Adventure Awaits - Evolving into a Technical Diver
I never thought I’d become a technical diver let alone a technical diving instructor. I never thought I’d be ice diving in Antarctica, cave diving in Mexico or exploring 300 feet deep wrecks in the Great Lakes! I started diving because I loved marine life and wanted to see coral reefs. The diving I do can look intimidating, but we all start somewhere right! I never set out to be a tech diver I evolved into it, and I want to share a bit of my story with you.
I grew up in Florida and loved diving the springs, but I was limited to the open water area. I never thought about caves when I first got into scuba diving, but I remember the first time I swam into a cavern and my misconceived notions disappeared. I fell in love with the darkness and peering around new corners. I enjoyed seeing the geology of the cavern and fossils embedded in the walls. I loved learning new diving techniques, running reels, light signals, keeping track of my dive buddy and my position in the water. As time passed, I took a Full Cave Course and started diving caves more than the ocean. The technical aspects of planning a dive and then safely executing it have stayed with me and made me into the diver I am today. I evolved into a technical diver and I didn’t even see it coming!
Years passed by and I dived caves almost every weekend and summers in Mexico. I started to feel like I tapped out what I could do in recreational limits, so I signed up to take a trimix course to be able to dive deeper caves. Funny enough we did the training in the ocean. This was my first introduction to real wreck diving. Until this point, I was mostly a cave diver and shipwrecks to me were typically piles of unidentifiable metal or artificially sunk. After diving real shipwrecks that foundered in storms or collisions and hearing their stories a new obsession for wreck diving was born and I didn’t see it coming!
More years went by and now I wanted to stay longer, and have more than 18 minutes of bottom time on those shipwrecks and in deeper caves. It was time to think about a rebreather. I was wearing more than my body weight in gear - doubles, a few deco gases, and a camera. I could barely stand up on the boat with everything I was carrying. I remember watching my gauge during the dive and knew I could only stay a few more minutes, but I wasn’t ready to leave yet! I needed a way to extend my time underwater, so this led me to my first rebreather. That was 12 years ago and that technology that would help me to photograph and explore new places.
I followed my dream and became a professional Underwater Cameraman and photographer. Over the years I evolved into someone who loves all things diving and all things tech diving and want to encourage others to take the journey. As you gain experience you too may evolve into a technical diver.
Why Technical Dive?
One of the most intriguing things to me is the knowledge that not everything has been discovered. Diving in North America’s Great Lakes for the past 10 years has really ignited a passion in me. Diving a rebreather has dramatically increased the time I can spend underwater in order to capture the image I see in my mind. For example, one of the first times I dived in Presque Isle, Michigan on the wreck of the Cornelia B. Windiate was special to me. The ship lies in 190ft / 57 meters and it’s still a mystery today as to what happened to the ship and its crew. I fell in love with that shipwreck, but I also knew it would be my only dive on the wreck until the following year. The day we dived it was sunny, calm water, and we had over 100-feet of visibility. The bottom temperatures were cold, but we pushed our bottom time to stay longer because we had enough bailout gas and the technology allowed us to do that (and my heated gloves ?). Those are still some of my personal favorite images I’ve ever captured and I’m glad I could spend extra time there.
This year I set time aside to explore more wrecks in Lake Superior and expand the sites I’d previously been to in Lake Huron. Michigan is an interesting place for technical diving. Most of the places we are diving are somewhat remote and there are few dive centers, so we bring everything in from the boats, compressors, boosters, and bailouts. Every time I splash into that blue/gray water my heart skips a beat because I know I’m about to see a piece of history preserved like a time capsule in the deep depths. Descending down the shadow of a shipwreck comes into view. The wrecks vary from sidewheel steamers from the 1840’s to steel freighters from the 1960’s! The Schooners with masts standing almost 100 feet into the water column take my breath away as does seeing an intact side paddle wheeler that was around a decade before Abraham Lincoln was President! Lake Superior is darker water but mussel free. This means the details are still visible like the paint on the hull and the names on the ship’s stern. Artifacts are strewn about and there are intact helms with telegraphs, binnacles, and wooden wheels. It’s almost like the ship sank yesterday and you could lift her back up and she’d sail away. Many of these ships in both US and Canadian waters were used to help build up the area by transporting goods, people, and materials like rail road ties, coal, iron, and grain. Many were lost without a trace and their stories are still a mystery. Each year a handful of shipwrecks are discovered in the lakes which is exactly why diving here is so thrilling.
Truk (Chuuk) Lagoon in Micronesia is also a fascinating destination for new to experienced adventure seekers technical divers and shipwreck enthusiasts. In February 1944 the United States launched a large Naval and Air attack on the Japanese Imperial Fleet that was using the lagoon similarly to Pearl Harbor. The 2-day surprise strike sank over 45 ships and 250 planes - making it one of the largest shipwreck graveyards on the planet. You could spend a week on each wreck and most of them are only in 40-120ft of water! There are a handful of deeper sites, but the majority are in recreational range. This is such a great place to dive when you’re beginning to get into technical diving. Even though many of the wrecks are in recreational limits having twin tanks and another gas for decompression will allow you to spend hours underwater. You’ll see bullets, bombs, bones, guns, tanks, airplanes, trucks, and amazing engine rooms. So many people will never have the ability to see these wrecks, so I think we are very fortunate as divers.
Technical diving doesn’t have to be extreme, it can just be about spending more time underwater and becoming a safer diver though more education.
Adventure is out there and whether a place has previously been explored or it’s your first time there is no better way to ignite your own passion even further and keep learning, diving, and gaining experience I’ve personally learned something from every place I’ve been and met lifelong friends on these adventures. If you’re thinking about taking the next step, you’ll never regret pushing your own limits to see what kinds of challenges and adventures await you. There is always something new if you’re willing to put in the energy and grow as a technical diver.