Coloradans willing to take a dive
EAGLE-VAIL – Arlan Moore glided inside sunken naval ships most would never get a chance to see – or wouldn’t have the guts at 180 feet below the ocean’s surface.Scuba diving at slower than a crawling pace in one of the ship’s tight passageways, Moore saw 14-inch artillery shells, clips filled with ammunition and full sake bottles at Truk Lagoon, where allied aircraft sunk a Japanese fleet near Micronesia during World War II.”You dive down in a different world and there are all kinds of wonderful things to look at,” said Moore, of Eagle.Moore and other Vail Valley residents travel the world to scuba dive among sunken ships, colorful coral reefs and schools of fish. Whether exploring shipwrecks or swimming with sharks, locals say it’s worth the time and the money. For many, the experience starts at Beaver Divers, Eagle County’s only scuba shop, which was opened by Casey Zwaan in 1986. Casey and his wife, Emily Zwaan, of Edwards, go scuba diving 10 or 12 weeks every year, they said.
They like sites with thriving coral reefs that support diverse marine life, Emily Zwaan said. That doesn’t always happen at the same time – divers might swim among schools of dolphins and lackluster coral at the Galapagos Islands, or with small fish and bright red coral teeming with life in Indonesia, she said.And swimming with sharks doesn’t bother Emily Zwaan. “We’ve been in schools with hundreds of hammerheads,” she said. “We’re really not part of their food chain,” Emily Zwaan added. “Divers are at less risk of shark attacks than swimmers on the surface or surfers.” Unique cultures also draw the Zwaans. A video of their trip to Papua New Guinea showed a group of men singing and dancing with spears, clad in bright red and feathers to greet the country’s prime minister at the airport. Shipwreck scuba divingIn January, Moore explored the Japanese fleet with Casey and Emily Zwaan and the group found gas masks, guns, human skulls and other remnants of the attack, they said.
“Your imagination gets carried away and you wonder what it was like to be in a surprise attack,” Emily Zwaan said. “That doesn’t creep me out so much as just being in those wrecks,” Moore said.Moore feared that equipment he was using to breath underwater might malfunction, he said. Then he would have had to swim laterally to get out of the clastrophobic-inducing passage, instead of swimming vertically toward the surface, he said. Moore acknowledged that his breathing equipment has never failed and an extra tank that Casey gave him went a long way toward calming his nerves, he said. In the passages, Moore had to carefully monitor how much air he took in and out of his lungs. If he inhaled too much air, the tanks fastened on his back would scrape the top – too little air and he would scrap the bottom, stirring up muck that would have made it difficult to see, he said. “You have to be pretty skilled to do it, without making a mess of things,” Moore said.
Diving in Colorado”Almost everyday, someone comes by and says, ‘What’s a diving shop doing in the middle of the Rockies?'” Emily Zwaan said. The Zwaans certify divers from beginners to instructors and you don’t have to travel around the world to do it. Beaver Divers takes divers on trips to Sylvan Lake near Eagle, Rifle Gap Reservoir west of Glenwood Springs, Freedom Park lake in Edwards and natural hot springs in Utah. Beginners can worry less about decompression sickness – which takes place when a diver descends or ascends too quickly – because of advances in technology, the Zwaans said. A “dive computer” sets off an audio and visual alarm to help divers avoid sickness and record information about the dive. At Beaver Divers, Chris McCoy was viewing his “dive log” in the form of a line graph as Casey Zwaan pointed out when he went too fast. McCoy planned to go to Cancun soon to dive, he said. “I’d rather get the gear here and avoid the cattle boats,” McCoy said about crowded diving operations in Mexico. Dive trips aren’t cheap – costs of airfare, equipment and boats quickly add up, divers said. “The thrill of doing it is what draws me to it,” Moore said. “I absolutely love it – that’s why I’m willing to spend the money.”
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