If you think carving a prize-winning pumpkin is difficult, try doing it underwater. Greater Cleveland Aquarium Dive Safety Coordinator Halle M. explains what makes carving underwater such a challenge and why it’s still so much fun. (Special thanks to Professional Diving Resources, who hosted the competition!)
The underwater pumpkin carving event you see here was held in Ohio at a local quarry called White Star Quarry. It’s a place where local divers often go for training and to freshen up their recreational SCUBA skills. It has a platform, which makes it really convenient for doing pumpkin carving underwater.
So, how does underwater carving work? Our divers are allowed to scoop out their pumpkins and open their tops before they enter the water. Once they’ve entered the water though, if they or their pumpkins surface they have to get out. Divers have a maximum of 2 hours to complete their carving. When everyone is finished, the jack-o-lanterns are displayed, judged and winners are selected.
In this video, we’re on an underwater platform at a depth of 15 feet. We’re sitting/kneeling/lying on that platform to carve. We don’t want to sit or kneel on the bottom of the quarry because it would stir up the silt and make it difficult to see anything.
Carving underwater is a challenge. Just imagine you’re one of us. You’re diving. You have your wetsuit, your mask, all of your equipment, weights and a SCUBA cylinder. You also have a pumpkin that’s constantly trying to float away from you and you’re using a big dive knife to try to to cut small details into a gourd. It definitely takes a lot of patience and attention to detail to do a good job.
I’ve been doing this for the last 5 or 6 years and I’ve learned a few things. My first tip is to bring a lot of extra weights and lot of warm wetsuit layers because it gets quite cold when you’re sitting still underwater. (This year was particularly cold. The air was 35 degrees when we arrived, but luckily the water was much warmer . . . 65 degrees.) It’s also really important to go in with a plan, to not stay to long and to pay close attention to what you’re doing. That all makes underwater carving with all its challenges a bit easier.
There were around 30 pumpkin carvers at the Quarry and 15 of those were associated with the Greater Cleveland Aquarium in some way. We brought along a few new participants to competing this year. Jamil and Damon had never done anything like this before but I think they enjoyed the challenge. Some of the pumpkins that our team created included traditional jack-o-lanterns, a walrus, a battery charge sign, a turtle, a ship and some goofy faces. The winner of the entire event had carved a SCUBA diver carved into their pumpkin, which clearly is an audience pleaser with this group. Two people who came from the Aquarium group placed 2nd and 3rd with their pumpkins. Crystal carved a ship being attacked by a squid and Taylor carved tortoise or a turtle. They were really awesome pumpkin designs and they worked very hard to bring them designs to life.
Events like this really do help to create camaraderie and to bring new divers into the fold. It’s a lot of good, old-fashioned fun and way to engage with diving and your friends that’s a little atypical. Here at the Aquarium we have divers in the water every day. A number of them got their start at White Star Quarry. If you’re interested learning to dive, check out Professional Diving Resources. Maybe next year you can carve pumpkins with us!
Author: Halle M.