Diving Antarctica 2019: The First Steps…

Drysuit Diving Stillwater Lake MinnesotaHow does one book a trip to Antarctica?

For me, if I am going to be honest it was an impulse decision. Probably the biggest impulsive thing that I have ever done in my entire life. I love you Preston!!!! (I have a very understanding husband).

Back in June 2017, in the middle of planning my Minnesota trip (July 2017) with my family, I decided I wanted to do some diving while I was out there. The two locations where we were going to be spending our time in Minnesota included Stillwater, MN, where my dad grew up, and Two Harbors, MN, another place my dad spent his vacation time with his family when he was a kid. These two places hold a very special place for me as we often visited my dad’s family in Stillwater and replicated his childhood vacations to Two Harbors.

I was pretty sure the Land of 10,000 Lakes would have some underwater options for me.  I just had no idea where to find them so I went to my good friend, Google, and launched my search.  While Minnesota was never at the top of my list for places to go diving, my interest and excitement increased as I learned and reviewed all that Minnesota had to offer a scuba diver.

I was in luck, sort of.  In my research I came across a shop called Scuba Center located in Eagan, MN just outside of Minneapolis; not too far from Stillwater.  I checked out the website hoping to find a day to go diving; the hardest part about going diving in random places is finding a diving buddy or to be a tag-along in a group.   Preston’s diving days are behind him for now.

My luck ran out as there were no dive groups doing any fun dives at local spots. This did not deter me from my goal. Instead I checked out the classes offered – maybe I can get a certification and be able to do some diving at the same time. In Virginia Beach I am currently working on my Dive Guide Certification and Dive Master Certification which require certain dives; I figured why not learn as much as I can.

Scuba Center had a class listed on their website for a dry suit class that fit perfectly into my vacation, and the local dive spot to achieve the open water dives turned out to be at Square Lake, a 10-minute drive from my Uncle’s house. This would be coming full circle for me since swimming in this lake as a toddler to now in a dry suit.  This lake was within walking distance of my grandparents former home where we would stay during our many visits.

The folks at Scuba Center were very helpful in getting this out-of-towner signed up for their dry suit class.

After my Iceland dry suit experience, I thought to myself,  “I do not think I can ever do this again.”  It was hard for me not to be able to don my own equipment because of the feeling of having “T-Rex arms”.

But here I am signing up for a dry suit class.

Drysuit Diving Stillwater Lake Minnesota

On the homepage of www.scubacenter.com on the left side of the page is a little section called Travel with huge possibilities that caught my attention. There it was, Antarctica 2019. My first thought was wow, how insane is that!!! I clicked the link and read about their trip details and the requirements.

One of the biggest requirements included a minimum of 30 dry suit dives. I have ONE.

Well that’s impossible. There is no way I am going to be able to do that. I told Preston about this trip, and his first thought was, “what another bucket list item?” “Sure.”  I was not going to go anyways.

Let’s fast forward to my first stop at Scuba Center to pick up my book for the dry suit class. Preston and I talked with one of the divers, and I started asking questions about the Antarctica trip and my excitement for the idea of actually doing this was growing by the minute. Preston even said he has never seen me geek-out like this before.  He knew he was in trouble at this point. Ok, I have one dry suit dive, and after this coming weekend I would have two more. Only 27 more to go before 2019.

Two things to consider:

1. This trip was only offered once every 10 years. I certainly was not going to wait another ten years for this opportunity.

2. I can get my 30 dives and then put my deposit down for the trip as I have two years to achieve this.

I was sort of wrong – as I learned that half of the dive spots for this trip were already taken and by the time I achieved all the dives needed, all the spots were going to be taken. Not good.

The next few days I spent studying my drysuit book and thinking about Antarctica. Friday rolled around and it was time to go back to the shop to do my pool time with my instructor, Diane. I told Preston before I left, “I might do something.”

I jumped in my Uncle’s truck and drove to Scuba Center. Tom is one of the leaders for the trip and lucky for me he was at the shop. We talked a bit about Antarctica.  I asked a few questions already knowing I am putting a deposit down on this trip.  I was not going to leave the shop without booking my spot.

Tom asked, “Do you want to go?” “Yes I do!” “Are you ready to put a deposit down?” “I thought you would never ask!”

Drysuit Diving Stillwater Lake MinnesotaNow it’s paperwork time, and before I knew it my credit card was swiped with my spot secured on the Antarctica trip.

Within five minutes the entire shop knew I had booked my spot to Antarctica, and they started asking me questions!! I was already overwhelmed with the idea and the huge feat I had in front of me now. There is no turning back.

Diane, my dry suit instructor, now knows I am going to Antarctica, and I made her aware of my 30-dive requirement and how I only had ONE completed. We had a great time in the pool getting used to the dry suit and how to maneuver certain scenarios. This class really opened my eyes to how naive I really was during my dive in Iceland. This is why in my blog about the Iceland dive I highly recommend training in a dry suit prior to diving between two continental plates. (Check out www.scubaworldtravels.com to read about my Iceland diving experience)

Prior to leaving that night Diane asked if I wanted to do some extra diving with her tomorrow to boost my numbers and I jumped at the chance to say, “yes!” She grabbed a few extra tanks for tomorrow’s dives at Square Lake. Arriving back to my Uncle’s house I told Preston, “I did something.” He knew what that meant, and to my surprise he was not mad, probably because he knew I was going to do this. He was supportive and said he would help me to achieve the 30 dives. “We will make it happen.” See, didn’t I say he was a very understanding husband?

My first two dives were the certification dives for the Dry Suit class. Just like the scenarios from the pool, I completed the required skills in the open water. Boom, I was dry suit certified!!! It felt good to achieve something I never thought I would do again. I was not out of my comfort zone yet,  because I was using a different type of dry suit than I did in Iceland. This time I was able to dress completely and handle all my own equipment without T-Rex arms. Other than the usual buddy checks, I was able to do this all by myself. This is important to me. As promised Diane stuck around. We did two more dives together.

Five down, 25 more to go!

 

Editor’s note: Shannon is a Guest Contributor for Drysuitdive.com and will be documenting her adventures here. She’s also been a Featured Diver.

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