Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The pond: part 2

As I pulled up to the gravel pseudo-parking lot at Hathaway Pond, I could see E's Jeep was already there. It's a bright red Wrangler with a light bar across the roof, a gnarly grill on the front, and custom tail lights. It's the kind of vehicle you can't help but recognize.

I parked behind the Jeep and walked down to the shore. The water level in the pond was pretty high, covering even the dive rock (it's a rock that has a dive flag painted on it). I dipped my fingers in the water to feel the temperature. It was chilly. Thank goodness for my drysuit.

We suited up and waded into the water. There's an underwater platform at about 20', so I turned my body toward the platform's approximate location and looked down at my compass. "Initial bearing is 50 degrees," I told E. He nodded. We were off.

After making it out to the platform, we swam briefly in a circle and located a statue of the Virgin Mary. The underwater Maddona marks the beginning of a swimming route, denoted by a line strung between improvised posts on the pond floor. There are sticks and sunken lawn ornaments and shovels embedded in the sand. The line stretches between them, looping around each one, staying just a foot or two off the pond floor to show the way. We followed the line. Gradually, the water grew darker, and I could feel the pressure increasing in my ears. We reached 25 feet, then 30, then 35. At about 30 feet, I could feel the temperature of the water plummet. It was like sticking my face into a bathtub full of ice cubes, but instead of recoiling, I swam straight into it. We had crossed the thermocline.

At about 40' deep, the line we were following branched. I had my choice to turn right or left, and I chose right. Just a few feet down the right fork, we were faced with a shipwreck - a wooden fishing boat resting on the floor of the pond. I swam around it, examining the surface. The wreck was almost devoid of life - in a freshwater pond, there's not much that colonizes hard surfaces. I used the opportunity to practice fine-scale control over my position in the water column. I inhaled to rise slightly, then exhaled to sink. I rolled on my side to glide along the boat's hull, not too close, but not too far away from the wreck.

The air in my SCUBA tank was at slightly more than half its original pressure, so it was time to turn around. I signaled to E to go back, and we swam along the line. This time, I relied more on the presence of the line for navigation, because the water column was darker where we had kicked up sediment. Once we reached 30 feet depth, we emerged from the cold underlayer of the pond, and I could feel the warmer water on my face. We reached the Virgin Mary and the training platform. I did my best to hover over the sand and looked down at my compass. At a bearing of 230 degrees, we swam back towards shore and emerged near where we had entered the pond. We had been underwater for almost an hour. It was a great dive.

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