A setback at Blacktip Island’s limestone quarry has yielded unexpected benefits for scuba divers after a local entrepreneur converted a sinkhole into a shore diving entry site.
“That hole opened up when we were blasting,” said Department of Public Works chief Dusty Rhodes. “I mean, BOOM! And water spewed up like Old Faithful. Flooded the quarry. Sunk three gravel trucks.”
“Damned if we didn’t tap into a flue that runs out to the sea,” Rhodes said. “Whole site was a total write off until ol’ Doc Plank stepped in.”
“This limestone chute’s a stroke of luck,” Bamboo You dive equipment founder Piers ‘Doc’ Plank said. “Too often rough seas make beach entries and exits impossible for scuba divers. With this tunnel starting a quarter mile inland and coming out 40 feet deep on the wall, shore divers can get in and out safely 365 days a year.”
The tunnel was modified to further ensure diver safety.
“We’ve rigged a hydraulic piston to whoosh divers out the chute to eliminate the danger of a half-mile cave dive,” Plank said. “To bring divers back in, we just reverse the process.”
Island divemasters volunteered to test the launch and retrieval system.
“First time, I shot out like a torpedo,” divemaster Alison Diesel said. “Scared the bejesus out of a reef shark, and I’m still trying to get the inside of my wetsuit clean.”
“When they suck you back, you pop out that chute like a cork from a champagne bottle,” divemaster Gage Hoase said. “This morning Lee Helm did a double gainer before he dropped back in. It was beautiful to watch. From a distance.”
Bamboo You has produced a variety of chute-specific bamboo diving accessories including helmets, neck braces and body armor. They will also offer a cleaning service for soiled wetsuits.
Plank and Rhodes said divers who don’t wish to dive in the ocean are welcome.
“Most people learn to scuba in a quarry, then come dive in the warm Caribbean,” Plank said. “Well, here you can learn in the ocean, then dive in a quarry. For a fee, of course.”
“We’re stocking the place with carp and catfish,” Rhodes said. “And we got a line on an old school bus and a couple-three lawn mowers we’ll add to the sunken gravel trucks to enhance the quarry experience.”