This was the weekend I had signed up to assist with a shop trip down at Beaver Lake. This was a busy weekend too. We had 9 Open Water students, 2 Rescue course students, 4 fun divers (non-course), and 2 non-divers on the trip. Greg was the OW instructor and Gary was the Rescue instructor. I was able to help Gary out a bit, but with that many OW students, obviously my tasking was to that group. That didn’t bother me too much, figured the rescue people could get along fine without too much assistance. What I would have liked to have been able to have done was give more guidance and assistance to the fun divers on board.
For those who haven’t been down to the Missouri and Arkansas reservoir lakes lately, all the early rains and flooding has raised the levels tremendously and the corps isn’t releasing much so they are staying high. With all the runoff the waters are holding a whole lot more silt and dirt and everything else. Visibility for the most part is very limited. As a scouting report, I found that the best vis is between about 35 and 60 feet. Above that is maybe 10 feet of vis if things are good. Below that it gets terribly dark, even with lights. But in the 35-60 area I found that vis opened up to 15-20 feet in most areas I was in that depth. I’m sure there are exceptions.
I’m planning a trip down to dive the Oriskany in a couple of weeks so Cody and I met up on Friday afternoon to get in a few deep bounces before we headed down to Florida. There were a couple of other diver pairs at the dam park site and we chatted with them pre and post dive as we each hit our own dives. Our goal was to get 2 dives below 80 feet so he would have dives below that depth logged within the last 12 months. Don’t really want to have a hand held trip down in Florida, want to be able to dive on the sites within our own profiles instead.
On our first dive down we found an orange caveline headed down from about 50 feet. I knew this was the line down to a sailboat that was normally at around 73 feet. We found the sailboat at 87 feet. (lets me know the lake is up about 14 feet) We chilled out at the sailboat for a bit and he played with his camera for a bit. Not sure if anything would have come out real well due to it being just that light absorbing kind of dark. Only what was directly in the beam of light was illuminated. Nothing else was lit. We headed on down below the sailboat and started to find a grove of trees at 102 feet. Not the kind of grove that’s really cool to drop into, but these were branches sticking everywhere and not really seeing them all that well until you are kind of right on them. So we chose to stop there for a moment.
We had planned that at 100 feet we would breathe on our alternate airs to see how they breathed at depth. My octo was a little rough, but drew fine. Figured if I needed to be on octo or have someone else on octo at that depth, we probably aren’t staying long anyway. It does breathe well enough that it wouldn’t panic someone with the draw. He has one of those integrated airs on his inflator and it breathed well for him too. Cody was making kind of the snapshot motion which I thought meant he wanted me to take his picture so I took a picture with my camera. We had a mis communication there. When we came back up to where there was some ambient light and we could see each other more readily (lights were still a really good idea, but it wasn’t that light absorbing dark) he showed me the clip where his camera used to be. I checked air and realized that I didn’t have enough to go back down beyond 100 so set a straight line course up to shore following a direct course so it would be easier to find the orange down line next dive. We took a surface interval and planned our next, now "search" dive. (note, we did do a safety stop at around 15-17 feet to off gas a bit)
We headed back down directly to the sailboat. We knew he had used the camera there, so we know it had to be at least there. Then we did a pattern search in the tree branches and along the floor for the camera. We tried to make sure we were inching head first down so as not to stirr any of the bottom as much as possible to let us see further. It was one of those SeaLife cameras with the attached bright yellow flashes. So that should be easy to see if the light comes upon it. We rooted around for about the duration of our depth air. We headed up and followed the terrain a bit and wound ourselves around for some off gas time (instead of sitting in one spot on the earlier dive so I could make sure I kept course close enough to easily find the downline again). We came out and chilled with another surface interval and planned the next dive. We were getting close to being pretty nitrogen loaded so this one had to be the find dive as we won’t be able to go down that deep again for a while. While at surface interval we spoke with a couple of other dive groups that were using the same entry area. One group was a technical diving group so we gave them Cody’s information in case they found the camera while they were down. They were playing with some dpv’s too, looked like a lot of fun, but we were otherwise occupied for the time being.
Our next dive we headed back down to the sailboat and started searching down agian. We went all the way through the tree area to the ledge (called Thor’s cliff or something like that. Has an alligator guarding it anyway). That ledge was at 115 feet and I know dropping off the ledge goes about 40 feet before the next ledge. At the current lake level that would be well beyond the rec limits, so that was as far as we could look. Unfortunately, we never did find the camera. On the way up from this dive we decided to follow the ledge overhangs at around 60 feet. I really like that kind of stuff, them we moved up to around 40 feet for a while. I moved us on up to around 30 feet though as I was watching my cobra computer and the left load indicator was showing two dots in the yellow at 40 feet but droped down to only about 4 in the green when I came up to 35. We took an extended stop at 15 and just chilled for a bit before recovering our dive flag and exiting.
We headed up to C&J’s on the hill to fill air and catch up on logbooks. We also let them know about the search and gave him Cody’s contact information. A lot of tech divers tend to bring things into C&J’s when they find something expensive. Hopefully someone finds his camera and drops it off. Doubt it will happen, but there’s a chance. A lot of people go VERY deep in that exact area.
So after that I headed out to my shop’s house and started getting ready for students to start arriving. We got everyone in and settled and Saturday began quick. Went and got the boat and headed over to the bluffs (left side approach is kind of gravel which tends to settle easier than the silt areas). We found a suitable spot and we got the OW students in the water and gary started the process of wearing out the rescue divers. One of the fun divers was a bit upset because she and one of the OW students thought they were going to be able to dive together. This was only a one way deal on this one. She could buddy with him in the OW coursework, but we obviously couldn’t just release him to go dive with her unsupervised as he wasn’t certified yet. This worked out well for us anyway as there were 9 OW students so this pairing made for 5 buddy pairs instead of an odd number. The coursework progressed pretty quickly actually. I was surprised, not because of that in itself, but with the limited vis we were getting things done really quickly and getting the opportunity to do some tour dives before pulling anchor on the sites.
The one thing I wanted to comment on for this trip wasn’t anything to do with diving really. We had a brother pair down with parents. The bro