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28 June, 1999

Cold water SCUBA diving on Olympic Peninsula, Washington USA

Question 2: SCUBA is an acronym, what does it stand for?

Next stop on the way to Palmer Station was Bremerton, Washington! In order to SCUBA dive in Antarctica, I needed to do some diving here first. Divers on research teams with the United States Antarctic Program must

have had their diving certification for at least a year,

have at least 50 total dives, 10 in the current year, and

have at least 15 dry suit dives, 10 in the current year.

While I have had my basic certification since 1994 and have logged over 30 dives, I haven't done any diving this year. So I spent a week diving out of Bremerton in Hood Canal, Puget Sound, Straight of St. Juan de Fuca, and Crescent Lake to finish my Advanced certification. Everyone at Sound Dive Center was great, especially the two instructors I did most of my diving with, Jeremy Smith and Joe DeVita.

Crescent Lake was the only fresh-water dive. The lake is in Olympic National Park on the northern part of the Olympic Peninsula. It was barren in comparison to the marine environment but the water was beautifully clear. We could see 60-70 feet instead of the usual 15-foot visibility in the ocean. The lake is in the Olympic mountains, which rise steeply up from lake edge. The best part for me is that they continue steeply down into the lake. Diving there was like flying in a milky blue atmosphere next to a tan and yellow canyon wall that went down around 200 feet to where the light starts getting dim. Like something from another planet. You can turn over on your back as you swim along and look up the wall to the shafts of light coming down from the bright surface of the water. The silver bubbles of air you exhale skitter upwards, and if you move your head too fast with a loose neck seal, you get a cold stream of water down your back. I loved it (except for the water down my back)!

For the rest of the dives, we went to a variety of locations and did many types of dives. We dove on harbor rock piles that had tall columnar anemones in white and pale orange, dove in a kelp forest with a strong surge entrance and many many spiny urchins, went to an underwater park to see boats and objects that had been sunk intentionally onto the sandy bottom for marine organisms to attach to and live around, found a giant pacific octopus way back in a cave in a rock wall, did a drift dive in a channel with a 4-knot tide zooming us along, assisted in an evidence search effort with the local police department, and dove around pier pilings and boat wrecks. There was abundant underwater life in all of the areas. Jellyfish, tube worms, urchins, crabs, starfish, anemones, a variety of fish, shrimp, sponges, macroalgae (seaweed), and barnacles were common at most dive sites. We also saw gastropods, flounder, nudibranchs, hermit crabs, ratfish, and sea cucumbers at some sites. Most of the shore dive sites were rocky with sandy areas and some red, green and brown broad-leafed macroalgae. Water temperatures ranged from 42 F to 55 F.

I have completed 13 cold water, dry-suit dives so far. Next step, meeting my research team members in August in the southeast U.S.

Answer 1:Next to the American flag is the flag of Chile, the country I will travel through to reach Antarctica.

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