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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.bimbleintheblue.com.

Marine Life & Conservation

Go Fish Free this February

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There are no longer plenty more fish in the sea! Fish Free February challenges you to help protect our oceans by removing seafood from your diet for 28 days and helping to raise awareness of the issues caused by intensive fishing practices.

Our oceans are in a state of global crisis, brought about by ocean warming, acidification, pollution, and habitat destruction. However, the biggest immediate threat to ocean life is from fisheries. Each year an estimated 1-2.7 trillion fish are caught for human consumption, though this figure does not include illegal fisheries, discarded fish, fish caught to be used as bait, or fish killed by not caught, so the real number is far higher. It is no wonder then, that today nearly 90% of the world’s marine stocks are fully exploited, overexploited or depleted. If we do not act fast, overfishing and damaging fishing practices will soon destroy the ocean ecosystems which produce 80% of the oxygen in our atmosphere and provide three billion people with their primary source of protein.

Fish Free February, a UK-registered charity, is challenging people around the world to take action for marine life in a simple but effective way. Take the Fish Free February Pledge and drop seafood from your diet for one month, or beyond. Fish Free February wants to get people talking about the wide range of issues associated with industrial fishing practices and putting the well-being of our oceans at the forefront of dietary decision-making. A third of all wild-caught fish are used to create feed for livestock, so Fish Free February urges us to opt for plant-based dishes as a sustainable alternative to seafood, sharing our best fish-free recipes on social media with #FishFreeFebruary and nominating our friends to do the same.

“Not all fishing practices are bad” explains Simon Hilbourne, founder of Fish Free February. “Well-managed, small-scale fisheries that use selective fishing gears can be sustainable. However, most of the seafood in our diet comes from industrial fisheries which often prioritise profit over the well-being of our planet, resulting in multiple environmental challenges. In some cases, the fishing industry has even been linked to serious human rights issues such as forced labour and human trafficking! Fish Free February hopes to shed more light on fishing practices, create wider discussion around these issues, and offer solutions to benefit people, wildlife, and the natural environment.”

To learn more about these issues and to take the Fish Free February pledge visit www.fishfreefebruary.com

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News

The Diver Medic introduces new DEMR course

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The Diver Medic has developed a course suitable for every diver, or even surface support officer out there. The course will instil confidence and understanding of the subject your instructor may not have had the knowledge and skills to teach you unless they were DEMR trained themselves.

The Diver Medic DEMR Course – Diving Emergency Medical Responder Course is approved and written by Chantelle Newman – The Diver Medic Course Director and Founder.

The main objective is to ensure divers get the right treatment in the event of an accident or diving emergency, whether inland or in a remote location.

The Diver Medic is Agency neutral and their mission is to support all Agencies in the quest for better medical training and safety for all divers.

Is this course for you?

This qualification is for people who have a specific responsibility at work, or in voluntary and community activities to provide pre-hospital care to patients requiring emergency care/treatment.

For example, Liveaboard crew, Skippers, Captains, Dive Boat Crew, Dive Schools, Instructors, DiveMasters, Course Directors, CoastGuard, RNLI, Police Divers, Public Safety Divers, Tenders, Scientific Divers, Military Divers, Recreation, Technical, Cave, CCR Divers, Freediver, Surface support staff, Freediver competition crew, Lifeguards, ThemePark Divers, Aquarium staff, Explorers, Nurses, Doctors, EMS and more.!

Entry Requirements

Learners must be at least 18 years old on the first day of training. CPR and AED certified, basic understanding of First Aid Training

Instructors

If you are interested in becoming a TDM Diving Emergency Medical Responder Instructor you can apply to The Diver Medic by emailing info@thedivermedic.com with your resume and an introductory letter explaining why you should be considered you as an Instructors.

For more information visit www.thedivermedic.com

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Competitions

This is the perfect start to your 2021 diving season… and at an incredible lead-in price of just £885 per person.

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. This itinerary takes in the wonderful South & St Johns from 26 February – 05 March 2021.  

Subject to availability – limited flight seats at this price so don't delay!

Call Diverse Travel on 01473 852002 or email info@diversetravel.co.uk to book your spot!

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