As We See It

Underwater jack-o-lantern carving with the Las Vegas Scuba Meetup

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Photo: Bill Hughes
Gina Rose DiGiovanna

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Dragging a pumpkin into the depths of Cottonwood Cove on Lake Mohave decked out in scuba regalia isn’t for the faint of heart. But on October 13 at 8 a.m., members of the Las Vegas Scuba Meetup group will gather to carve jack-o-lanterns underwater. According to group coordinator Christine Nottage, fish love pumpkin guts.

The Meetup group for water-loving desert-dwellers has grown to about 195 members since 2009. They range from technical divers and dive masters to California transplants.

Along with pumpkins, fish apparently also love the edible Christmas ornaments that Meetup divers string on their annual underwater tree. It’s all part of a bigger picture that gives new meaning to the phrase “swimming with the fishes” here in the Valley.

“People who are divers, even if they don’t espouse it, I think they’re environmentalists,” says Nottage. “And they’re certainly ambassadors.”

In a metro area struggling with a lack of water, Las Vegans like me scratch our heads at the thought of just how many lakes, inlets and coves are nearby. Not to mention the treasures and travesties concealed beneath the surface, including the B-29 Superfortress World War II bomber that crashed and sank in Lake Mead while on a top-secret mission.

“The first question’s always, ‘There’s diving in Lake Mead?’” says Nottage. “And then the second question is, ‘Do you see anything?’ People always think in terms of diving the Caribbean or Hawaii. And actually, we’ve got some interesting things submerged in our lakes.”

Among the attractions: the PBY Catalina flying boat that crashed into Lake Mead in 1949; “Wreck Alley,” a Lake Mead collection of seven mishaps; Remnants of Hoover Dam ingenuity; Lake Mohave’s assortment of mine shafts, school buses and more wrecks.

But the divers of Las Vegas Scuba don’t merely dally among the detritus. When they’re not plunging 96 feet into places where you can’t see the sun or taking in full moon rays on night dives, they’re on a mission. Collaborating with the National Parks Service and local dive shops, approximately 30 to 50 divers do monthly “eco dives”—getting down to business with mesh bags, cutting tangled submerged fishing line and collecting remnants of human folly.

Nottage has found everything from toy trucks to a pet carrier—“It was empty, thank God!”—and, reigning supreme over all other artifacts of human interaction with local waters: the Bud Light can.

But there’s a ray of light, even amid the beer cans. Lately, Nottage has noticed cleaner beaches and more trash cans. There’s also the universally beneficial lesson of breathing, no matter what.

“I look around and see many of the more experienced divers having this almost Zen-ness,” Nottage demonstrates. “Holding their arms close and just clasping their hands together. That’s something I’m striving for, to get to that point where I’m not that flailing person.”

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