Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Investigating the Investigator - Part 2

The dive rotation was based on both rank and need. It was determined that UAS Archeologist Ryan Harris, as both project director and member of the discovery team last year would jump first. His partner would be Marc-Andre Bernie, the Director of the Parks Canada’s Underwater Archeology Service. Next team in would be cameras, based on last years survey expedition, this be the first and only dive possible on the site due to ice and weather. I’m in. A boat was dispatched with a makeshift mooring and a marker buoy and placed based on the GPS location of last years discovery and survey. As we geared up for the dive there was certain lack of chatter or idle talk – an air of focused concentration and excitement was apparent. Safety briefings were reinforced again to ensure everyone know the plan should something go wrong. Help in this part of the world is not a quick process so you better understand your options on front end of these dives. We motored out to the buoy with incredible anticipation. Witnessing archeologist on the verge of diving a virgin, historically significant shipwreck is like harnessed sled dogs before a run or a gated race horse before the starting bell. Wide-eyed and amped up.

After securing our small inflatable to the mooring line we readied our gear. Having just completed a quick 6ft dive just off the beach with Phil Ronko, the UAS Dive Safety Officer to test my full face mask and perform some mask removal drills I knew my gear was good to go. Next I double checked the integrity of my Aquatica camera housing. As the team was geared up, I struggled into my equipment which was made difficult by the incredibly thick drysuit underwear and 40 pounds of lead weight in my BC. With great assistance I was made ready and sitting awkwardly on the side of the inflatable boat. Now all that was left was to fall overboard into the grip of the icy water.

When you first hit very cold water your mind races and takes inventory of your entire sensory system. The first “system control” that is checked is breathing. Is my regulator working and can I breath? Check. Next, its whether or not you are floating. You need some time at the surface to settle into the gear and insure all the hoses and gauges are in their proper locations. Check. Then there is always a focused concentration on any location that may be experiencing a trickle of cold water. This is often times difficult due to the cooling effect of the surrounding water overall and because the thermals often delay any feeling of cold water inside your drysuit. (side note – this is NOT the case when one jumps in with a drysuit zipper undone. In these situations there is an instantaneous sensation one experiences that is not difficult to detect – and yes I speak from experience). With all the diving gear in place and functional you establish your buddy teams and agree to descend. 

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