Most times when I’m diving, I really get into “the zone.” My metal detector is humming along. There’s an almost overwhelming sense of peace, and it’s murky and quiet beyond the sound of my own bubbles. Several years back, I was in just such a “zone” at an old swimming hole on Forest Lake in Cumberland, Maine, where I was finding one wheat penny after another. I believe we all have a sixth sense. You’ve felt it when the hair on the back of your neck stands up and you feel a shiver coming on. This time, I popped up over a big mud cloud and just to my left only two feet away was a snapping turtle as big as a steering wheel. Its neck was sticking out at least a foot. Its mouth open wide. My first thought was that it was looking at me, thinking “what’s this stupid human doing here”? I thought if I poked it along with my metal detector, it would simply drift away. Well, I was sure wrong. It was me who eventually had to move on, those snapping turtles are like little tanks that bull their way through the mud underwater.
Welcome to tales from my underwater adventures. Hopefully through these stories you can share in my passion for diving and finding artifacts of our past history.
I have kind of a didactic memory of all my dives and artifact finds over the years. One time when I headed north for my business, I found myself in Bryant Pond, Maine. After a brief investigative trip around the pond, I was excited to find a town beach, with a float about thirty yards out. That’s always a good sign of a possible a debris trail out and back. So I went through the process of getting all my gear on and set up, trucking down into the pond. Before diving, I set my metal detector into three inches of water, and it sounded off. Right along the edge, I came up with a huge gold wedding band! All along the debris trail were coins and fishing lures. Next I decided to move to the old factory mill building over by the railroad tracks. Near the town beach, the water is only 12 to 18 feet deep, but in this spot, it is 25 to 40. Again I geared up and hit the bottom, forgetting to put on my hood! Argh! Wicked cold! I immediately found two broken cathedral pickle bottles, great grist for my artifact art, so back up I went. Retrieving the forgotten hood, I quickly headed back down. In that one hole, I found seven more broken pickles. My very first cathedral pickle lampshade was made from those pickle fragments.
Finding great new spots to dive sometimes results in an unimaginable twist. In one spot I recall, 30 feet of water quickly squeezed down into five feet, and the current was cranking! This isn’t a casual diving hole, but it can be a whole lot of fun.
Treasure and artifacts were everywhere, but the adventure here comes from a grappling hook. Once you get pulled into the current at this squeeze, you need to use the hook or you’ll pretty quickly get swept downstream. If you miss hooking on a solid hold, you have to drag along until you can find a shot at another good hook. This can be exhausting or it can be exhilarating, like when you find something big, such as a three-gallon crock. Then you have to hook yourself into the slower waters near shore to bring in the heavy booty.
Diving introduces me to some really interesting people. One of my favorites is a woman from Jefferson, Maine, who really knows the history of the area. While diving in the river that flows through the Jefferson village, I just had a feeling someone was on shore, so I popped up to see who was there.
Sure enough, there was a woman standing there who asked, “What’re you diving for?” I explained that I was looking for artifacts for my art, both whole and broken. She told me the site had ties to her family all the way back to the early 1800s. I ended up giving up a few artifacts to her, and this goodwill earned me an invitation to a super art show in the town hall the following spring. It’s now become a special annual event.
I always say I have the best fans! They’re so animated about where they live and the history of the surrounding waters. One guy I met at an art show had such enthusiasm for what I do, I asked him to join me on an upcoming dive. He wasn’t a diver, but enjoyed snorkeling, so if he was up for it, so was I.
We ended up at a fast-moving site, close to shore where he could wade. He found all kinds of stuff. Bags and bags. At one point though, he stepped on what I thought was a spike, and it went right through his sneaker. Turned out it was an old bicycle pedal, which with some effort I pulled out of his foot. Hopefully, the treasure he took out of the site was worth the rough patch.