Local scuba club on national TV
|Tonight on NBC|
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|Back in 1980 Sunken Treasure's scuba club, Pine Creek Diving Society competed at the Lower Bucks County YMCA|
in Levittown, PA in the world championship underwater shopping cart races. This video is from NBC's TV show
Real People which covered the event.
Divers discover scuba destinations in Pennsylvania
But what many people may not know is that those things can be found right in Pennsylvania.
Despite there being no ocean within more than 100 miles, north-central Pennsylvania has a dedicated corps of divers.
"I started back when I was in college with some friends at Penn State (University) who were divers in the early 1980s," said Greg Delker of South Williamsport. "What hooked me is that you are able to observe underwater and learn more about things firsthand, rather than hearing someone tell you about it. You're there and you see what is happening."
For Delker, like other recreational scuba divers, seeing a different part of the world has him addicted.
"Being able to see the fish and other underwater life is what got me," he said. "I'm an avid fly fisherman, so it helps me to be able to observe the aquatic insects and how bass react to the food sources naturally.
"The other thing is, in this area especially, there are a lot of places you can go to look for artifacts. In the river at Lock Haven, for example, we found a lot of bottles from the old Clinton Bottle Works. There is also an old sand barge near the Antlers Club and you can find parts of some old railroad cars in the river if you know where to look."
Even in a place so far from the sea, the possibilities appear to be endless. Delker mentioned that other bodies of water locally have places that are diveable and hold interesting sights.
Fascination with those things also hooked Richard Best, who owns and operates Sunken Treasure Scuba Center in Jersey Shore, Lycoming County. He said many people come to his shop because of pictures they see from faraway places.
"We get a lot of people who have an opportunity to travel to exotic islands and once they get there, scuba becomes something they want to do," Best explained. But when they look at the river, at first they are turned off, he said.
"A lot of people look at the Susquehanna River and they think 'Ugh,' but there is a whole different world under the water here and they don't realize that," he said.
"Then they sometimes find out that it is not as expensive or as difficult as they thought and they become the local divers, the enthusiasts."
People who really get into scuba diving, he said, get excited and want to go out as often as they can. That is when they start exploring sites like the West Branch of the Susquehanna River and discover interesting sites locally.
Best said he took a scuba course at a YMCA in Levittown in 1974. His love for scuba exploded from there.
"What I liked about it was that no matter where I went, or how old I was, I could still do this (scuba diving)," he said. "The earth is three-quarters covered by water, so there is your playground."
Best took more courses and became an instructor about 25 years ago and has been teaching people scuba ever since. To date, he said he has trained more than 3,400 people.
Best has done programs for clubs such as Kiwanis clubs and local chambers of commerce, along with high schools. "That is how people find out about diving," he said.
Best said that locally and statewide, there are many places people can dive.
"Any old swimming hole can be a diving site," he said. "What I explain to people is that the more shallow the water, the longer you can stay. So depth doesn't have to be a deterrent."
He noted that diving sites are available at quarries at Dutch Springs, near Bethlehem, where sunken buses, helicopters and other wrecks are available for exploring and for divers to practice their skills. Another quarry site is at Bainbridge Sportsmen's Club, near Harrisburg, he said.
"Where people dive depends on what they enjoy," Best said. "But the Susquehanna River offers some of the clearest diving."
That area offers relatively clear water mainly because acid mine drainage has killed off much of the algae and plant life. But he said the river is making a comeback with more fish and plant life appearing.
Best said the chance of finding things while diving attracted him to the activity.
"You have the lure of artifacts, finding lost items underwater," he said.
He said he has done scuba trips to the Finger Lakes in New York, as well to shipwrecks off the Carolinas and even in the St. Lawrence Seaway.
"Wreck diving attracts a lot of divers," Best said. "A lot of people go to dive off Florida because you have the warm water and the pretty fish."
Getting suited up to scuba dive is not too complicated, he said. It can cost as little as $800 for the beginner, although full wet suits can run $1,000 and more.
Basically, a face mask costs $45 and up, swim fins run about $33 and up and a snorkel costs $25. Other equipment, such as air tanks, air regulators and the like, is also available at scuba shops like Sunken Treasure.
And Best said that diving is not as dangerous as some people think.
"In all the years I've been an instructor, I've never had a diving accident with a student that got hurt," he said. "This activity, like so many others, is as safe as you want to make it."
Don and Phyllis Spong of South Williamsport are certified scuba divers and their son, Logan, is in the process of completing his certification.
"It's a fun, nice thing to get a family involved in, to see what is going on underneath the water," Phyllis Spong said. "There is a lot of things to see down there. Some people are scared of trying it, but you just breathe normally through your mouth."
She said she and her husband have been diving for about two years and are still excited about it.
Don researches underwater wrecks, and then he and his wife visit them, including some World War II-era wrecks off the North Carolina coast. "There is so much to see that the average person never gets to see," Don said.
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