My Favorite Most Unique Places to Dive

The United States of America is an amazing country for divers looking for adventure because it has some of the best sites are that off-the-beaten-path.

Bonne Terre Mine

First among the USA’s great dive sites is the Bonne Terre Mine in Missouri, which is about an hour’s drive south of St. Louis if you take Highway 67. Composed of seven miles of Bonne Terre Mine divingabandoned mine tunnels, the Bone Terre Mine is the only aqua-subway system in the world. Before it was abandoned in 1962 when groundwater started seeping into the tunnels, Bonne Terre Mine used to be a source of lead for more than a generation.

The wonder of this dive site is that it runs directly beneath the town’s train station, a funeral parlor, a pharmacy, a bank, and even the City Hall. The divers can even get a glimpse of what the old mine used to look like – there are still some old mining equipment, train tracks, ore carts, shovels and steam-powered jackhammers underneath millions of gallons of crystal clear water.

More than offering a one of a kind diving experience, Bonne Terre Mine dive tours ensures the welfare and safety of divers. Before diving into the abandoned mine, divers are required to demonstrate their diving skills before a team of professionals guides go with them on to the first of the 24 progressive dive tours that ranges from basic open water caverns to diving into cave-like tunnels. Though there are halogen lights to simulate an open water experience, subterranean diving is definitely not for all.

Bonne Terre Mine is open on weekends, but you need to procure reservations for the guided tours. Because of the cold water (55 degrees all year round), artificial lights and cavern/cave-like environment, Bonne Terre is strictly for competent divers only.

Copper River

Another dive site worth visiting is the Copper River – 45 minutes west of Charleston, South Carolina, Copper River offers a black-water diving experience where you can get a chance to copper river divingsee fossils and other wonders. Its tannin-stained water give the river an eerie feel. At 28 feet deep, it would be difficult to see through the pitch black water even with a light. It seems creepy at first but wait until you reach its floor and scan its crevices and troughs. There, divers will be in awe to find dislodged artifacts and fossils of shark teeth and whale ribs some dated to be about seven million years old.

A local dive shop in Goose Creek provides visitors with access to Copper River. Assembly is at a boat landing for a 3-to10-mile ride up to the dive site. Timing is also very important since the river may only be explored during flood tide. Professional guides will bring divers to the best places to dive and also ensure their safety. Because the water is murky, to avoid disorientation during ascents and descents, divers need to check their gauges constantly. A goody bag is also a must.

Tailrace Diving

Next stop is Tailrace Diving in any of the following destinations: Garrison Dam which an hour drive north of Bismarck, North Dakota; the chute below Lake Oahe Dam just outside of lake oahe tailrace divingPierre, South Dakota; and Colorado River in Willow Beach, Arizona. Tailrace diving is a type of drift diving where the diver goes head first through a rapid outflow of a major dam. The diver drops into the middle of the current and cruises downriver just a few feet above the bottom while watching out for and dodging obstacles.

Worth noting still among the Tailrace Diving sites is that depths may vary from a few feet to more than 40 feet, and that in all of the three sites, the water is always freezing. This is why participants should wear extra neoprene, not just to shield them from bumps and snags along the way, but also to provide extra warmth. These dives are for advanced divers only and be sure to seek knowledgeable guides from a local dive shop.

Homestead Crater

There is also Homestead Crater in Homestead Resort – about an hour ride east of Salt Lake City, Utah and near Heberville. Homestead prides itself for giving guests a Journey to the homestead crater divingCenter of the Earth experience. The only difference this time is that instead of a going through a mine, the site is a natural geologic crater. The Homestead Crater is a natural hot spring inside a rock dome – its grotto is 60 feet across and has a small opening at the top. Below is 70 feet of clear and unusually hot water that ranges between 90 and 96 degrees even in the dead of winter.

Homestead has a 100-foot tunnel that cuts into the base of the crater, a space well enough for a tiny dive shop, and access to a floating dock where divers suit up. Inside the bell-shaped crater there is a suspended wagon wheel and mineral deposits lining the walls. The crater also has a lot of natural and artificial lighting, but dive lights will still come in handy in some of the darker portions. The site is open year-round to divers, swimmers and guests of the resort. Divers have to share it with ski bums taking a soak between runs during winter season.

Yellowstone Lake

Another natural wonder is the Yellowstone Lake in Wyoming wherein diving at 7,600 feet above sea level is already an adventure in itself. Within the crystal clear waters of the lake yellowstone lake divingare underwater geysers and some strange lava-like spires (scientist can’t quite figure this out) called mystery spires, the topside scenery ain’t bad either.

Rising up to 20 feet off the lake bottom, the mystery spires look something like rough stone chimneys, which some people think may in fact be the skeletal remains of living creatures. Whatever they are, it is definitely something you will not see elsewhere.

The cold-water, high-altitude dive in Yellowstone is for advanced divers only. Bringing dry suit, taking it easy and not pushing the limits is advised. And, be careful not to touch the spires.

Missile Silo

Further south, about 20 minutes southwest of Abilene, Texas is the Missile Silo – a remnant of the Cold War. This site will bring divers to an underwater tour of what was once a secure military facility.

Way back in 1962, this underground bunker containedmissile silo diving an Atlas F ICBM that has an equivalent firepower of 50 Hiroshima bombs. The nukes however, are all long gone, and what remains today is 130 feet of peaceful, clear groundwater. To access the site from the Texas prairie above, divers must go down a long flight of stairs descending to what was once a top-secret military facility. Visitors will pass through several blast doors to the old launch control bunker then proceed through a tunnel to the enormous concrete silo that is 52 feet across and 18 stories deep.

The water in the Missile Silo is 130 feet deep. There piles of tangled metal debris at the bottom, so divers need to be careful. Also at the bottom of the silo is the missile control station, which is a tin shack structure that sticks out from the silo wall at around 30 to 60 feet.

The water is at constant 61 degrees and is clear at about 60 feet. To explore the depth of the silo, divers’ need a 7mm wet suit with hood and gloves and a dive light.

Clear Lake

Another must visit dive site is Clear Lake located two and a half hours ride southwest of Portland, Oregon. The lake offers visibly clear water beyond anything imaginable, but it is clear lake divingalso quite cold.

Most of what is in the bottom is volcanic ash though it is not all that divers could see there, there are also brilliant-yellow algae fields, frozen lava flows, a sunken forest, and geothermal vents that pour out milky, cloud-like substances. Though it’s only about 45 feet deep, the lake is 4,000 feet above sea level, so divers will need a dry suit and a sealed regulator. Furthermore, the very cold water makes it an advanced dive and good buoyancy skills are required because of the volcanic ash in the bottom.

Emerald Lagoon

A must-visit for diving enthusiasts, the Jules’ Undersea Lodge/Emerald Lagoon is lined with mangroves and can be best described as an aquatic theme park dedicated to dive emerald lagoon divingscience. At the center of the Jules’ Undersea Lodge is a deep-sea research habitat converted into the world’s first and only underwater hotel.

The lodge, located in Key Largo, Florida just off Highway 1 at Mile Marker 103, can accommodate groups of up to six divers. NASA uses it occasionally to simulate living in space conditions, but it is also popular with adventurous honeymooners. Divers in this site use an extensive system of hookah lines to explore the lagoon’s numerous quarry-like attractions, including an archaeological exhibit and second habitat structure that serves as a marine lab.

Mt. Storm Lake

An addition to the diver-friendly lakes is Mt. Storm Lake that is just off Route 42 in northern West Virginia near the Maryland border. It has a large parking lot for visitors, easy mt. storm lake divingshore-diving access, underwater platforms, and plenty of warning signs to keep divers away from the dam. The thing that makes Mt. Storm unique among the other dive sites on this list is its water temperature, which is about 20 degrees warmer. On cold days, the surface of the lake actually steams up. The reason behind this is because Mt. Storm Lake is a man-made cooling pond for a massive coal-fired power plant.

Bonneville Seabase

Last, but definitely not the least among the many dive spots of the US, is the Bonneville Seabase in Utah, 40 miles west of Salt Lake City and near Grantsville, Utah. It is an inland Bonneville Seabase divingsea full of tropical fish species such as angelfish and nurse sharks. With the same geologic forces that help create the Great Salt Lake, Bonneville Seabase provides warm, saltwater ponds somehow similar to the water conditions of the Caribbean, thus supporting a diverse mix of ocean fish – from groupers to nurse sharks.

Adventurous divers just have to choose or just visit one site at a time to enjoy the many wonders and surprises each dive site has to offer.

How to Put a Shark in a Deep Trance – A Diver’s First Hand Experience

how to put a shark to sleep

There is a way to lull a shark to sleep… to put them in a deep trance for a few minutes, just enough so you can pet it or let others gently touch it and feel its sandpaper-like skin. It is called tonic immobility: a state in which the shark is placed in a natural state of paralysis. It is an instinctive reaction when stimulated a certain way. It does not harm them. Science still doesn’t know the purpose of this reaction, but it is a truly fascinating thing.

Calming a shark and putting it to sleep is something I have done a hundred times, but I never get tired of it. I love sharks, and when I hold them in their trance-like state, there is a great fascination that I feel for these incredible creatures.

It all starts with choosing the right shark to handle. A great subject is the Caribbean reef shark. When diving underwater, you have to be completely calm and find a shark that is relaxed and does not seem aggressive. One that is swimming lazily and slowly. It may seem more intimidating, but the bigger ones are usually the more stable and willing. Additionally, females are almost always the easiest to entice.

When I spot one, I extend a hand to feed it, usually with a herring. Although it may seem like free food, not all sharks can be lured to it. Others who do not want the attention would simply swim away. The shark should be willing to take the food before you are able to pet it. When it comes close enough, I start petting it under the snout. That’s where the magic happens.

Under the shark’s snout are freckle-like dots called ampullae of Lorenzini. It is so sensitive, that if you twitch just a single muscle, they would be able to sense it. Because it is overly sensitive, it is also easily stimulated. So when you gently touch and massage it, they feel an overwhelming sense of stimulation that limits their mobility. Their bodies fall into a completely relaxed state. You can touch and move them around without much struggle. How long does this trancelike state last? About a few minutes. I have once handled a shark for 30 minutes in this state. If I want them to snap out of the trance, I simply stop stimulating and let go. Then they go back to their business like nothing happened. It is truly an amazing phenomenon.

I usually do this in front of an audience, not to draw attention to myself but to show them how fascinating sharks are. Tonic immobility is just one of the interesting facts about them and there are so much more people ought to know.

To lull a shark to sleep requires a great amount of diving experience and extensive knowledge about their behavior. I don’t encourage inexperienced divers to do this when they encounter a shark. What I do encourage is for everyone to get to know these amazing creatures. I hope more people will love them and save them, in the same way that my fellow divers and I do.

Cage-Diving with Wild Bears

cage diving bear photos underwater

I went to Kurile Lake in Kamchatka, Russia after watching about it on a television documentary. I got fascinated because bears come there every year, as they consider it the best place for them to find food or take shelter. Aside from that, the lake is the largest breeding ground for red salmon—one of the best of its kind—in the whole of Eurasia.

I knew that no one had tried taking underwater pictures of the bears, since it would be strenuous and dangerous. Knowing the obstacles that I will go through, I still made a go for it. I went to a shop and asked for a box for my photo camera, telling the assistant my intentions. He reacted as if I was completely insane.

Working with a predator means having one foot in the grave; one tiny mistake can lead to a giant mess even if you work with one easily at first. Because of this, we had a special cage built to prevent direct contact with the bears. What I had to do was watch from the bottom up every time one got up on its hind legs.

I was that desperate to get a shot. I spent hours soaked in the freezing cold water, and it thrilled me whenever a bear came near. There were times when I got really close to them, and I tried my best not to ruin the moment. However, they turned from pretty creatures to beasts as soon as I got in the water, chasing me, hunting me down like I was food.

Bear attacks really are fatal. There are more chances of being killed by one than being killed by a lion, tiger, leopard and shark combined. Looking back, fulfilling this dream of mine—taking shots of bears underwater—almost caused me my life. It was something exciting and memorable, but it was a bad idea. Never in a million years would I recommend what I did to anyone.

Cave Diving In Madagascar – Stories Worth Telling

Similarly to many awesome stories, this one begins with a simple phone call from my life-long friend Adalrik. “Eis, I met a girl [Hannah] who has had over 20 successful dives in the caves of Madagascar, she’s planning her next trip in two weeks and I already told her that you were going with me.” I usually like to have more notice, especially for a long distance trip – not to mention all that goes in to preparing for a cave dive. But I’m not one to turn an opportunity like this down, so I agreed. The next two weeks consisted of us gathering as much intel as we could on the caves, while we bought tickets, made travel and hotel arrangements, and mentally prepared for this experience of a lifetime.

Adalrik had close contacts with a Hungarian geologist that had been employed in Madagascar for many years – a valuable friend indeed! He was able to make copies of a number of his own personal geological maps, which also included survey data of caves and their dimensions.

Fast forward two weeks and a day and we arrived at Ivatao International Airport. Keep in mind, this is not an American airport. I was expecting some nice air conditioned building where we would calmly wait in line until it was our time to speak with customs officials and have our passports stamped. Boy was I wrong.

The plane lands. We walk directly onto the field and must have walked at least a quarter mile to the location for arrivals. There were no lines in the arrival hall. There were two employees working at the center of the building that were responsible for taking the Ivatao International Airportpassport and stamping it. Unfortunately, stamping a passport is a long, drawn out procedure in Madagascar. I had to stand around in the chaos for nearly 25 minutes before I heard someone scream out some sounds that resembled my name. Ah finally – now I just have to fight my way back through the crowd to retrieve my stamped passport and I was on my way. An African airport – such pandemonium!

Our hotel was located in a city that seemed almost third-world. Dirt roads – if you can call them that – lacked any streetlights or signs. Quite a culture shock. The inside of the hotel was surprisingly very nice. Almost felt like I was in the twilight zone once I entered as it felt out of place from the street it was located on.

The next morning me and Adalrik decided to try a dive on our own without Hannah, as we were there a day earlier than she was. Using only the geological maps, Google Earth, and a small tidbit of information we were able to gather online on the days leading up to our expedition, we told our driver where to go. This particular cave was in the middle of the desert. Cactus all around us, and aside from this hidden water source, there was no other water in site. Once we arrived we were both pretty psyched to jump right in. We checked the tanks – Carbon Monoxide levels were good. We geared up and gently eased our way into the water.

Within a few minutes we realized that there wasn’t any opening wide enough to fit through that would lead us to a cave system. After nearly twenty minutes we found a small hole that was just barely big enough for one person to slide through. This small tunnel continued until it pretty much closed off with debris. We each took turns trying to remove rocks from the opening to clear a path, but this didn’t seem to get us anywhere. After a while we decided to cut our losses and get back out of the water.

We continued on to the second potential site about one kilometer to the east. Walking down the steep depression was quite a task with all the gear still on. The anticipation was killing us so we didn’t want to waste any more time than we already had. Finally I could see the pool of water. The water was crystal clear with a slight blue tinge. It was unreal. From the surface it looked as if it was about 10 meters deep, but this was only an illusion due to the clarity of the water, it was actually close to 50 meters.

Towards the back of the submerged cavern was a huge underwater tunnel that dropped down moderately fast – probably close to a 40° angle. Swimming around the edges of the tunnel, we could marvel the intricate patterns made over thousands of years, and just couldn’t be replicated – this was simply one of a kind. On the floor we could see huge cayman skulls, which Adalrik quickly captured with his underwater camera. Unfortunately, he is not an experienced underwater photographer so the picture wasn’t the best. This was alarming for a few moments as we were unsure whether we were swimming around in a cayman skulls in underwater cavecrocodile’s den but that fear soon passed out of excitement for our new find. We later found out that these were most likely fossilized. After reaching nearly 200ft of registered depth as measured by our line, we decided to start heading back. Along the way we spotted a number of other tunnels branching into multiple directions, which gave us hope that we could have a much more successful dive the next day with Hannah, as our Carbon Monoxide (CO) levels were approaching 40 ppm and we had already both gone through our spare tank at this point. Upon reaching the surface, we were both enthralled at what we just got to experience. It was quite possible that we were the only two people that have ever actually been at this site, as cave diving in Madagascar is not popular at all. We hypothesized that this would be the perfect starting point for the days ahead, as there were a handful of unexplored tunnels, at least one had to connect with the underwater cave system. Swimming through the tunnels for the duration of our trip confirmed these expectations.

Over the next few days I will continue to document the most memorable experiences of this trip. If I had the chance, would I go back to Madagascar to cave dive? Absolutely. Each underwater cave system is unique. This uniqueness and all the characteristics and small details that you learn to take note of is largely dependent on the location of the cave. A cave dive in Florida compared to in Mexico compared to in Madagascar is a completely different experience. Not only does underwater visibility vary from dive to dive, but the color of the rock, the soot, and the intricacies of each tunnel and underwater cavern vary tremendously down to the smallest details.

Cave Diving Documentary – Worth the 53 Minutes

Cave diving gets a bad rap because of the dangers associated with it. Sure, cave diving can be dangerous, but it can also be fascinating. I thought I’d post this video up from Youtube. It does a great job at providing you with the overall picture of cave diving. You’ll see some beautiful underwater footage along the way. If you really are interested in cave diving, try not to get all caught up in the media hype. The media is only going to report when things go wrong while cave diving. There are substantially more successful dives than their are those that end in injury or other forms of tragedy. Hope you enjoy.

Cave Diving

What is Cave Diving?

Cave driving can be as fun and exciting, if not more fun, than your typical diving expedition. Cave diving involves the use of scuba equipment (usually) in water-filled caves. This extreme sport is no walk in the park, and it is often considered a type of technical diving. There is often no free surface throughout most or the entire dive, and depending on the depth of the cave decompression techniques may be utilized. Compared to its close adventurous cousins, scuba diving and caving – cave diving is less popular. This can at least be partly explained by the specialized skill sets required, as well as the high-tech equipment that is typically needed, not to mention to inherent risk of diving without the ability to surface if crisis arises (penetration diving). For those that aren’t familiar with the term, penetration diving simply implies that in an emergency, the diver must swim the entire way back out, rather than vertically straight to the surface as you would find in scuba diving.

cave diving in florida

Is Cave Diving Dangerous?

Visibility varies depending on the cave itself, depth, or the time of day. It is not unusual for visibility to go from clearly visible to pitch black in a single cave dive. Specialized flashlights or other light sources may be needed in order to safely dive depending on desired depth.

There really is very little room for error when it comes to this kind of sport. Strictly following safety procedures is a must, and even then things can go wrong. If I’m not mistaken, I believe I recently read an article from the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education, which said roughly 10 cave divers die per year. While this may seem like a small number, you must take into account how uncommon cave diving is (only a couple thousand cave divers in the world). Compare this to typical scuba diving, fatality rates fall somewhere around 1 death per 15,000. So clearly, cave diving is a bit more dangerous.

Florida Cave Diving

Some of you may not realize that Florida is one of the best places for cave diving. Most people may think of Disney world, sandy beaches, huge shopping malls, and alligators – for me, its all about the cave diving. Limestone is the foundation for the Sunshine state, which is responsible for providing us with some of the best tunnels for cavediving – miles under the ground! With proper illumination, scuba divers can swim for thousands of meters and experience something that could be argued as straight out of science fiction. Many of these caves are quite literally jaw dropping. Without a light source though, you would never even know. Seriously, you’ve never experienced darkness quite like this. But once you turn on the light, you find yourself in a beautiful work of art. Swimming through tunnels the size of a hallway and then you find yourself in a cave the size of a small building, it is an awesome experience I must say.