Diving the CUDA 850 by Dive-Xtras at Lake Minnewanka

Posted on 15. Aug, 2009 by Greg Mossfeldt in Scooters

The town of Minnewanka was submerged in 1942 when Calgary Power raised the water level to increase electricity production for Calgary.

The small town had first witnessed water level control in 1895 when the Government built a small wooden Dam to maintain consistant water level and protect business interests of boating tour operations so they could manage wharf to boat transitions for patrons.

A second Dam was constructed in 1912, seventeen years later and was engineered with a concrete foundation. This structure allowed the water level to be raised by another 12' and required modifications to be made at the townsite.

Shortly after the 1912 Dam was constructed Calgary Power realized the storage capacity of Minnewanka did not meet the requirements of future demand. The company lobbied unsuccessfully in 1921, 1930 but in 1940 when the company claimed they required increased hydro electricity to manufacture ammunition requried for the war they were granted permission. The permission allowed Calgary Power to construct the present day containment and soon began productivity increasing required Hydro assisted electricity.

The water level increase of 65' in 1941 flooded the townsite, wharves, 1912 Dam and the bridge over Devil's Creek. The life of the small town of Minnewanka would be at an end, however it has become an area for recreation of many variations and a mecca for Alberta, inshore SCUBA diving.

Present Day:

The water level at Minnewanka was slowly rising this month of August and the visibility was questionable as Greg McCuaig, Steve Aaen and I pondered on the drive up to SCUBA dive in this area. The sky was overcast with a belly of rain but it has never quashed a hardy divers spirits. The only concern the enthusiasts bantered would be affect turbidity may have on the visual adventure. The diving community had experienced less than favorable conditions at the lake in the month of August but it didn't alter the positive consititution of the three divers.

We were focused on diving our CUDA 850 scooters made by Dive-Xtras and imagined the exhileration, effortlessly expanding our goals in search of artifacts. Today we would scooter under the water continuously submerged to the farthest reaches of the wharves of old Minnewanka Landing.

We anticipated a minimal two hour run time in which the trigger would be engaged for much of this duration. The average depth we would careen through the water was 45' with a maximum depth to 75'. The divers were breathing 32% in twin 130's on their backs with aluminum 80 ft3 stage cylinders of 32% on their left torso. Drysuits are essential for a lenghty dive of this nature and we would experience a thermocline noticeable around 45' tp 47'. The temperature of the water would drop only a few degrees but it is certainly enough to come out of the basement and direct oneself at shallower depths and warmer water.

The wind was not our friend today and wreacked havoc on our trio as we entered the breaking water on shore. Greg McCuaig lost the wrist seal on his dry glove and headed for dry land for recovery. The CUDA was left to fend for itself momentarily and the wave action ground it on the rocks which seasoned his new found tool. Greg's wife Leigh-Ann had just purchased the CUDA for Greg and he treated it with pride so was concerned at the battering rendered to the cosmetics. The breaking waves also made it extremely difficult applying our accesories such as fins on and stage cylinders. I decided to rest my tanks on the gravel ingress but was promptly hit by a wave and toppled onto my back. I was not sure of the outcome on this one as waves kept going over top of me while I was temporarily pinned by the weight of two stage cylinders and my 130 back gas tanks. With a desperate heave I was able to roll to my side and right myself above the water line.

After the circus act Greg, Steve and I completed our head to toe equipment safety checks then saddled up on the CUDA's for the long anticipated ride ahead. We would be glad to submerge and leave the windswept surface behind. It was then off to ascertain the water conditions below 20' and were overjoyed to be met by the visibility conditions required to safely explore this environment. Our duo continued to the bridge pilings built in the days of old, which is the beginning of our rainbow today and continued submerged along the guided path to the remains of the old townsite.

Out of the dusted gloom appeared the silhoutte of a foundation that peered at us in the haze then became clearly focused and expanded as our CUDA's drew us closer. We had arrived and observed the first foundation (which is unidentified) of the townsite after a leisurely journey of about 35 minutes on the the CUDA. Greg, Steve and I explored this first point of interest and it appeared composed of disjointed bricks with artifacts such as an old oil lantern, water well head, metal iron for clothing and a bed frame. Curiousity was now heightened as we floated over the surroundings and enjoyed the weightlessness of our undisturbing neutral buoyancy.

We knew there were more secrets awaiting our senses and we opened up our scooters to the next point of interest on our guiding path. Along came what local divers recognize as the outhouse. The commonly called "outhouse" is not likely such as it's planked underground construction suggests it was more likely a "root cellar". The "outhouse" as we choose to name it is along two house foundations which are located adjacent to one another.

The foundations of these two turn of the century era homes likely belonged to a fellow by the name of N.K. Luxton. There are numerous artifacts in the general area of the foundations which make these two areas of extreme interest to the diver. Artifacts include wood burning stoves, bicycle frame, handlebars, coffe pot, just to name a few.

To date the diving community exhibits cognisant awareness of the historical value of these artifacts and leaves them for others to enjoy their arhealogical value. I must say over the many years I have been boating and scootering to the townsite I have yet to notice any of these historical treasures going astray.

The next point was the South Wharf. As we cruise over the breakwater it's design suggests it may have been used for a docking point as well. The vessels could enter inside the seemingly corraled area and escape the wind and waves the Rocky Mountains expectingly dole out on a regular basis.

From past experience we knew this South Wharf parralled the Long Wharf which in the day experienced the majority of water traffic docking along it structure. We glanced at the compass on our CUDA's and pointed the noses in the direction our goal. We soon came to the concrete pilings recognizable as the foundation for this popular docking post. We then decided to explore the wharf in it's entirety as we moved further into deeper water as we approached the varying depth transitions of the pilings. Finally within our site we observed a substantial platform used for casting the sailor off from the old shoreline of Lake Minnewanka. We could feel the thermocline and a darkness loomed, surrounding us with a feeling of descending into the cold of a basement. On this L structure would could see an old gumboot deterioated and covered with the silt of days gone past.

We then reciprocated the heading of our CUDA 850's back up to shallower depths and transitioned from our stage cylinders to back gas in order to continue with our journey. It is such a joy to jockey the CUDA 850 we were content with the trigger energized and pulled in as we glided above the sites along the way.

Now it was a bearing to the North Breakwater which provided sanctuary for the long wharf or docking station. The North Breakwater provides us with a navigation point in order to continue along the old road. Once we discover the old road of Minnewanka Landing we are able to recognize the way to the "Hotel" as local divers know of it. It is not actually the "Hotel" as the "Hotel" was not set on a concrete foundation and burned to the ground. This house foundation is arguably the most interesting of the artifacts at the townsites as it is the only foundation that boasts a basement. There are a number of artifacts visible at this foundation which include end pieces of bed frames, kitchen stove, bed spring, cauldron, a pail, decorative concrete blocks and a large cement fireplace.

We had all visited this foundation previously so we scootered over top the artifacts and headed back in the direction of the Long Wharf in order to place our bearings on the continued tour.

From the Long Wharf it was decided by our Greg, Steve and I to begin a transgression back to home base and the safety of shore. We did however have a few outlets to visit on the way back home so we detoured over to the yet unamed area of a steam engine and various mechanical parts which looked like an industrialized mechanical shop had been staged.

The visibility was poor in the area but not so bad that the artifacts illuded us. We took a bearing of 15- degrees and found our way back to our townsite point of origin. From here we had a 35 miunte CUDA ride that I know all three of us were looking forward to.

About halfway back we intersect with the 1895 Dam which is somewhat deeper than our regular scooter highway. As we descended to the 1895 Dam the cold of the thermocline could be felt creeping into our drysuits. We completed an expedited fly through of the 1895 Dam with Steve and I venturing under the sluiceway with Greg just up above observing our progress.

Now it was back to the main line to complete the rest of the journey to home base. Steve and I barrel rolled our scooters savoring every moment of enjoyment the CUDA offered. When we reached the old Devil's Creek bed we changed direction and veered along the bank to the bridge pilings. We were planning on extending our dive to visit the 1912 Dam and the surrounding artifacts but it was decided after 137 minutes that it was time to go up and out. A few decompression stops would carry us out safely to a enviroment that was much different than how we left it. The sky was still overcast but the wind had subsided and made our exit much less strenuous than what was expected.

Back up on shore there were many tourists waiting with questions about the area and with that were amazed at our diving antics so Steve, Greg and I would field their queries all the while setting our gear in place to finalize our journey.

The scooters many of us employ have opened up our world at Minnewanka and the adventurers that are fortunate enough to carry one of these in their tool pouch enjoy a much pronounced appreciation of the recreation we enjoy at Lake Minnewanka in the Banff National Park.

To view the line of X-Scooters visit - http://www.dive-xtras.com/indexworld.asp

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