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Blind. Cold. Underwater. Any two of these are bad; all three of them are dangerous. This trip had started as a simple treasure hunt. We were searching for old bottles in the shallow water at Shriner Lake. Having heard about a hotel that once stood near the pier, we were excited to find that some of the guests were kind enough to throw their old bottles into the water for us to find almost 80 years later.
My dad listed off our equipment, “Boots?”
I answered him quickly and simply, excited to get in the water, “Check.”
“Wetsuits? Regs on the tanks?”
“Fins, masks, gloves, weight belts?”
“Check, check, check, and check.”
With smiles on our faces and the locals as our audience, we donned our equipment. We helped each other get the heavy tanks and weight belts on, and we waded into the shallow water, fins and masks in hand. Checking our regulators and air pressure for the last time, we released the air from our tanks and started going down. We popped our ears several times before the pressure equalized and we reached the bottom. I thought that it would be colder, considering the cool August air above. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the area we were in was actually warmer then the beach was. Now came the fun part. Our gloved hands plunged into the dirty lake bottom. Kicking up silt, we scoured for glass bottles and other ancient treasures. My dad was the first to find one; an old soda bottle. I found a couple old Pepsi bottles, both of which I planned on giving to my Pepsi-addicted mother. We filled up the mesh bag my dad wore on his vest, and we swam back to the beach to unload.
My dad asked, “Want to try to go deeper?”
“How deep were you thinking?” I asked nervously.
“Not bad. 30 feet or so.”
We put on the hoods and gloves we brought, and then started swimming back. The first thing that hits you is the cold. It’s not horrible, but it’s not as comfortable as 20 feet was. Then the lack of vision sets in. The combination of the freezing feeling and disorienting darkness makes a scary environment. I signaled my dad that I was heading back up, inflated my vest, and started floating up as he followed closely behind.
“What was wrong?”
“I just didn’t like being unable to see. It’s frightening.”
Deciding to go back for more bottles, we took off the hoods and gloves. We agreed to split up and try and cover a larger area. He went one way, I went the other. After about five minutes, I found myself in a familiar surrounding…I started feeling cold, and then I couldn’t see at all. I finally found a rope, but it was floating strangely. It appeared to be parallel to the ground, but I decided to follow it up anyway. As I started to see the water surface, I also found a strange silhouette. Swearing to myself, I came up to the surface, ready to face the angry fisherman that almost certainly sat in the boat above.
I was surprised by the friendly greeting, “Hello, there! Find me any fish?”
I laughed, trying not to sound guilty. “Yep, but you’re probably better off closer to shore.”
As I turned around to head back, I found my dad treading next to the swim platform. After just dodging a bullet with that fisherman, I knew my dad wouldn’t be as forgiving. As I swam back to receive my lecture, I was again surprised by a friendly laugh. “What were you thinking?” he asked through a chuckle.
I held up my console and pointed out that, unlike his, mine didn’t have a compass. “I don’t have the advantage you do. I got lost.”
“Just be more careful next time. That fisherman was pretty nice about it…not that he was in a good fishing spot to begin with!”
Slightly embarrassed, we swam back to the beach to get dressed, pack up the car, and go eat. Being underwater for that long really seems to work up an appetite! Having found over fourteen bottles, the trip was a great success. My mom was thrilled with her gifts, and I even managed to impress my father with how deep I went without the added warmth of the gloves and hood.