Before I went to Dutch Springs – a lake in Pennsylvania filled with sunken helicopters, school buses and fire trucks – I had no idea how I’d react. Having only ‘dived’ in a swimming pool in Chelsea, I didn’t know how I’d cope with that murky expanse reaching beneath me on my first ever open-water plunge.
As it turned out, it was bloody amazing.
Although to be honest, it didn’t feel so amazing waking up at 5am after a night of partying. But once we were on the road and out of the smog of the city, I started to get excited. About an hour-and-a-half later, we arrived at Dutch Springs, a scuba diving park in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (it’s right by Nazareth – no joke).
The water looked so beautiful and still.
Not for long.
After running through our plan with our Scuba Network instructor Mark, we donned our horrendous 7mm suits. (To give you a frame of reference, our normal suits are 3mm and often you don’t wear one at all. But this was a lake in Pennsylvania, so it was gonna get chilly.)
When I was getting my suit, I learned I have a strangely shaped body. So I ended up in a slightly ill-fitting suit looking like a body builder. Nice hey?
Finally, it was time to get in the water. At first it was painful (thanks to pressure in my ears), then it was cold (I was grateful for that unflattering suit) but ultimately, it was brilliant.
We practised some skills on a submerged platform before taking a look around. We swam past a fire truck covered in thousands upon thousands of zebra mussels that looked like pistachios, and I was stunned that the fish – including largemouth bass, koi, yellow perch and rainbow trout – came right up to us, as if to ask: ‘Who might you be then?’
I soon realized they hoped we’d upset the silt beneath us, kicking up dinner into their ready-and-waiting mouths.
We went down for two dives lasting about 40 minutes each. There were some struggles – good god my ears! – and the visibility was sometimes poor, but hanging out with the inquisitive fish made up for it all. Plus, I felt my buddy (Ryan, obv), our three fellow divers and our patient instructor, Mark, all had my back so there really was no reason to worry.
We have one more day of open diving ahead of us before we achieve our certification and I’d definitely consider heading back to Dutch Springs again – it’s so easy from New York, and we were finished by about 2pm. You can learn how to earn your scuba c-card before setting out on the journey to become a fully-fledged scuba diver, as it’s not the kind of pursuit everyone would love. However, those who do develop a huge passion for it.
Plus there’s a great ice cream place on the way back. After all our hard work, this was definitely allowed, don’t you think?
Thanks to Becky Schott, Pollutech, Eric Engbretson/USFWS and Dutch Springs for the underwater pictures.