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...: Marsh Chatter

Different Worlds…

Although your home or work may be all you know, the world is not just what you see around you. There are many hidden worlds; some you may actually visit. Most are hostile to human's. Adaptation isn't tough, you just have to do it.

Case in point… The world below the surface of the ocean, lake, or river. Yes, it exists and it is alive!

For about 15 years, I ventured below every chance I could and as a SCUBA Instructor Trainer, I helped many others to realize the same adventure. As tour leader and later store manager at Rec Diving, I met great people, had many great dives, and saw many wonderful countries.

Picture of me underwater; credit: Thomas Williams
Here I am during a trip in 1986. My good friend and SCUBA Instructor,
Tom Williams (R.I.P.) took this picture of me over a reef in the Bahamas.

Tom introduced me to this great sport during my first semester in college. You see, I was already 3 credits over full time, so I figured I should take a fun class, too! I always wanted to do SCUBA and it was available, so there you go… Right place, Right Time!

Although Tom started out as my instructor, Tom became a great friend in life and a mentor in the world of SCUBA. Every time I teach I think of the guidance Tom passed along. Sadly, Tom left this world too early as a result of lung cancer (American Cancer Society), believed to have been caused by Radon gas emissions in his basement gym.

The waters of Michigan are actually my favorite diving location. The bottom of some lakes are very surreal and the big lakes have many shipwrecks to blow bubbles around. While I have many, two of my most favorite diving memories are:

  1. My first dive in Orchard Lake with Tom. We were down near the bottom of the bowl, roughly 100 feet down on an overcast day. There was enough light that we didn't need our dive lights, but as anyone who dives the lakes knows, visibility was a brown 10-20 feet with the cold thermocline well above us. As we approached the bottom, I stuck my glove covered hand out to feel the texture of the bottom. Much to my surprise the bottom was not "hard" - in fact it was not there at all. What appeared to be the bottom turned out to be layer upon layer of decaying leaves and other matter. No, it wasn't gross! It felt like nothing was there as I guided my hand, then arm deeper and deeper into the "bottom". At one point, I just "swooped" my whole body down through this mass and then back up. To me, this experience fits going to a "Different World"!
  2. I had a last minute opportunity to dive the wrecks of Isle Royale (Wikipedia), in Lake Superior. Isle Royale National Park is recognized as a world biosphere for its Moose & Wolf population. Another instructor (Susan Kushner) and I jumped at this chance without a second thought!

    The drive to Portage, Minnesota is a fair drive from southeast Michigan (like 14-16 hours). Thankfully, another instructor friend (Thanks Laurie Miller) loaned us her van to make it easier to haul our gear (e.g. drysuits, multiple sets of regulators, 6 SCUBA tanks, about 30 lbs of weights each, sleeping bags, tools, etc). The dive boat was a small 35-40ish foot live-aboard - small front cabin (3" cushions on plywood) and a foldout dinette for sleeping. Including crew there were 7 of us going for 5 days of circumnavigation of the Isle with 2-3 dives each day. If you expect the Princess - you took a wrong turn on the highway… it's about the diving, not the above water time.

    Diving the wrecks of Isle Royale ranges from the shallow to the very deep, with a mix of old wooden vessels to steel hulled freighters and lots of rocks. Isle Royale has very clear water, but a very rocky shore and with the 'gales of November' (e.g. Gordon Lightfoot's song), darkness, fog, and snow - you can bet they don't mix well with ships.

    The Isle has 3 outstanding wrecks available to a sport diver. The America - a passenger boat (steel), the Chester A. Congden - the 'fish head wreck' (steel freighter), and the Emperor (steel freighter). Each is interesting for their own reasons and due to the cold water and steel hull, the wrecks look like the day they went down. The Congden is the dive that disorients many divers due to the steepness of how it is resting on the bottom, and the Emperor for the length and depth of its stern. The America more for its story. While actually quite shallow and near to shore - the passengers still had to swim to shore in the cold Lake Superior water and then walk several miles to help.

    For me, at the Isle, the Emperor is the "Different World" dive. There are wrecks deeper - but this one is a complete ship and reasonably accessible in that you can sit back at the stern and look up and see the stern illuminated by the sun in a very visible, but slightly hazy green glow - yet you are 140+ feet underwater (ask me in person what the + was). It is a magnificent view!

Look for the Different Worlds! They make life interesting.

P.S. ask me about hiking Isle Royale, it is also a Different World!