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A Most Unusual Dive Site: Bonne Terre Mine

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After a fun filled summer of diving in the UK, my partner CJ and I decided to head back to the USA to spend the autumn (fall, for us colonials) hiking and camping in some of the national parks out west. Of course, being avid divers, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do a few dives as well!

We started our adventures in St. Louis, Missouri. It’s an excellent base partly due to the huge numbers of micro breweries and excellent eating establishments, and partly as this is where my family are based and so they get nominated to be the designated drivers to and from the tap rooms… However beer and pizza aside, Missouri also boasts some great hardwood forested state parks in which we have been gaining some hiking fitness and also a pretty unique dive site in an old lead mine, Bonne Terre Mine. It is known as a different and interesting dive site so we headed an hour south of St Louis, for three dives there on a Saturday.

Bonne Terre Mine is only open to divers on weekends and provides accommodation and diving packages for those traveling long distances, or not fond of early morning starts. There are also boat trips through the mine offered for any non divers – see www.bonneterremine.com. The mine is a national historic site; the earliest shaft was dug in 1864 and it was once the world’s largest producer of lead ore. Mining continued until 1962, when the pumps that kept the water out were turned off, forming the 17 mile long underground “Billion Gallon Lake”. For fans of Jacques Cousteau, he filmed here in 1983.

The air temperature in Bonne Terre is 17°C (62°F) and the water temperature 14°C (58°F) year round with over 30m (100ft) of visibility. A total of twenty-four dive trails have been laid out in the lake, taking the diver through numerous archways, around massive pillars and past abandoned mining artifacts. Depths of the dive tours average between 40 to 60 feet. Divers are toured through the mine by specially trained dive guides. Customers are not allowed to use personal dive lights in the lake, but these are not really needed due to the 500,000 watts of above-water illumination as well as the guides’ torches. For first-time visitors, all dives are lead by a dive guide and you must complete trails 1 and 2, before being allowed on any other trails. On completion you can get your dive log or a card stamped so you may do different trails on subsequent visits.

Dive 1: Trail 1

The first dive was a group checkout dive with a max depth of 15m (50ft). The dive started on a flat area at 10m, where all divers demonstrated a few basic skills such as mask clearing and an out of air drill. From there, we struck out as a group over some deeper areas of the mine, making a roughly circular loop through an area close to the entry platform. The guides were great about using their torches to point out items of interest, including an ore cart with a pickaxe that we all took turns picking up.

CJ’s thoughts:


The first dive was pretty impressive as check out dives go, the visibility is excellent and you get a real feel for the vastness around you as you swim across over deeper water. The pillars loom out of the twilight-like light and the ore carts and abandoned tools connect you with the history of the mine. It is also nice not be blinded by lots of torches, and the guides are very good at highlighting points of interest and checking on the group without shining the lights in your face.

Dive 2: Trail 2

The second dive trail penetrated slightly farther into the mine, with the group being lead through many more arches and short passageways. A highlight was swimming through the ‘opera window,’ a door-sized opening from one smaller passage into a ledge above a large open cavern. It was quite amazing to see the dark outlines of seven massive support pillars looming out of the shadows.

CJ’s thoughts:

This trail has more swim-throughs and cool sights than the first dive and the opera window is pretty incredible. Despite the trail being very good, I had a harder time relaxing on this dive due to some other divers having buoyancy issues. The guides dealt with this well, but as an instructor I always find it tough to see potential safety issues and not be the one to react! With the swim-throughs and yoyo-ing divers I found it a little more crowded on this dive despite there being the same number of divers, so this was not my favourite dive.

Dive 3: Trail 4

This dive was my favorite by far. Most of the other divers that day departed after the first two dives, so we were treated to a much smaller group, and the route for this trail included even more passageways not traversed during the basic checkout dives. We were able to swim to and through a large metal superstructure that formerly housed an ore elevator. The ceiling lights illuminated it brightly from above. The effect was very atmospheric! Another highlight was a cavern with a “cloud” formed from wisps of iron oxide. Since there are no real currents in the mine, rust from deteriorating mining equipment and tools floats gently above. This created a mesmerizing atmosphere for our group to enjoy.

CJ’s thoughts:

This trail/ dive was incredible! By far the best dive of the day and well worth the trip here. We had a smaller group for the last dive of the day and the trail took us through several really nice swim-throughs, to the elevator shaft and into a room with an eerie-looking cloudy layer, caused by the oxidising iron equipment and lack of water movement. When lit by the torch light it was quite breathtaking. This and the general beauty of the trail really made the day, I’m looking forward to returning to try out some of the other trails next time!

Both of us enjoyed the day’s diving immensely and would highly recommend a visit for a day or weekend if you find yourself in the middle of the United States.

CJ and Mike are dive instructors who have travelled all over the world pursuing their passion for the underwater world. CJ is a PADI MI and DSAT Trimix instructor with a degree in Conservation biology and ecology, who has been diving for 15 years. She loves looking for critters and pointing them out for Mike to photograph. Mike is a PADI MSDT who got back into diving in 2010. He enjoys practicing underwater photography and exploring new and exciting dive locales, occasionally with more than one tank. Follow more of their diving adventures at www.facebook.com/bimbleintheblue.

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PADI Recognises EMEA Members with New Professional Development Excellence Award

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PADI® (Professional Association of Diving Instructors®) has recently launched their new Professional Development Excellence Award in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa), celebrating PADI Five Star Instructor Development Centers (IDC)  that are championing creating more PADI Professionals, at all levels, during the previous calendar year.

“While becoming a PADI Five Star IDC Center is a prized accreditation amongst members, this exclusive rating comes with the responsibility of training the next generation of divers to become PADI Instructors,” explains Dave Murray, Managing Director for PADI EMEA.

“PADI’s commitment to a continuing education philosophy encourages divers to realise their dreams of a career as a PADI Pro, teaching others to do what they love – to scuba dive. This new recognition award distinguishes productive PADI Five Star IDC stores for the time and effort they dedicate to marketing and conducting the professional training needed to grow the scuba diving industry.”

PADI’s EMEA Professional Development Excellence Award recognises members for reaching specific milestones based on the number of PADI Pro certifications they issue annually. It also provides an extra layer of credentials in their “Pro Development Status” to potential Divemaster and IDC candidates, along with any other prospective Pro-level customers and prospective employees.

The first awards were distributed earlier this year, with 12 PADI Five Star IDC Centers receiving the Platinum Award. This means that they have issued a minimum of 100 PADI Professional certifications from Divemaster to IDC Staff Instructor, which include 30 Core Professional certifications and 70 Continuing Education Instructor level certifications.

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The 2025 PADI EMEA Professional Development Excellence Award is already underway and renewed PADI EMEA Five Star IDC Dive Centers and Resorts are automatically eligible. Stores that reach the recognition levels during 2024 will receive their award in the first quarter of 2025.

For more information about the award and to see the full list of award recipients visit here.

About PADI 

PADI® (Professional Association of Diving Instructors®) is the largest purpose-driven diving organization with a global network of 6,600 dive centers and resorts, 128,000 professional members, and more than 30 million certified divers to date. Committed to our blue planet, PADI makes the wonder of the underwater world accessible to all, empowering people around the world to experience, explore and take meaningful action, as Ocean TorchbearersTM, to protect the world beneath the surface. For over 50 years, PADI is undeniably The Way the World Learns to Dive®, setting the standard for the highest quality dive training, underwater safety and conservation initiatives while evolving the sport of diving into a passionate lifestyle. For divers by divers, PADI is obsessed with transforming lives and, with its global foundation, PADI AWARETM, creating positive ocean change. Seek Adventure. Save the Ocean.SM  www.padi.com

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Introduce family to the wonder of the oceans with new family weeks from Regaldive

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diving holiday

Regal Dive, the diving holiday specialist, is offering Learn to Dive and Family Weeks this summer to encourage divers and those new to the sport to spend some time in the water together, learning and developing their diving skills. There are multiple itineraries on offer providing affordable diving certification, including a range of liveaboard trips which are designed to be inclusive – so that even those who would prefer to simply snorkel are still guaranteed a good time.

ITINERARIES IN THE MALDIVES:

MV Keana: Family Week, perfect for snorkellers, beginners and children.

Spend 10 nights in a Maldivian paradise exploring warm turquoise waters for exciting marine life and beautiful corals, all with a highly experienced diving team on hand. The MV Keana takes guests on an adventure around the remote atolls, home to manta rays, sharks, turtles, dolphins and whale sharks. The vessel accommodates up to 18 guests in comfortable upper deck cabins and features an outdoor bar and dining areaThere is a sundeck to soak in the views of the ocean and pristine white beaches of the surrounding islands.

Price: A 10-night trip on MV Keana costs £3,015 per adult, with children under 11 costing £2,735, including flights, departing 8 August 2024.

AMBA: Liveaboard Diving Beginner’s Tour, Family fun between Male and Vaavu Atoll

Take advantage of a variety of courses and family rates on this week-long beginner’s tour. Guests will complete a diving theory course prior to embarking on AMBA, allowing for the possibility to complete up to four courses whilst aboard, including the Open Water certification. Once certified, guests can explore the Vaavu Atoll, which has the thrilling possibility of shark encounters. More experienced divers can hop aboard the Dhoni to access some of the area’s more challenging dive sites.

Price: A 7-night trip on AMBA costs from £2,400 per adult, with children 11 and under costing £2,210. This price includes flights. Departing 13 August 2024.

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DIVING RESORTS IN THE PHILIPPINES:

Atlantis Puerto Galera & Atlantis Dumaguete Family Weeks

The Atlantis Dive Resorts is offering a range of exceptional deals for family groups this summer. The Family Week special offers include free stays, free meals, free diving places for children (one free child per paying adult). Puerto Galera Resort, in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, offers accessible diving, diverse coral reefs and exotic marine life. Dumaguete, in the Visayas region, is home to a diverse range of macro species, including ghost pipefish, flamboyant cuttlefish, and various seahorses and octopuses. The resort also grants access to the Dauin Marine Sanctuaries and Apo Island – one of the finest diving destinations in the Philippines. Both hotels are situated in stunning beach-front locations with tropical landscaped gardens and thatched-roof bungalows.

Price: A 7-night stay Atlantis Puerto Galera costs £3,593 per adult and £1,375 per teen, including flights. A 7-night stay at Atlantis Dumaguete costs £3,895 per adult and £1,475 per teen, including flights.

Family week deals at the Atlantis Dive Resorts are available on selected dates in July, August, November and December 2024.

For more information visit www.regal-diving.co.uk.

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