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LAKE ERIE DIVER-DISTINCTIVE SPECIALTY Aquatic Adventures of MI Distinctive PADI Specialty

 Lake Erie

Lake Erie is said to have gotten its name from the Iroquois who called it “Erie” (“cat”) because of its unpredictable and sometime violently dangerous nature. The shallowest of the Great Lakes it has a maximum depth of 210 feet and unlike the other lakes, every square foot of its bottom is accessible to sport divers. Lake Erie’s stormy reputation due to its shallow depths and Seiches—harmonic oscillations of the lakes— caused by such atmospheric disturbances as winds or differences in barometric pressure. They have resulted in water piling up temporarily on one side, or end, causing different water levels between Buffalo, N.Y., and Toledo, Ohio, as high as 13 feet or more and waves reaching dangerous proportions in a very short time.

For centuries, Lake Erie has been a bustling thoroughfare and it has a long historical role in the settlement and economic development of North America. The Erie canal opened the Midwest to settlement in 1825 and the Welland Canal to shipping from around the world in 1829. Today, though it is the smallest Great Lake when it comes to volume it is surrounded by the most industry. Seventeen metropolitan areas, each with populations of more than 50,000, border the Lake Erie basin. The marine traffic that created and supported this development was subject to weather-related sinkings, collisions and other calamities that claimed many vessels, leaving the lake floor littered with their remains. It is estimated that of the 8000 Great Lakes shipwrecks, approximately 2,000 located in Lake Erie with about 270 are "confirmed shipwreck locations." Most wrecks are undiscovered but believed to be well preserved and in good condition and at most only 200 feet making them accessible to diving. Most of the wrecks have yet to be discovered, drawing divers from all over the world in hopes of being the first to uncover a lost piece of history.

The goals of Lake Erie Diver training are: 

  • Demonstrate a basic understanding the role that Lake Erie plays in the overall hydrological system of the Great Lakes as well as a basic understanding of its historical role in the settlement and economic development of the United States.
  • Visit the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo, Ohio and one of the following:
    • Erie Maritime Museum, Erie, PA
    • Sandusky Maritime Museum, Sandusky, OH
    • National Museum of the Great Lakes, Toledo, OH
    • Steamship William G. Mather Maritime Museum, Cleveland, OH
    • Inland Seas Maritime Museum, Vermillion, OH
    • Reference material:
      • Books
        • The Great Lakes Diving Guide, by Chris Kohl
        • Shipwreck Tales of the Great Lakes, by Chris Kohl
        • The Long Ship Passing: The Story of the Great Lakes, by Walter Havighurst
        • The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, by Frederick Stonehouse
        • Deck Hand: Life On Freighters of the Great Lakes, Nelson Haydmacker & Alan Millar
        • Shipwreck Hunter: Deep, Dark & Deadly in the Great Lakes, by Gerald Valgenau 
        • Graveyard of the Lakes, by Mark Thompson
  • Video
    • Great Lakes, Ancient Shores – Sinkholes: Science and History Under the Waves by Noble Odyssey Foundation 

Two dives will be required each at a location in the eastern and western region of the lake (minimum of 4 total) on identified shipwrecks while demonstrating a basic knowledge of the resulting circumstances to its passengers and crew.

Course Standards:

Prerequisites:                                    PADI Advanced Open Water Diver, Great Lakes Wreck Diver

Minimum Age:                                  15 years

Ratios Open Water:                          8:1 is weather dependent    4:1 Minimum Ratios:

Depth Maximum Depth                  100 feet

Hours:                                                Recommended: 8 (2 Classroom; 6 Research)

Minimum Open Water Dives:         4

Assessment Standards

The student diver must demonstrate accurate and adequate knowledge during knowledge reviews and in support for the selected wreck dived. The open water dives and must performed in compliance with the procedures dictated by the dive boat operators and PADI diving best practices. 

Knowledge Development

Learning Objectives

 By the end of knowledge development, student divers will be able to explain:

  •  Geological processes that created this youngest of the Great Lakes just 3,000 years ago
  • Its place and function within the hydrological network of the 5 Great Lakes
  • The development of the marine technology for shipping on Lake Erie and its historical effects as seen in shipwrecks.
  • The history of some of the famous wreck that have occurred.
  • The ecological challenges facing Lake Erie now, the prospects for the future and the steps that can and are being taken to control the changes that are underway.

Confined Water Dive

By the end of the Confined Water Dive, the diver should be able to, as part of a buddy team and instructor guidance as appropriate:
  • Assemble, don and adjust the scuba kit that will be used on the dives
  • Demonstrate proper entry in shallow enough in which to stand and donning the scuba kit.
  • Inflate the BCD to establish buoyancy swim on the surface into water too deep in which to stand, perform a buoyancy check and adjust for proper weighting.
  • Execute a tired diver tow for towing back buddies or instructor for 100’
  • Establish neutral buoyancy and swim using frog kicks (unless it is not possible due to a physical limitation)
  • Demonstrate the deployment and retrieval of a penetration line
  • • Swim along the deployed penetration line so as to maintain contact with the line without kicking the pool bottom and holding on to a dive light.
  • Swim underwater for a distance of not less than 80 feet, including at least one turn of 180 degrees and swimming backwards using only kicks, (unless doing so is impossible due to a physical limitation), without making contact with the bottom
  • Execute a proper ascent; exit the water by using the deep water exit.   

Open Water Dives

General Open Water Considerations

 a) Involve student divers in dive-planning activities. Give special attention to the divers anxiety and stress levels, in addition to student diver euipment preparedness.

b)    Conduct a thorough briefing. The better the briefing, the more smoothly the dive
will proceed. Assign buddy teams according to ability (weak with strong) and establish a
check-in/check-out procedure.

c)    Assign logistical duties to staff and review emergency protocols.

d)    Remind divers to familiarize themselves with their buddy’s equipment.

e)    Evaluate diver’s thermal protection for appropriateness for the dive site and
expected conditions.