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into a Texas cave, but

into a Texas cave, but it also was helpful for redundancy during ice dives and for carrying cylinders to entry points. Diver propulsion vehicle (DPV) training helped me find the siliceous spires in Wyoming’s Yellowstone Lake and to travel to lead-mine carts in Missouri’s Mine La Motte. I like my “underwater motorcycle” and plan to do cave DPV training next year. Some certifications, such as ice diving, are fairly location specific. I got certified for ice diving in Ohio and joined a class in Minnesota for more experience. The dive groups were welcoming and operated as teams with surface tenders. I found working with teams of divers who shared the same diving methods and procedures to be very rewarding. As divers we experience a world hidden to most people. Some dive sites are even hidden to most divers. As a member of three official dive teams, I was able to capture images of dive sites that had restricted access. We come to love and protect only what we know and can see, so I enjoy revealing as much of the underwater world as possible. GAINING EXPERIENCE I know there’s more to preparing for such diverse experiences than just certification and training. I built my skills progressively. When booking a charter in cold water I was often asked if I had drysuit experience. I found the question amusing because I had spent only one week the previous year diving in a wetsuit, but I know it’s an important question. I am honest about my abilities because in diving such honesty helps keep you alive. Diving across the country meant being flexible and open to changing conditions. Always training at the same dive site leads to a narrow experience. I dived with a variety of equipment configurations in many different climates, so when a boat captain told me a planned dive site wouldn’t work, I was prepared for alternatives. At one point I had planned to dive the German submarine U-352 off the coast of North Carolina. Unfortunately a hurricane landed the weekend I was planning the dive. Since I had limited windows for diving, I changed course and headed to Lake Mead in Nevada. I was able to return to dive the U-352 later on. My certifications provided a foundation for my exploration. To safely reach my goal, I planned dives with not only my training in mind but also based on my experience in similar conditions. Often I needed to combine skills from my training courses to reach a goal or to manage task loading. I carry a large camera on nearly all my dives. I named my primary camera Goliath and my backup camera Big Beastie. Goliath died twice during my journey, so I renamed it David. THE AMAZING SITES I SAW I originally set out to show how my local waters are valuable. I want them to remain a place divers can enjoy, and I want to see them protected for future generations. I knew our marine environment was special, but I underestimated the diversity and richness of diving across America. Now transformed by my experience, I feel like I’ve taken only the first few steps of an even bigger journey. In a way, diving all 50 states was a series of first experiences. Nothing is quite like a first impression. I remember my first dive 20 years ago in Cozumel, my first underwater photography dive and my first cave dives. By undertaking a quest of first experiences, I was able to love all that I saw. My first few dives on this quest were in quarries and lakes. I enjoyed the statues, boats and other objects placed in dive parks around the country. Familiarity may make these sites seem less exciting to those who dive them often, but I was able to see them with fresh eyes. I remember fondly the statue of David in Martha’s Quarry in Tennessee, a site I thoroughly enjoyed. Another special first on my journey was my first posttraining cave dive in Jug Hole (also called Blue Hole) in Florida. Larry Hack invited me on that dive along with photographer Amanda Cotton. I’m still smiling. As the quest progressed, so too did my first experiences. Not only did I meet the enthusiastic dive gear aficionados of the North East Diving Equipment Group in Dutch Springs, Pa., but I also got to dive in and photograph historic dive equipment. I’ll always remember my first dive in a Mark V hardhat diving suit: It felt like diving in a person-shaped submarine. They also let me dive in a visually striking Russian military diving suit, which was definitely not for the claustrophobic. Pennsylvania is my favorite state for diving because of the people I met. Opposite, left to right, top to bottom: A spotted gar in Spring Lake, Texas; plumose anemones in Puget Sound, Wash.; a purposely sunk wreck in Philip’s Quarry, Ind.; an opening in the ice in Square Lake, Minn.; the opening to Jackson Blue in Florida; a sea otter floats by in Seward, Alaska; a lead mine cart in Mine La Motte; American lobsters crawl along the bottom of Harts Cover in New Hampshire; blue angelfish swim through the USTS Texas Clipper in South Padre Island, Texas; David gazes up amidst vegetation at Loch Low-Minn in Athens, Tenn.; exiting White Star Quarry from beneath the ice in Ohio; a kelp rockfish hides in giant kelp off Catalina Island, Calif.; pink (humpy) salmon journey in an Alaskan tributary to spawn; diving a Mark V helmet and suit at Dutch Springs, Penn.; paddlewheel of the horse ferry in Lake Champlain, Vt. 84 | WINTER 2016

“THE JOURNEY LED ME ON 419 DIVES WITH 73 BUDDIES.” ALERTDIVER.COM | 85

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