Dive Cerulean is a flooded quarry in
Bluegill are encountered and are downright nasty - they nip if not fed - "quarry sharks" I guess.
We had booked three days of dives with Hydrospace
The Hydrospace crew were as frustrated as the divers - they had been blown
out 3 days and worked mightily to accommodate everyone on the 13th, when the
waves abated somewhat. A group from
As an aside, we did some snorkeling at
To back up a day or two, we salvaged the trip by diving Vortex on two
My camera is an MX-5, using ASA 400 print film.
Martha's Quarry is located some 20 miles east of
The quarry is large with depths to 60 feet and a thermocline at around 27 feet. Temperature above was in the 80's, below, in the upper 50's. There's quite a bit to see here, check out the web site. There are a couple of large structures underwater, including as house. Water was fairly clear. We stayed at or above the thermocline and could clearly see bottom features. Horizontal visibility was about 20 feet. The water had been stirred up by a treasure hunt the night before.
The quarry had the usual armada of obnoxious bluegills looking for a
handout. A full blast of purge bubbles from my primary didn't faze them
in the least. The dive was very pleasant. Water entry is by walking
down a hill, I think on less crowded days you can drive down the water's edge
to unload. Quite a few divers were in the water. Many of the
Adjusting to the back buoyancy took a bit of time. Underwater stability was great, achieving neutral buoyancy was easy. No problem with dropping weight pockets on the Ranger. My demo unit had the Octo+ - was not inclined to go with integrated air but this one has a setup that allows full use of purge and inflate functions while breathing the reg (actually a modified version of a real octo reg that Zeagle handles) with no air from the BC getting into the reg. Oral inflation is accomplished by a separate fitting on the inflator. I liked it.
We swam around at 25-27 feet for about 45 minutes, we had 3mm suits on and no head protection so we didn't drop into the really cold water. A hovering safety stop was easy. On the surface, I found that following Fred's advice to use the minimum inflation to keep my eyes out of the water would keep me from being pushed forward. Swimming on my back was easy to accomplish. The BC seemed easy to stabilize at neutral in all attitudes. It needs to be worn lower on the torso than my jacket style unit. It had no tendency to ride up on body either when inflated or when in a head down attitude.
I bought the BC with a lumbar pad (really like it but it picks up a lot of water that drains when you exit - a real posterior waterfall) and a couple of rear trim pockets. Subsequent pool dives indicate that the trim pockets with 4-6lbs in them lessen the pitch forward tendency on the surface. I liked the regulator but will stick with my Mares for now. Fred has moved his dealership to the quarry and offers airfills, something a few websites suggest are absent but they are there now. There's a pavillion and a single porta-pottie.
It was a great day; Martha's has a short season - end of April to end of
September. If you are in the
Mermet Springs is a spring fed quarry located in Southern Illinois on Hwy. 45 about 10 miles north of Metropolis (yes, there is a state of Superman on the Square). It is really well managed and is kept very clean topside and below (note the animal in petting zoo and shore shots) including the portable sanitary facilities. There are nice showers, too. The quarry is cool, with warm surface temperatures and two thermoclines. The 727 fuselage nose is below the first (upper 50 degree range) and above the second (drops to 42 degrees at 130 foot bottom). Check the Mermet website for up to date info. The visibility was okay. We dove to a max depth of 50 feet at the 727 and were down 42 minutes total. We geared up with 7/5mm wetsuits and either a 3mm shorty/beanie or a 5/3mm hooded vest. Aside from cool feet and faces, it was very comfortable. DUI is running a Dog Days weekend October 27-28th; a variety of groups use the quarry. There were quite a few recreational divers as well as several diving dry with doubles. Most wetsuits were in the 7mm range. The underwater tour sites are all connected by yellow line and are easy to find. A staffer gave us a shore tour before we dove. Air fills and gear rentals are available onsite. We had a great time.
Back again, some changes made - Glen has introduced a anti-algae agent, hopes to have killed off the algae before long. Quite a bit of the dead stuff was still suspended but should drop out soon.
We did two dives, first, to 107' (47 degrees). I used a Henderson 7/5 with 5/3 hooded vest, 5mm gloves, 3mm boots and neoprene socks. I was fairly comfortable although my hands got cold. I don't think I had the wrist straps on the gloves tight enough as I felt water pumping with every flex. We used unscented hair conditioner liberally lathered on to ease getting the heavy rubber on - it worked like a charm, both on and off. Visibility was 15 ft or so at depth (not much to see, good practice dive), a bit less at shallower depths. The plane is still a cool swim through; we didn't check out the new suspended helicopter. The second dive maxed at 55' around the nose of the plane.
The quarry's underwater items were as clean as ever - they are scrubbed weekly. The deep dive started down a descent line to a platform at 85 ft - that made a good stop off to check gear. We then dropped down to 100+ feet for a few minutes until the computers moved out of the green. Note, Glen has nitrox for higher NDL's if you can use it.
Some new tables at proper height for easy gearing up have been set up, with more to come. It's a clean, full service facility with a fairly large staff. The showers and dressing rooms are very nice. Air fills continue to be available along with complete gear rentals. I would guess some 50-60 folks were there diving. It's a pretty spot for non-divers too - there is a sand volleyball court set up and one can walk around the woods surrounding the quarry.
Elizabeth and I went up for a couple of dives, we called the trip, I'll briefly mention what happened (nothing bad). We got there late, lots of classes had arrived and the area was packed, all the covered areas were occupied. It was really hot, upper 90's. We suited up in the sun and overheated. Got in the water (90 at the surface) and couldn't bleed off heat quickly enough. Viz was a few feet near the dock we used for entry. We looked at each other, shook our heads, got out, took very cold showers and decided to call it a day. We just got too hot gearing up. It just seemed the right thing to do to call the day and cool off. For information, we were using our heavy gear - 7mm/hooded vests, etc. as we'd planned to descend to the 80 foot range (40's F).
Checking out equipment prior to Coz trip. Diving with Diversaurus from Scubaboard. Checked out the plane, had unwanted airflow on Octo + on second dive. Nice folks from Zeagle dealer in St. Louis area helped fix things. BTW, Coz was great.
Dove with folks from Great Lakes Wrecking Crew. Glen has put some more goodies in the pool - railroad hopper car at 50ish feet is really nice. Our group saw some paddlefish, finally. Did 3 dives, first with Brian, kitting out in a new drysuit for the first time. Stayed shallow, 41 feet, 61 Oceanic degrees. Second dive, deeper, to hopper car. Odd, my Oceanic maxed about 6 feet shallower and warmer than others who were on exact same depth track. 56ft and 57 degrees. Third dive, around the wall at 30-40 feet, long dive, got tired and cold, surfaced for return swim to docks.
Viz was very good beneath the thermocline, 20ish feet.
Glen has installed an underwater signaling system (read: speakers) for selective or every diver recalls (thunderstorms). Also plays Jimmy Buffet (a little goes a long way :-) ).
Dove with folks from Midwest Divers of St. Charles MO. Had intended to do 3 dives but a rare Zeagle gear failure beached me for two. First dive was with two good folks; one was a newly certified diver sorting out weighting fine trim. I remember working through that well. Two of us ended up at the 727 after a while, lots of albino catfish and bluegill around. I've mentioned this before but I'll say it again. Glen, the quarry owner, goes to great lengths to keep the underwater platforms, planes, cars, etc., as clear of algae and deposits as possible. This makes for a much nicer experience.
Viz varied, probably 15-20 feet at plane. Temperature was in the lower 60's. I am finally getting comfortable with heavy rubber, cold water diving. This coming weekend I'm going to check the Oceanic VersaPro carefully against other computers. I think it is reading shallow (no way other than altitude to force freshwater mode, but other's computers were also set for saltwater and read deeper on the 21st) and a bit warm. If it's going to make a mistake, I wish it would do it in the other direction.
My Ranger's right weight pocket literally fell off, mostly. The stitching just seemed to pull apart - no great weighting involved, probably a snagged missed stitch "ran." Off to my Zeagle dealer Monday to send it in. No problem, still have another waist section, will use it for Dry Suit class next week. Stay tuned for a report on that.
Dove with Steve Sullivan of Mayfield and Chris Schrotke of Louisville, Chris had his Sony digicam and housing, got a really nice shot of, well, me :-) The viz was quite good that day. Steve's familiar with the quarry, we had a swim around of most of the underwater scenery. Steve found a couple of fins, and a mask and snorkle (turned them in). Also did a 90' dive on the wall, very cold (47 on computer, probably would have read 42 eventually) at depth, very dark, too due to silt level in upper thermocline. Not bad viz with our lights, though. We saw several paddlefish (now to find a sturgeon) that were getting quite tame. Steve was able to swim right up to one, kinda wish I'd taken the camera down. Just another nice late summer day. It was hot, 90 degrees in the shade. I worked on fine tuning weight, down to 18lbs in 7mm, 3mm hood, 3mm loves, 5mm boots. I want to use as little as possible in tomorrow's drysuit class.
Things went fine. Middle Tennessee Scuba and Swim
offered a PADI drysuit class this Saturday at Mermet Springs, Illinois. As it was Labor Day, I was
comfortable that there was a low probability of mental health emergency issues
at our university requiring my coming in, so I decided to give it a try. I've
wanted to dive the BC/PNW and Maine areas; it doesn't appear practical to do
them wet, plus, I'm not young and staying warm is a definite safety factor in
diving, even around here. (a consideration I'll make my wife well aware of as I
peruse DUI's and other drysuitmonger's
website if I buy one).
The Book and Video - nothing earth shattering there although both push the idea of using the suit as bouyancy compensator submerged. The video was filmed with Truth Aquatics, some nice diving scenes there.
The Class - getting to know my drysuit. Glen, the owner of Mermet, let me use his CF200, we're both about the same size and have the same size big feet. It had dry gloves and zip seals, still I was a bit nervous about not shredding anything. It was relatively easy to don after I got it through my head that the zipper goes in front (laughter from other students). No tugging, suspenders a nice touch. H'mm - drygloves, once my hands are in them, not so easy to adjust gear. We wore light undergarments, sweats, really, for the first dive
---confined water session (swimming hole at the quarry). Weighting evoked much discussion. I'm just negative in my Zeagle Ranger with 18lbs while wearing my 7mm fullsuit, 3mm hood, gloves, 5mm boots and all air vented so I was argumentative over the need for more in the suit plus a weightbelt with another 12lbs. Dividing up the weight is a good idea, I'd prefer doing it between the front and rear pockets of the BC (see no-waist comment below). I put it all on and stepped out into 6 feet of water, noticed that I was floating at mask level with a fullish BC, and deflated the BC. A tad too much weight. Back on surface, removed the weight from the back pockets of the BC, kept the weightbelt. That was better. We did some exercises in the shallow water with the inflator and deflator valves on the suit, no surprises there, other guys in class seemed very positively bouyant, maybe I would be, too. I'm a bit plump and look like I'll probably need more weight than I do, so I thought, let's give it a try.
----First Dive: We swim around Mermet, dropping to 50 something feet (cold water conductive cooling sure feels good, 90 in the shade topside). Near the tractor trailor on the bottom, my feet swing down and I'm suddenly bouyant - did I tap the inflate valve unknowingly? I blow air (from the BC - I was fudging a bit) and the suit (the instructor drilled us well on this) until the squeeze is just short of unpleasant, not too much problem getting back down, added a bit of air to the suit to kill the squeeze and had a great time. Not feeling that icy jet down my back or onto my hands was great.
The rest of the dive was uneventful until I got into shallow water, felt around for the weightbelt, asked a buddy to look under the BC to see if it was hiding, our consensus was that I didn't have it on at that point. Did I mention I don't have much of a well defined waist and what I do, I don't like anything tight around it. Fortunately, the instructor found it (I was happy, it was his, I'd borrowed it). Time for lunch
----Knowledge review: Nothing earth shattering here. The instructor hedged a bit on the suit=bouyancy and said to work out a comfortable compromise. We agreed that the remaining 22lbs of lead was more than enough for me(I'd done a bouyancy check with 1000 psi, still negative at the safety stop, at 800 near shore, still negative so we're good to go, probably try 22 with a heavier undergarment next time - not 90 degrees in the shade - and add lead only as necessary).
----Second dive, skills demo: Getting in and out of the scuba kit on the surface wasn't too hard. The lp hose spirits were favorable to my enterprise, the suit inflator hose was snagged in the left strap, staring right at me when I put the kit back on. We practiced getting neutral at various depths, felt comfortable finally with the bubble in the suit.
Down to a platform for feet up recovery rolls. I almost flunked HS gym as I never was very good at doing rolls. I'm not much better now. While another student did his drill with feet up, I practiced a few forward rolls in my kit ( note lunch above). I hung onto the platform while air was added, silly feeling that, feet up and full of air. When I released the platform, it wasn't too hard to roll up, get my feet down, and blow air from the suit (I'd emptied the BC already - actually a validation of using the suit for bouyancy, only one thing to deal with in an emergency).
That suit vent is sure slow. If I do this for real, with the suit vent wide open, I'll probably open the neck seal for faster venting. Anyway, I recovered in 15 feet or so, and went back down.
Three flips, a bit nauseous, full tummy. No, didn't feed the bluegills but was definitely nauseous. I opted out of the descent at the end of the dive to the 85ft platform, been there, done that, know it's bloody cold, that's why I'm taking the drysuit class, so I won't be, right? A coke topside settled things down. Getting out of the suit was so much easier than heavy rubber.
It was a great day. Hopefully I'll be able to see in person some of those wonderful things folks who dive cold water have imaged and shared.
Postscript. The weighting issue was totally my fault. I should have stood my ground and stuck with the 22lbs I'd estimated and placed in the Ranger pockets. It's understandable for folks to think more weight is needed, not sure why I was spared, other two students were seriously positive and needed more weight than anticipated. I'm not thin, a Ranger tends, if anything to be a tad positive unless you really wring the air out of on the first dive. Go figure.
I'll be heading back up for Dog Days, want to try a trilam as the CF200 is seemingly bullet proof but is bulky. Glen showed me how a TLS350 could be folded into a very small, carryonable, space. Looks good. Had a great time. The instructor was a good man, very patient, and stressed taking plenty of time gearing up to make sure everything is right. That was good, I don't handle being rushed well, get stressed; possibly being relaxed, why I wasn't full of air and didn't require too much weight.
Back again, did a dive and a half with the Midwest Muck Divers folks who were still there. Fed leftovers to the Bluegill and Catfish, took it easy on one dive. 45 min, 38ft max. The second dive was truly a muck dive, I called it for me and surfaced after 15 minutes, waived other two folks on. I was not happy in low viz, plus I was making mistakes (gear setup, getting arranged in the water, etc) and having some gear problems, the Octo+ had decided to lightly flow again. It's going to be replaced this week, I'm going back to a traditional second stage for the octo. I tried, again, breathing off the Octo + at depth, it breathed easily enough but was very wet. Bad news in a for real emergency, I'd imagine.
Next trip there will probably be Dog Days (DUI) in October.
Why no pics? Glen has some far better pictures than I could take given the viz/particulate conditions at http://www.mermetsprings.com DUI also has quite a few up in the Dog Days pic section at http://www.dui-online.com
Metropolis has undergone a renaissance with income from a gambling river
boat. There are a number of quite nice motels and restaurants in the
area. A historical site,
What a great day! Cool, overcast, some rain but
just right for bundling up in heavy undergarments to tackle the cold water in
This was my first participation; I did a dry suit certification class in September (not required by DUI to participate, they will provide basic instruction and a dive guide to to with non-dry certified divers) and wanted to get in a few more dry dives, try on several suit/undergarment styles, and decide whether I wanted to save my nickles and dimes (lots of them) for a dry rig.
Tickets are generally purchased in advance, from the facility hosting the affair, in this case Mermet. They are cheap and include a light lunch buffet. DUI will provide everything for tryout except tanks, weights, regs, masks, fins, and possibly gloves, if you don't dive with dry gloves. The BC provided is one of DUI's line, I used my own Ranger. Reefmaster digital camera rigs were also available to try but water conditons were cloudy from rain and lots of divers.
You check in, fill out a standard'ish waiver, provide a Driver's License or credit card (not charged but just as a deposit for return of the gear).It's a good idea to have your BC/tank/regs assembled first. Next, you start picking up gear in the DUI tents. They will attach a drysuit inflator hose to your reg if you don't have one. You must have some way of storing the 1st stage port plug that's removed.
There are plenty of staff/volunteers to help with this. I met Ryan Cannon, well known on digitialdiver.net, while he was helping out. I tried out the Polartech 300 undergarment with booties and a TLS 450 suit for the first dive. The 450 is fairly heavy trilaminate suit. Gearing up went fine, plenty of help and advice for newbies like me (cross the suspenders in back, not the front, zipper goes in front, etc., :-) ).
I tried on several sizes before finding a good fit, enough room inside to move freely with a little left over for heavier undergarments or a vest, but not so much as to fit too loosely. An XX seemed to work fine. ($100.00 retail surcharge, though, grrrr!). I like the Rockboots, too. I used a DUI dryneck hood. It fits over the neck seal (in retrospect, I wonder if this is a good thing as it makes the seal difficult to get to in an emergency) and keeps your head very warm. The suit had zipseals on the neck and wrists, easy to replace in the field.
Do make sure your fins have a boot pocket big enough; plan to borrow or rent if not. DUI had some Jetfins (I think) on hand for those who neede them. My Quattros are XXL, worked fine.
I'd gone up by myself, dove with one of the group assisting DUI who had no responsibilities at that point in time. The first dive was about 40 min (DUI asks that folks rotate in and out every 30min or so to allow as many people as possible to get gear, xx and xl sizes went fast). I dove with 26lbs lead, which was probably pretty close to the mark as I was slightly negative at 15' at the end of the dive with 1100 psi in the tank. Depth was a fairly constant 40-45 ft. Viz was low-rain plus lots of divers, including several large classes. Water temps dropped to about 60.
It was so great to be warm throughout the dive, even my hands in 3mm wet gloves didn't feel too cold.
I got out, stripped off the gear for another person, put some sweats on and had lunch and chatted about the equipment.
I got a TLS 350 XX for the second dive, that's the suit I was interested in, one size larger undergarment as the first one had been a bit snug length wise. I was also able to gear up unassisted except for getting a good grip on the zipper.
The second dive was great, same buddy as before. I was able to try a more horizontal descent and ascent, which I prefer to feet first, but didn't try a head down descent!!
We went out to the hopper car and 727, about 58' max dept, temp at 55' on the guage, colder on the thermometer on the 727. I was still warm, which is what I was shooting for. The use of the chest inflator to relieve squeeze and the BC for bouyancy fine tuning was coming more naturally. (Not the way PADI teaches it but seems most folks do it this way). By holding the inflator up with my left hand whenever I ascended slightly, I could vent the suit automatically through the left upper arm exhaust which was opened all the way and control the wing with the same arm/hand combo. Leaving the arm vent backed out kept the suit's bubble at ambient during ascents.
Dive time was about 40 min. Weighting was 26lb, worked very well, may try 24 and then again may not, I was slightly negative with about 1000lbs left and did not have the feeling I was overweighted underwater. 26lb would also likely be good with a vest in freshwater. Viz was bad towards the end.
Being warm is a good thing!!!!
One of the DUI folks check my measurements and filled out a measurement sheet and handed out discount coupons for add-ons to DUI suits if used in 6weeks. The measurement card can be used, obviously, anytime at any dealer. They were willing to talk about the advantages of their gear but never made an unsolicted sales pitch or commented one way or the other on other brands, very professional.
There were other activities into the evening, lectures, etc., but I had to return to Murray.
All in all, a fun day. Now to decide if I should spend that kind of money. Being warm and cozy was sure nice, though, and I imagine a safer dive than being somewhat chilled in a wetsuit. If you do one of these, get there early; they say for starters but were set up and ready to go much earlier.
Wow, been a while since I’ve been to Mermet. Anyway, did two dives with Ross and some other friends. Lots of students in the water so visibility wasn’t the greatest. I’ve been working on my weight, blew up to 232 last summer, down to 172 now and was curious to see what effect this had on my weighting. Previously, I needed 22-24 in my 7mm/hood/gloves/boots kit. I had a big surprise, 14lbs worked quite nicely. The wetsuit fit fine, I could zip it without assistance on closing the back.
The dives. Dive ft/35min/min. temperature 56F on computer at depth. A friend wanted to see the airplane (727) and I obliged. He was in a 4/3mm with no hood. He did chill a bit. Anyway, we headed back up to the 1st thermocline (86F) after doing the plane and some of the other objexts.
Dive 2: Gear checkout for another diver with a new regulator. 33ft max for 20 minutes.
Mermet is a full service facility; I dropped off my now 5 year old Al80’s for hydro and VIP (latter is part of the first, I think.).
BBQ was a great as ever. The casino at Metropolis has a brand new hotel that is quite a palace.
Pics from fall, 2001 trip.
A wonderful fall day
Petting Zoo :-)
School bus at 20ft
Front entrance of 727 fuselage, 40ft