Boxing Day, 2009

Posted on 26. Dec, 2008 by Greg Mossfeldt

John Weisbrich had been leading an annual Boxing Day dive for the past three years, so to keep up with the tradition a dive was appropriate for today.

A number of the local divers had been contacted to join in the festivities but in the end we had John Weisbrich, David Muncaster and myself as one team along with Patrick Brown Harrison, Jeff Damberger and Dave Elia as another.

When we got out to Minnewanka we could clearly see the lake was completely frozen over as Terry Forsyth had mentioned previously but with the weather systems we experience in the area one ever knows the extend of the holding pattern. In previous years we had seen the lake open until after New Year and we have seen it frozen over in November too.

Today it was as Terry brought forward and the ice was snow covered and made a solid platform to walk upon. We had expected to lake to be partially open as was the history at this time of year. Often we are able to cut an entry triangle close to shore and run a line to our destination.

Today was going to be much more exciting as we came prepared with three chain saws, snow blower and shovels. The path was quickly cleared as we all pitched in together to make the trek as comfortable and safe as possible.

It would sure be something if stairs were added to the lake near the 1912 Dam as the rocks going down to the water or ice edge as we had today is quite treacherous even for the most nimbly footed.

We made the best of the situation as has been done in the past, Patrick cut some steps in the ice slope to assist with footing and we were ready to make our mark above the 1912 Dam. Patrick has a chain saw permit, along with restricted activity permit already in place and since we weren’t diving under a shelter our team did not require a permit for this. The National Parks do have rules and restrictions in place for the divers to abide by throughout the year in order to preserve the tranquility above the water and the sanctuary under the water.

John, David and I took our essentials such as fins, stage cylinders, and cameras down to the ice triangle and then came back up to complete our suiting up process. John and David would be diving 80 ft3 OC cylinders today with stage cylinders and I was on my rEvo mCCR and bail out stage.

It was sunny out this morning so it made the suiting up process feel more inviting. Nonetheless we quickly donned our warm diving garments amidst the stare of amazed tourists zipping by in their warm vehicles on the causeway. I think David even had to talk to somebody!

The three of us made our way down to the rocks while Patrick, Jeff and Dave huddled in a meeting fashion up top? … probably preparing and briefing for the up and coming dive. It would be great to get out ice diving with these fellows again in the future.

David, John and I slid into the hole with and began our descent checking out systems and the OC divers breathing slowly on their regs and not adding gas to their buoyancy compensator to avoid free flow.

As mentioned I was on my rEvo mCCR and I prebreathed it for about seven minutes in order to begin the exothermic reaction which removes the CO2 from entering back into my system. On the rebreathers we weight ourselves VERY close to neutral buoyancy on the surface so all that is required at depth is to equalize the suit to relieve the stresses of pressure upon the body. This … if weighted properly is all the diver requires to comfortably make their way through the water column. To make a long story short a properly weighted rebreather diver does not require addition of gas to the BCD so less of a chance for free flow to the addition system.

We did a 38 minute dive with a maximum depth of 82 feet at the bottom of the sluice way where I took some pictures of John entering the restriction. We moved around the Pumphouse and 1912 Dam area free from tethered lines. We did not however enter the water without a guide as we ran a cave line along our path and utilized the Dam and Pumphouse as navigation. The line was tied to the pumphouse so our exit could be safely determined and it was comfortably on our way from there.

John and David made their way slowly up the line to the surface as is common practice to avoid unnecessary barometric situations and we took images along the way and especially up near the ice surface where Jeff Damberger appeared.

I knew two of the divers … Patrick and Jeff who are very competent and fun to dive with. Dave who came out and was new on the ice … but assured us he was certified for the occasion was keen and ready for the adventure. Dave also had a chain saw and took a turn peeling back the ice but Patrick and I interrupted on occasion and Patrick stepped in to refine the cut. We mentioned to Dave we were all chain saw instructors and could certify him along with his other specialties in short order. Kidding Dave it was great to meet you and am looking forward to future adventure!

When Patrick, Dave and Jeff were coming down to the site Dave showed the guys a snow angel pose going down the rocks and somehow compromised his inflator system? Patrick called the dive as he mentioned some other situations which seemed to be leading to a troublesome day for them. Jeff Damberger did make it into the water though for some pics under the ice and also retrieved my 1200 foot reel off the pumphouse which we had left for the guys to navigate.

Dave … don’t be logging that dive or we will give you another chain saw and a 12 inch piece of wood James Dixon carries with him for the spanking corner LOL

I really had a good time with David, John, Patrick, Jeff and Dave today and was glad I made it out upon John’s suggestion for his third annual Boxing Day event.

When it was all over John had an open house chili fest at his mansion so Gwen and I made it over to see John and Dianne. Dianne made a great pot of chili and I had to treat myself to a couple of servings and four buns as we hadn’t ate since the AM. John had some friends over so it was good to meet Chan and Michelle along with Jo and … It wasn’t long until Jeff Damberger and Dave Iliat dropped in and we immediately began talking dive with Chan politely joining the team conversation even though this was activity was not his forte … YET!

Thanks to all, this made for a great Boxing Day for both Gwen and I.