6 months ago

AD 2016 Q1

Larry Hack enters Jug

Larry Hack enters Jug Hole, Fla. Opposite: Michael Underwood rises from 90 feet in Orange Grove Sink in Florida. “BY THE END I HAD DRIVEN MORE THAN 72,000 MILES AND TAKEN 80 FLIGHTS.” 86 | WINTER 2016

UNEXPECTED DIVES While freshwater sites can be perceived as mundane and lacking biodiversity, I have many vibrant photos of the aquatic life I saw on these sites. The blind crawfish in Florida’s Peacock Springs were as strange as they sound. Spotted gar in Texas, salmon in Alaska and rainbow trout in Missouri likewise were fun to observe. The weirder the animal, the more excited I got. The most surprising site I dived was Puget Sound in Washington. Cold water is home to some of the largest life I’ve seen. Big plumose anemones reach for nutrients in the green water, while crustaceans dominate the seafloor and lion’s mane jellyfish rise from the deep. The farther north I ventured, the vaster the landscape grew. Alaska is the USA’s greatest wilderness. I spent a week above and below in Alaska, the longest trip on my quest. I left there reluctantly with a vow to return. In just one week I saw harbor seals, Steller sea lions, sea otters, puffins, bald eagles, wolves, grizzly bears, caribou, moose, starfish, lion’s mane jellyfish, salmon and more. A FEW LESSONS America is still wild. Nature is unforgiving. Some of my dive sites were in national parks, and nearly all were in remote places with poor cell phone reception. Guides and park rangers taught me a lot about how to interact with wildlife. This was important for creating both ethical and high-quality images. I made every effort to leave no trace on dive sites and in wilderness areas. I prepared for each trip by bringing supplies such as gallons of water, a spare battery to selfjump my car and kitty litter for tire traction in icy conditions. Some items I brought were life sustaining, while others were for comfort. I also brought a giant toolbox full of everything I would need to maintain and repair my gear while on the road. Not every location includes a nearby dive shop, although I stopped at a few to save a dive. In Colorado I picked up a dive float since I had forgotten mine at home. Some sites require that you set or swim with a dive flag — be sure to familiarize yourself with relevant state laws and local regulations for diving at any site. If I undertook this journey again I would allow for more travel time. Constant time constraints pushed my limits. By working tired, I broke or lost something in nearly every state. WHAT’S NEXT? I completed my quest in four years, six months and two days. When I finished, I had built up so much momentum preparing for dives and getting on the road that I didn’t quite realize I had completed the journey. I was simultaneously tired, happy and eager for the next steps. The adventures I had and divers I met on my journey are helping me define my future goals. I hope to work on Arctic expeditions and in coldwater environments. My ice-diving experience will help me reach goals beyond the 50-state adventure. I am working this winter to finish my book for release in 2016. I’ll start the year speaking at dive shows and conferences — I hope to see you at my Our World-Underwater presentations in either Chicago or Texas. I’ll announce future speaking engagements on Facebook and on my website, GET OUT THERE AND DIVE I seek to help others understand the underwater world through my photography and design and by sharing my exploration. My journey across the country was enriched by local divers who shared new and interesting places to dive. I encourage you to visit a local dive site and start your own adventure. AD ALERTDIVER.COM | 87

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