This is me. I'm Ethan Brodsky, an electrical engineering student at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Since I got SCUBA certified in May 1998, I have been obsessed with diving, typically going twice a week. All of my diving has been done in freshwater, so I can still enjoy five foot viz. I'm planning a trip to North Carolina this summer: hopefully I will not permanently spoil myself with ocean-diving.
I do almost all my diving with a local dive store, Diversions SCUBA . The store runs twice-a-week "dive tours" all summer, finds buddies for the crazy fools who dive in the winter, and is, in general, a fun place to hang out when you're not diving. They cater to all types of diving, offer excellent instruction, and have inexpensive rentals.
I am also a member of the Hoofers SCUBA Club , which has weekly socials to talk about diving. They organize a winter trip to warmer waters and sometimes have once-a-month club dives.
In Wisconsin, winter diving usually means ice diving. Here's a picture of our group at our favorite ice-diving spot: Kiwanis Pond in Janesville. It's somewhat of a drive from Madison, but there are permanent underwater lines for navigation, so a harness isn't necessary.
The lines run to various underwater objects in the flooded quarry. About all there is to see are fish cribs, though there is a safe near the end of the southern-most line. Rumor has it that the safe once belonged to Al Capone.
We usually go out in smaller groups: typically three or four divers. This group
shot is due to one group returning right as another was about to leave. In the
front row (L to R) is Isaac and Seline. Behind them are Mike, Scott, and Craig. I'm
the relaxed individual in the back.
Here's me all suited up for a dive at Kiwanis. I'm in a Typhoon drysuit, Zeagle Ranger BC, and using a Sherwood Brut regulator (performs well in cold water). All the equipment (aside from the mask and my fins, which aren't in the picture) is rented. I'm looking at buying my own equipment this summer, since I've spent roughly $1000 on rentals in the last eight months.
I've used both a Zeagle Ranger and Sherwood jacket-style non-weight-integrated BC. I really prefer the weight-integrated BC over using a weight belt, especially when using 30+ lbs with a drysuit. Though it's a lot harder to carry around, it's much more comfortable to have the weight distributed, and it reduces the chance of having a weight-belt shift or fall off, which is, at best, inconvenient. The store just cut me off from using the Zeagle (it was an employee's personal BC), after letting me see how far superior it is. I'll probably end up buying one. ;-) Some people are really devious.
The Viking-clad individual behind me is Seline, a soon-to-be divemaster at Diversions. She seemed to turn up in most of my pictures from this trip, but a little cropping took care of it. ;-) She got an incredible deal on that drysuit.
The yellow Force Fins are hers. I use giant "traditional" fins. I tried her fins once (see the picture below - my strap came unthreaded just as I was about to get in the water). They took some getting used to. For light kicking, they seemed to require less effort, but it didn't feel like I could get the maximum thrust I was used to. It would take more time to really get a good feel for whether they're more effective, as many people claim.
This is beginning and end of a dive at Kiwanis. You can see the excellent accomodations we have there. The platform I'm sitting on is about an inch below water level. It has a bench to sit on while donning your gear, and is connected by stairs to the rest of the pier. The water is about six feet deep below the platform, but drops to twenty feet deep by the end of the pier. The line I've dived on is at a depth of about thirty feet, though it is at the edge of a drop-off, so the quarry may be somewhat deeper.
Here's one of the more interesting pictures from a Kiwanis trip. If you haven't already done a double-take, then look again. Most people don't notice anything strange until they've looked at it for a few seconds. If you still don't get it, check out what I'm holding in my hand.
No, I'm not wearing yellow gloves. We discovered that a diver could find an ice-fishing hole if we shined an OMS Phantom light into it. When my buddy Isaac stuck his hand out of hole, it was too tempting. I also tried dangling a leg through the hole, but nobody was mean enough to pull. I could even fit my head with a mask through the hole (I didn't try with a reg in my mouth) and look at the diver undewater. Next time we'll get some pictures, though the ice has melted, so it will have to wait until next year.This picture has gotten a bunch of strange comments. The best, by far, was, "How did you get him through that little hole?"
A few final pictures of me chilling at Kiwanis. The water's so toasty that I had to jump back in for a final dip. The bottom temperature, as measured by an ordinary mercury thermometer on one of the pier supports, is 41 degF. I am not sure whether external pressure deforms the glass enough to affect the reading. It might be slightly colder on the surface, but it's clearly no lower than freezing. My drysuit leaks slightly around the neck (my neck is too thin for it), but it keeps me warm for 45 minutes or more. My hands get painfully numb long before my body really gets cold.
Another popular winter dive spot is the Madison Gas and Electric Outlet on Lake Monona. To most people, the MG&E Outlet is an area of ice that's fenced off in the winter. To divers, it's a region of warm, open water, year-round. A power plant several blocks from the shore exhausts warm water into the lake. The flow rate and temperature depend on how hard the plant is running (evidenced by the number of stacks emanating smoke). I have personally seen 55 degF water there, a few hundred feet from 34 degree water. Fish seem to have noticed as well: hundreds of fish hang out around the outlet.
Depending on how strong the current is, it is sometimes possible to go inside the outlet (a six foot rectangular concrete pipe), but it is strictly an overhead environment and should be treated with a great deal of respect.
The region of open water around the outlet varies from about thirty feet wide by a hundred feet long to thousands of feet, depending on the time of year and the power plant output. I have seen the open water area change tremendously from day to day. Unfortunately, aside from the actual pipe, there is very little to see. The area is mostly a flat sandy bottom, strewn with assorted junk. I have found car tires, barbell weights, and an old oval-style diving mask there.
This picture was taken in Februrary. You might notice that there is no snow on the ground. Today, March 5, there would be 1-2" of fresh snow behind me.
A Wisconsin diver's dream... A warm building to suit up in. After a dive on the Habitat (an abandoned underwater research station) in Lake Mendota, I decided to put the remaining air in my tank to use. I did a short dive off the pier near my dorm, hoping to find lost wallets. Students drunk after football games often swim there and I have personally seen two people lose wallets.
I didn't find any wallets, though I found three old Coke bottles and a number of other interesting bottles. I also found a peace necklace, a funny-looking magnet with a bunch of iron filings stuck to it, an old swimming mask, and an aerobie (which has gone to extensive, though somewhat hazardous, use in this very hallway).
Best yet, I talked the dorm administration people into providing funding for divers to go out there and clean up all the junk. During my short dive, I saw dozens of food service trays, parts of barbecue grills, bedframes, old clothing and shoes, and other assorted trash. The clean-up dive should take place some time in April, as part of the Lakeshore Housing Earth Day cleanup.
At an MG&E dive early in March, my buddy Steve brought a cheapo disposable underwater camera. It was rated to twelve feet (I thought the deepest water in the area was eight, but it turns out we found thirty foot deep water nearby - fortunately the camera didn't flood).
Viz had gone to hell a few days days earlier, dropping from ten feet or better to three or less. Since this ruled out going far into the tunnel, we hung around the entrance and Steve took pictures of some of Wisconsin's tropical aquatic wildlife. If you look really carefully, you can pick out the outlines of the fish. I didn't enhance these images at all (usually I use Photoshop to improve the colors), so you can see the natural water color.
The middle picture actually shows the entrance to the power plant outlet. The horizontal linear feature is the bottom edge of the cement pipe. The faint vertical feature at the right edge of the photo is a divider that splits the pipe into two at the exit. All the fish hang out inside.
A final fish picture. Of the roll, there were four pictures that had really distingushible fish, and this is, in my opinion, the best. The scaly texture makes this easily identifiable as a carp: local fisherman call these big fellows "Buffalo Carp", and I have seen them grow to three feet or larger in length. This one was obviously headed somewhere in a hurry.
The other pictures are a bit more difficult to identify. The left one is also a carp, distinguishable by the long dorsal fin and tail shape. A fisherman friend of mine said the one on the right is possibly a large-mouth bass, though it looks a lot like a carp to me.(Chris, I hope I got this right. What was the middle one again?)
Aside from the ever-present carp, there are a variety of other fish at the outlet. Most prevalant are bullhead, which to me look like little (8" long) catfish. There's also a bunch of bluegill, though they seem to hang out further away from the outlet. I occasionally see these long skinny fish that look like barricuda: a fisherman told me that they're Gar, rather unfriendly fish with razor-sharp teeth, and suggested that we not mess with them. They didn't seem to mind it when I pet them though. There's also a large Tiger Muskie, who we usually see once or twice each dive, but he seems to smart to hang around for long.
All these pictures were taking by me or Steve with a Kodak disposable camera. They were taken in early afternoon in 3-10 feet of water, using no flash. I believe all of these pictures were naturally illuminated: we tried using a hand-held light on some others, but it didn't work too well.
He also took a couple pictures of me. These are, to date, the only two existing pictures of me water, since the other two times people took pictures (using "real" dive cameras), they lost the film.
My favorite is the one on the left. Unfortunately, I hadn't realized he was taking a picture, so I managed to exhale just as he exposed it. I believe this picture was taken two or three feet inside the pipe, using handheld flashlights for illumination. That would explain the bright reflection from the bubbles and the relatively dim lighting on the rest of my body and the dark background. I dialed the blue way up with Photoshop to make it look better: the original photo was somewhat washed out and green and looked (for a good reason) like it was taken in shallow murky water.
The picture to the right was taken just outside the outlet. You'll notice that my tank has slid a good ways down my back and is about to fall off. This dive was, in fact, my last dive using a store rental BC. After renting gear for my first 50+ dives, I finally got a BC. It's a never-used old-model Zeagle Speedpak. Right now I just have a bare harness and bladder, but the weight system and pockets are on order. It wasn't the Ranger I originally wanted, but it's almost as good for a fraction the price. Now I just gotta get a wetsuit, reg, and computer.
This page best viewed by me, on my computer. Your mileage may vary.
Seriously, the window should be wide enough for about two inches of text next to the group picture. If it's too narrow, the text ends up on the bottom (ok) or covered by the picture (not good). If it doesn't look good, try making the window larger, even if it requires increasing your screen resolution.