center, 47450 Van Dyke in Shelby Township (586) 254-7670,, provides some great, helpful tips to become a confident night diver.
By Dave Leander
Do you remember when you were a kid, going out at night and playing flashlight tag? 
Scuba diving at night is a lot like that. Suddenly the dive site you thought you knew becomes a lot different when you can see a whole new cast of creatures revealed by your dive light.
While it may seem a little scary at first in spite of the familiar surroundings, night diving is also awesome and a great way to see the underwater world in a whole new light (no pun on words!).  These are a few tips about night diving you may choose while you get those first few night dives in your log book and see if your favorite times underwater don’t turn out to be the dives after dark.
  • Practice in a swimming pool. It's not as silly as it might sound, but if you have access to an indoor pool where you can turn off the lights, or an outdoor pool after dark, exploring it with your dive light will help prepare you for an open water night dive. Actually, you'll find it fun, even after you have a lot of experience with open water night dives.
  • Choose a dive site you’ve seen before in full light. When you know what it looked like in the daytime, you know what to expect after dark. Plus you'll appreciate how diving at night reveals a whole new world on even a familiar dive site.
  • Start at twilight. It's easier to get your scuba equipment on, plan your dive with your dive buddy and make your entry while you still have some daylight to work with. As night falls while you’re underwater, your sight gradually becomes acclimated to the darkness throughout the dive instead of plunging into the darkness from the start. You’ll notice many of your underwater friends exhibit unique behaviors at twilight, bedding down for the night or positioning themselves for successful nighttime feeding.
  • Plan a shorter, shallower scuba dive. Typically scuba divers experiencing night dives for the first few dives use more air, so a scuba tank will not last as long as it usually does. To enjoy your night dives, don't stray too far from the entry point or dive boat during the dive, go slow and cover a smaller area while investigating each new spot your dive light reveals. Take the time to look in every nook and cranny.
  • Don't forget to navigate. It should be easy when you don’t go too far, but many of the landmarks you’re used to seeing in full light, will be missing in the dark. Use lights on the shore, mark the boat’s anchor line and find or create other aids to keep your bearings.
  • Take the time to notice the little things, and watch for the big ones. Many tiny creatures you swim right over during the day stand out in the beam of your dive light.  Some underwater critters hide during the day and can only be seen at night so bring you camera and strobe to get those rare pictures.  Don’t just keep you light beam on the reef, be sure to shine your light out into the bigger water around you occasionally to catch a passing stingray, a curious grouper or even some reef squid that will follow you along on your dive just outside the beam.
  • Delve into your imagination and cover your dive light to find out how dark it really is underwater. Or more importantly, how dark it really isn’t. Most likely you’ll find you can still see plenty. If you’re diving with a group, the flicker from other scuba divers’ lights  and marker lights will indirectly light up the dive site. In some areas, phosphorescent plankton is common – just wave your arm through the water and you’ll see a trail of stars twinkling around you. In clear water the moon can be visible from underwater, so take a look upward and check it out. In clear water with a full moon, you could make most of the dive with your lights off, but you will always want to have a dive light and marker light on every night dive.
  • Carry two dive lights, a primary and a smaller backup. One of the sacred rules you’ll learn in the Night Diver specialty course is that every diver needs their own dive light. So if your only dive light goes out you can use your backup and save the dive. We also like to use a tank light that marks the diver while on the night dive.
  • For a really unique experience, consider a night dive just before dawn and watch the underwater world wake up. Early morning, your dive site can be just as fascinating as twilight and when you make your ascent while the sun is making one of its own, there’s just no better way to start the day!  We will be looking for you on our next night dive…….tag you’re it!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sea-Side Dive Shop hosts Tobermory trip over Memorial Day weekend

By Don Gardner

Sea-Side Dive Shop, located on Harper Ave. in St. Clair Shores, 586-772-7676,, will play host to a scuba diving weekend in Tobermory, Canada, Friday, May 27 through Sunday, May 29.
I've visited Tobermory a couple of times, once for diving. It is a beautiful area, not much for nightlife, but with plenty of natural scenery to enjoy. It takes about six hours to get there from the Detroit area, but the diving makes it worth the trip. The wrecks are in fantastic shape, and the water is crystal clear. Of course, this time of year, most, if not all, of the diving is done with drysuits.
Here is the information from Sea-Side:

On May 27 drive to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula in Canada, check into your cabin.  If you get there before dark, check out the area, spring time in Tobermory is beautiful.  On Saturday morning, after sleeping in, we will register with the Fathoms Five National Marine Park.  Then in the afternoon we will take a charter boat out to Forest City, a wreck that ranges in depth from 60 feet to 150 feet. 
After dusk, we will dive the Niagara II.  Sunday we will dive the Arabia (120 feet) and a yet to be determined wreck site.  We decided to reserve the cabins through Sunday night as Monday is a holiday.  Make a leisurely drive home on Monday or make a few shore dives before heading home.    
Trip cost is $320 which covers three nights accomodations (triple occupancy) at the Lands End Park Cabins, (bring your sleeping bag), 2 days boat diving (2 dives per day)   The trip fee does not include: diver registration fee, meals, scuba equipment, air fills or transportation (we will help organize travel buddies).   

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bruno's Dive Shop heading to Thunder Bay at the end of May

Bruno's Dive Shop, located in Clinton Township, (586) 792-2040, will be hauling its dive vessel, The Great Lakes Diver, up to Alpena and the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary for a 4-day weekend of diving.
The diving will take place from noon on Friday, May 27 through Monday, May 30 at 4 p.m.
The dive shop has reserved most of the entire peninsula sand spit at Campers Cove, 15 minutes west of Alpena. The sites are large and an accomodate several people. At most, groups will be paying $25 per night.
Cost for diving is $250 for two, two-tank trips or $135 for one two-tank trip.
The shop says it will probably visit three wrecks on the trip, all TBC, although the third will be a shallow last dive/snorkel to suck the tanks dry. Deeper dives will most likely be on Sunday.
Bruno's asks that divers put down a 25 percent deposit or pay in full for the trip to confirm your spot.
The remaining balance will be due in the week prior to the trip. Payments can be made online, over the phone or at the shop.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Is advanced open water training for you?

By Don Gardner
For many divers, the next logical step after earning open water diver certification is to continue their education and skills training with an advanced open water certification.
The best way to equate it is to compare an open water certificate to bachelor’s degree, and an advanced open water (which I will refer to as AOW) certificate to additional education, though something short of a master’s degree. Do you need an advanced certificate to scuba dive? No. But just like obtaining additional education, advanced certification shows that you have undergone additional training and shown capability in various diving specialties.
Carrying an AOW certification also helps dive masters gain a potential feel for a diver’s ability when they are setting up a dive shedule. Of course, carrying that advanced certification doesn’t always mean the diver carries an advanced skill set. I have been on several dive trips in which divers with AOW were among the least-skilled divers in the group.
Advanced certification requirements vary depending upon the training agency. SSI (Scuba Schools International), PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) and NAUI (National Association of Underwater Instructors) are three of the best known training agencies and their requirements are slightly different.
In general, most AOW type courses offer speciality classes in these types of training: deep diving, drift diving, search and recovery, underwater navigation, enriched air diving, multilevel diving altitude diving, marine biology, night diving and buoyancy control.
Dave Leander, a dive instructor for Great Lakes Dive Center, 47450 Van Dyke in Shelby Township (586) 254-7670, is a member of PADI. He provides for us a breakdown of what divers have to do to earn a PADI AOW certification:
By Dave Leander
Looking for the ultimate adventure?  Well, you’ve found it! The PADI’s Advanced Open Water Diver program fine tunes your dive skills and allows you to explore some of diving's top adventures. It’s your dive – go for it!
The Advanced Open Water Diver program offers you a structured program where you gain additional experience and skills under the direct guidance of a PADI professional.
PADI’s Advanced Open Water Diver program has something for everyone. This in-water, performance based program includes a total of five dives from the following list: Altitude Diver, Boat Diver, Drift Diver, Deep Diver, Dry Suit Diver, Dive Propulsion Vehicle, Multilevel Diver, Night Diver, Peak Performance Buoyancy, Search and Recovery Diver, Underwater Naturalist, Underwater Videographer, Underwater Photographer, Underwater Navigator, AWARE Fish Identification, Wreck Diver.
Locally we compile a 5 dive weekend for you to complete you PADI’s Advanced Open Water Diver program by completing the following dives from the available list above: Peak Performance Buoyancy, Underwater Navigation, Night, Deep and Search and Recovery.  What better way to spend a weekend than diving and meeting new divers and logging some bottom time.
If you’re 15 or older, and a PADI Open Water Diver or equivalent, then you’re ready for the Advanced Open Water Diver program. Or, if you’re between the ages of 10 and 14, there’s the PADI Junior Advanced Open Water Diver. The Junior program is available if you hold a PADI Junior Open Water Diver or equivalent certification.  Same dives and skills are required but a restricted certification because of age.
After successfully completing the course, you'll receive the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver certification. This allows you to participate in more advanced diving activities with a maximum recommended depth limit of 100 feet, in addition to the qualifications listed for PADI Open Water Divers.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Michigan photographers shoot photos underwater

Fremont, Mich. (AP) — For Jeff Blanzy, shooting the Fremont High School swim team picture underwater was a swim in the park compared to his previous career as a commercial diver pulling maintenance on nuclear power plants.
But after years as a commercial diver, and later dipping his toes into the corporate world, Blanzy, 53, decided to combine decades of diving experience with his love of photography into the Fremont photography studio Treasured Images by Jeffrey.
Fremont diver/photographer Jeff Blanzy photographs Fremont High School junior Logan Essebaggers, 16, underwater in his baseball uniform in the Fremont High School swimming pool in March.  Blanzy and his wife, Lisa, own and operate Treasured Images by Jeffrey and offer underwater portraiture as an option for customers.
From athletes and students to brides and models, the photography business owned by Blanzy and his wife, Lisa, captures moments in a unique way — underwater portraits.
"I used to be a commercial diver and I've been taking pictures all my life," Blanzy said. "Basically, we turned a hobby into a business when we started doing this about a year ago." The studio also does photos in traditional settings.
More than 20 years ago, Blanzy, a recreational diver, began diving commercially for an Ann Arbor-based company that specialized in nuclear diving.
Using commercial scuba equipment, Blanzy would perform mechanical inspections, repairs and fuel transfers on nuclear reactors diving in 95- to 120-degree radioactive water. The dives usually lasted about 20 to 30 minutes.
"We were wired from our toes all the way up to check for radiation levels and body temperature," Blanzy said. "We wore an ice vest under our suit. It was only 15 minutes sometimes, and that vest would be completely melted."
Diving in nuclear power plants is an exacting science. Equipment is carefully checked so nothing is left behind, which cause damage to the fuel rods.
"Everything is documented — down to a piece of tape — because everything has to be checked off when you leave. The equipment never leaves the site."
Blanzy said the commercial diving job was like "being a professional athlete" because of the traveling required.
"It gets old living out of a hotel all the time," Blanzy said. "I could be gone from home for six months easy, and you don't know your schedule ahead of time."
After 15 years as a commercial diver, he decided to take an office job as a marketing sales manager. But after six years in the corporate world, he decided it was time for another change.
"As a commercial diver, I picked up things like underwater photography, video and documentation. I wanted to do something that incorporated all my skills," Blanzy said. "I wanted to take the last part of my career to do something I really enjoy. I also wanted to do something different from what everybody else was doing."

Fremont diver/photographer Jeff Blanzy and his wife, Lisa Blanzy own and operate Treasured Images by Jeffrey. 
 Blanzy said he and his wife were at an art gallery in South Beach, Fla., which had a number of photos taken underwater on display. "They were just absolutely beautiful, and that kind of piqued our interest."
The husband and wife team work together to execute the underwater shoots, with Lisa Blanzy staying dry while her husband's in the pool.
"Lisa works on the surface, coordinating activities, because there is a lot of topside stuff, like changing backdrops, adjusting lighting, holding the train of a wedding dress and helping models," Blanzy said. "The water is not over their heads, so at any time they can stand up. When it's all said and done, we have a lot of fun, but they have to love the water."
Recently, this challenging twist on portraits was made even more difficult when the entire Fremont High School Men's Swim and Dive Team was photographed as a team and individually.
"I had never done a shoot with 24 people under water, and we didn't know what we were going to get ourselves into," Blanzy said. "But it was a lot of fun and everyone had a blast. The swim team was very polite and helpful. We're looking forward to doing it again."
The couple uses the Fremont High School pool for their underwater photo shoots because they need a controlled environment for lighting, weather and temperatures. However, they will travel anywhere in West Michigan that has a public pool available to rent.
"The pool becomes our studio," Lisa Blanzy said. "We've had brides underwater, a model. And maternity photos are very beautiful under water. This was our first team shot so it was a lot more difficult to organize."
The duo volunteered to photograph the swim team in order to help get the word out about the unique product they offer.
"As a swim team, we're always in the water, so it's what we do," said Mary Pekel, Fremont High School teacher and varsity swim coach. "I wasn't sure how (the photos) would turn out, but they are really interesting.
"We're going to show a DVD of the photos at our banquet. The guys loved it. They loved doing the pictures, and they really liked the end result," Pekel said.
Lisa Blanzy said the response has been phenomenal.
"The parents that I've personally talked to love the photos, and the boys had a blast," she said. "We didn't charge them. It was just for fun, and we put the photos up on the website for them to buy if they want. We're trying to offer something different and neat."

Friday, April 29, 2011

Royal couple may include scuba diving in honeymoon plans

In the spirit of the day, a little royal/diving news:
LONDON (AP) — In real estate, it's location, location, location. For royal honeymooners, it's privacy, privacy, privacy.
Once they are man and wife, Prince William and Kate Middleton may combine the two by honeymooning at the queen's 50,000-acre Balmoral estate in Scotland, a family holding so vast that the couple could relax without worrying about their every movement being tracked by long-lensed paparazzi.
They would likely combine a stay in Scotland, a beautiful spot but with iffy weather, with a visit to a reliably sunny locale, royal experts believe.
"I think privacy will be the most important thing after all that they will have gone through," said Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine. "Maybe a week in the sun and a week in Scotland, which is a traditional royal honeymoon venue. They can do their own thing up there."
William and Middleton are somewhat limited by the prince's military commitments. He is a Royal Air Force helicopter search and rescue pilot with two weeks' leave available, so he will have to be back at the base in Wales fairly quickly.
His parents, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, spent several months honeymooning, combining a two-week Mediterranean cruise on the Royal Yacht Britannia (since decommissioned) with an extended visit to Balmoral in Scotland.
Little said William and Middleton seem to enjoy the active, outdoor lifestyle available in Balmoral, one of the queen's favorite estates.
He said photographers who might be tempted to come onto the estate to photograph the couple with a telephoto lens would likely be warned off in advance by the Press Complaints Commission, which would be expected to warn editors that intrusions on the couple's privacy will not be tolerated.
Prince William's press office has refused to provide any details about the honeymoon destination, although William has dropped several tantalizing hints about possible destinations.
On a recent trip to Australia, the prince told cheering crowds that it was possible he and Middleton would return for a honeymoon in Cairns so they could scuba dive at the Great Barrier Reef.
Some believe the couple will return to the retreat in the mountains of Kenya where William proposed to Middleton last October, noting that when he signed the guestbook he said he hoped they would be able to come back soon.
Others find meaning in the wedding guest list, which includes several people — including a bartender and a yoga instructor — from the private Caribbean island of Mustique, a favored royal hideaway where the late Princess Margaret kept a house for many years.
Other island retreats, including Mauritius and the Seychelles, are also seen as contenders, as is mega-businessman Richard Branson's private island in the British Virgin Islands.
A final clue may have come from Middleton herself. She was photographed nine days before the wedding making some last minute clothing purchases on the chic King's Road in central London.
The booty reportedly included two bikinis, indicating a "fun in the sun" destination might be in the offing.
But that does little to clarify matters, since she would probably need the bathing suits at all of the mentioned destinations — except for Scotland, where romance is made out of haze, mist and fog.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Judge says Lake Erie shipwreck belongs to state

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — A 19th century schooner that lies at the bottom of Lake Erie belongs to New York state, not the salvagers who found it and want to raise and preserve it as a tourist attraction, a federal judge ruled.
The Abandoned Shipwrecks Act of 1987 gives ownership of vessels embedded in submerged state property to the state, U.S. District Judge Richard Arcara wrote in a decision that could derail the ambitious preservation plans.
Massachusetts-based Northeast Research LLC, which claimed title to the 80-foot wooden ship under maritime law before the state intervened, believes the vessel had a role in the War of 1812 and the Underground Railroad.
The group will appeal Arcara's ruling to a higher court, attorney Peter Hess said Wednesday. He said the case should have gone to trial.
"Northeast Research has spent over $1 million and five years ...  identifying and documenting (the ship)," Hess said. "The state of New York has done absolutely nothing."
The company, which operates in Dunkirk, west of Buffalo, envisions raising the well-preserved, two-masted schooner and displaying it in an ice-cold freshwater aquarium on Buffalo's waterfront. Divers have already recovered and documented artifacts, including American and Spanish coins, buttons, rings and other jewelry, that would be part of the display.
The state's general policy is to leave shipwrecks alone.
Arcara ruled the ship was clearly abandoned, since it sat for more than 150 years after it went down in 170 feet of freshwater off the western New York shore.
"What matters is not whether the schooner would have been located, but rather whether anyone even tried looking for it," the judge wrote in a decision dated last week.
The ship's identity is part of the dispute.
A state-hired expert said the presence of grain and hickory nuts in the cargo hold meant the vessel was likely "a nameless 1830s schooner that sank carrying grain," Arcara's ruling said.
Northeast divers believe the schooner is the historically important Caledonia, used in the fur trade in the early 1800s before being commandeered by the British military at the outbreak of the War of 1812 and then captured by the Americans a year later.
After the war, the Caledonia was sold to Pennsylvania merchants who renamed it the General Wayne and used it to ferry runaway slaves across Lake Erie to Canada, according to Northeast's court filings. It is believed to have sunk, fully intact, during a storm in the 1830s. There were no known survivors.
"It's somewhat perverse that the state ... would be fighting an effort by a privately funded entity to document and preserve New York history," Hess said.
He argued against claims the schooner was abandoned, saying Northeast found an heir to one of the General Wayne's owners, who assigned her rights to the ship to Northeast.
During a September court hearing, Assistant Attorney General David State said New York views the shipwreck as a cultural and historic asset and that its primary goal is to preserve and protect it.
The state suspended Northeast's permit to explore the ship in 2008, he said, after determining divers had mishandled human remains. Northeast, which first laid claim to the vessel in 2004, denies the allegation.
The state also said experts doubt the shipwreck group can pull off its plans to raise the schooner from its more than 175-year-old resting place without having it deteriorate.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gold found by Mel Fisher treasure divers in Florida Keys

For years, scuba divers have been joining Mel Fisher Treasure Hunting Expeditions to experience what it’s like to be a treasure diver. Last week, several lucky participants got a first-hand thrill of a lifetime as the team recovered a 2-pound solid gold bar and 20 more silver coins on the Atocha wrecksite over the weekend. Andy Matroci, Captain of the Magruder, said the gold bar is 12 inches long.
Remarkably, this bar is unmarked, leading to speculation that it was being smuggled as contraband aboard the ship. Many of the Atocha gold bars previously found were marked with karat stamps indicating the purity of the gold and Spanish royal tax stamps, indicating the 20% tax had been paid on the bar.
This is the second major find by Mel Fisher’s Treasures this year. Earlier this year, an impressive 4-foot-long gold chain was just found on the Atocha site. The 55 gold links are each about 3/4 of an inch long. Attached to the main chain is a gold cross, a gold medallion and a black bead. The cross and medallion have traces of black enamel on them. The cross is about 2 inches long, 1 and 1/2 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick, with a Latin inscription around the edges. The medallion contains an image of the Virgin Mary on one side and a chalice on the other side.

Group reports finding shipwreck in Lake Michigan

This is about a month old, but in case you missed it ...

HOLLAND, Mich. (AP) — An organization that documents shipwrecks said it has found the wreck of a 60-foot, single-masted sloop in Lake Michigan that may date back to the 1830s while looking for remnants of a plane that crashed into the lake more than 60 years ago.
The wreck was found off southwestern Michigan in water about 250 feet deep between Saugatuck and South Haven, Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates announced this week. The discovery was made while working with author Clive Cussler and his sonar operator Ralph Wilbanks of the National Underwater & Marine Agency.
The group was searching for the remnants of Northwest Airlines Flight 2501, which crashed into the lake in 1950, killing 58 people.
"Sometimes, when you're looking for one thing, you come across another," shipwreck researcher Craig Rich told The Grand Rapids Press of the discovery.
The vessel sits upright and is in relatively good condition, Holland-based Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates said. The sloop's construction and design are consistent with ships built in the 1820s and 1830s. Video of the wreck is expected to be shown April 16 at a social event in Holland.
"It's fascinating stuff," Cussler, who has worked with Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates to locate other wrecks, told the newspaper. "It's not the Titanic or anything like that. But it is rather historic just for the era in which it sank."
The ship likely was moving goods across the lake when it went down, Rich said, and it could be the oldest shipwreck discovered by Michigan Shipwreck Research Associates. Rich said the group hopes to identify the ship by the summer and begin researching its story. And the group plans to explore the wreck this year.
"If we can put a name to it, we'll figure out what the story is and, if not, it'll be a mystery wreck," he said.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

It’s important your regulator receives an annual checkup

By Don Gardner
If you’re a seasonal diver, like me, now is the time to start thinking about having your regulator system checked out and/or serviced before setting out this spring.

Rick Davies from Bruno's Dive Shop

According to Rick Davies, instructor and trainer for Bruno’s Dive Shop, located on 21655 Vermander, Clinton Township, (586) 792-2040) the checkup is more important for seasonal divers than those who use their gear all the time. The dormant gear has a tendency to have its parts stick after months of inactivity.
“Particularly on an unbalanced second stage (the vast majority of regs), leaving it unused over the winter results in the rubber low pressure seat becoming stuck to the orifice it sits on,” Davies said. “A common symptom is that when you turn the reg on it is fine, but as soon as you take your first breath -- and the seat pulls away from the orifice, leaving bits of rubber
stuck to it -- you get a slight freeflow.”
Before we go any further, a quick pause to explain some of the terms used here. In general, the diving regulator is the piece of equipment that is attached to the air tank or cylinder that delivers gas (usually pressurized air) to the diver. The part attached to the tank, the first stage, is the first step in reducing the pressure of the gas in the tank on its way to the diver. The second stage further reduces the gas to ambient pressure and delivers it to the diver via the mouthpiece, or the power inflator for the BC (buoyancy compensator) or drysuit.
Freeflow, a situation in which the second stage is stuck open, causes the gas to flow out of the tank in a rapid fashion. Freeflow can be dealt with underwater if the diver has the proper training and a cool head, but at the very least it makes for a nervous situation and quickly ends a dive.
I was a little surprised to learn from Rick that it doesn’t matter where or how you store your dive gear, a stuck regulator can happen to anyone. A reg stored in cold weather is just as likely to have problems as a reg stored in warm weather. Regs used most often in saltwater are even more likely to develop problems.

An exploded view of the first stage of the regulator

In fact, brand-new regs can have freeflow problems because they can sit on the shelf for months prior to being sold. Reputable dive shops will service the brand-new regs before selling them to make sure they are working properly.
According to Davies, to service the reg, it is first dismantled and plastic parts are washed in soapy water. The metal components are soaked in an ultrasonic cleaner, once with an acidic solution, once with a base.
All parts are then rinsed and dried, o-rings, seats and seals are replaced and the entire unit is reassumbled.
Tests are then conducted on the first and second stages to make sure everything is working properly.
Do-it-yourselfers may be tempted to service their own equipment, but to me, that is taking a big risk. It’s only your life we are talking about. Davies agrees.
“I would not recommend anyone try this themselves,” Davies said. “Special tools and equipment is required. Procedures in many cases are very specific and must be followed to avoid damage.”
One final thought. The jury is still out in the dive community whether or not the reg needs to be serviced annually. All divers want their regulators to perform flawlessly, but because each diver treats his or her equipment differently, there is no set calendar. And as I said earlier, a reg that is used often will be less likely to stick and the diver who uses it will have a good feel for how the reg is performing.
But if the equipment is used only seasonally, the start of your diving season is always a good time to think about getting your regulator serviced.