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terfmop
12-22-2007, 23:15
(copy of my post from SB)
Back when I was certified (May '07), one of the assistant instructors in my class mentioned Bonne Terre Mine (BTM). The place described, seemed interesting, so I made it a point to get out to Bonne Terre Mine before the year was over. Today, I made good on the goal; I drove out by myself last night and today I made dives on trails #1,2, & 4 on the billion-gallon, underground lake in Bonne Terre Missouri.

One rumor that I had heard prior to making arrangements was that though the diving was interesting, the staff were difficult to deal with at BTM. With that in mind, I first want to say that the staff were very attentive, safety-minded, professional, yet very friendly and approachable. The group that I dove with consisted of a wide variety of ages, as well as experience levels. A father with his two teen-ageish sons, a 10-year old (he was the son of our guide….the tank was more than half his size, but he was a competent diver), a DM candidate, and myself(AOW, but still a novice diver). Although the type of diving at BTM doesn’t necessitate a traditional buddy system, I paired up with a guy named Aaron, a DM candidate from Evanston, IL.

After a short dive briefing on the first trail, we went down to the mine with our gear. The walk down to the dock is rather long, but the scenery of the old mine was interesting. Tall ,wide, stone columns can be seen supporting the rocky ceiling. Water was dripping down from the ceiling throughout the walk, forming a variety of colorful mineral deposits. The most impressive aspect, at least to me, was that this huge cavern was entirely man-made, every rock and pebble was removed via human efforts…….giving the effect of Moria (minus Balrogs of course).

Once on the dock I could see the water was very, very clear. I also happened to see the single fish in BTM, a bass that hangs out at the dock (they tried in the past to keep bass, but low O2 levels in the water and no plant life all but one died off) We all started suiting up and I started to see some drastic differences in experience/skill levels emerge amongst our group members. Three of our group members consisted of a father and his two teenagers sons. Although the father was the friendly sort, it became obvious to me that neither of them had been in the water for quite a while. They all struggled with their rental gear, from their wetsuits to their BCDs and regs. I was also surprised they were all using Nitrox (I was surprised, because all the trails are led by a guide and are of a specific time durations, ~45 mins.). My buddy and I were first in the water; the water was a cool 58 degrees….from top to bottom, no thermo clines, 58 degrees. The father and son trio were next in the water. Once the father jumped in, his weight belt just about slid off him to the fathoms below. Luckily for him, he managed to catch the weights with his knees. Once the BTM staff assisted him in properly affixing his weight, we all swam over to a buoy and descended for a short skills test. The skills test consisted of a mask clear and a buddy share-air drill. No one had any problems with the skills and we proceeded with Trail #1.

Trail #1 showed us around a few of the old mining equipment, and a few tunnel swim throughs. My favorite thing I saw was the stream of bubbles pouring out of the swim throughs…..looked like a reverse waterfall. Also, the rock that forms the mine is rather porous and streams of bubble could be seen seeping out of the rock. The guide had mentioned that the seeping air was from the air that was trapped in the pockets in the swim-through. About ¾ of the way through the dive, the father and son trio ended the dive early due to them getting a bit low on air, and the father’s dive computer stopped working (affirmed my choice of a wrist mounted computer and analog gauges). The kid, my buddy, and myself finished the dive with a 3-minute safety stop. Max depth was 51 feet.

Trail #2 (max depth 41’) was similar to the first dive. We saw a few more old mining equipment pieces, a couple more swim throughs. Everyone completed the dive

Trail #4 was similar, but this time we saw the ‘elevator shaft’ that is pictured on the homepage. Another diver joined our group this time. I struck up a conversation with him and realized he had been diving since 1964! Again, everyone completed the dive….the father and sons trio decided against using Nitrox and used standard air on this dive. There is a long ‘slurry pipe’ on this dive which appears to be smoking. The smoke effect is from the iron oxidation of the metal tube.


BTM would appeal more to history buffs. If you are expecting to see fish, you will be very disappointed. Some people had asked me about diving in an old lead mine…more specifically about the safety of swimming in lead http://www.scubaboard.com/forums/images/smilies/More%20Smiles/icosm14.gif . This question was posed to our guide, and we were told that the lead sulfide(-ite? -ate?) found in the mine rocks was not toxic. Only when the lead was smelted out of the ore did it pose health hazards. The diving was expensive, and the drive was long for me, but I had a fun time. Some more experienced folks may not like the idea of being 'led' around on a guided tour, but the more experienced guy really enjoyed the place and had been to BTM on more than one occasion.

Dark Wolf
12-22-2007, 23:30
Thanks for the report! I have also heard both good and bad about BTM, but have not made it over there yet. I always kinda figured that I would end up doing it at least once just to see it. Sounds like you had a nice trip, and some interesting dives.

DW

snagel
12-23-2007, 06:36
Thanks for the detailed report. Yes, I too have heard a palifera of comments made about the staff. It's good to hear a positive post from somebody who just experienced it.

I have never made this dive - maybe some day. Just a couple questions:

1) You did have to make reservations - correct? If so, how far in advance? Obviously, you didn't have any issues of being "rescheduled" did you?

2) What is the cost - now days? (I've heard different prices)

3) I would assume I could take my own gear, but do they supply wieghts and tanks? I've been told you don't want to have to carry these things down to the entry points.

S. Nagel

terfmop
12-23-2007, 08:19
Thanks for the detailed report. Yes, I too have heard a palifera of comments made about the staff. It's good to hear a positive post from somebody who just experienced it.

I have never made this dive - maybe some day. Just a couple questions:

1) You did have to make reservations - correct? If so, how far in advance? Obviously, you didn't have any issues of being "rescheduled" did you?

2) What is the cost - now days? (I've heard different prices)

3) I would assume I could take my own gear, but do they supply wieghts and tanks? I've been told you don't want to have to carry these things down to the entry points.

S. Nagel

I made reservations early in December. But, I did ask prior to making the reservation how full my group was. For my group, a person would have been able to get in on this past weekend had they waited until they were sure the dive was a 'go'.

The cost was $65/dive.

You will want to take your gear, with the exception of your tank. Three of our group had rented everything (which after watching them trying to figure out the rental gear configuration, I would advise against the rental of the suit, BC, regs). The guy that I had buddied up with opted to rent the weights, as he didn't want to carry the weights down & up. I, being a cheap***, hauled all my gear down to the entry point(including my lead). Hauling the stuff down really was no problem.......but hauling all of my water soaked gear wasn't fun. It'd be up to you to decide if paying an extra $10 is worth hauling your own lead uphill/steps ~1/4 mile. If I had to do it over, I'd still save myself $10

I drove in the night before and stayed at the Super-8 motel. It was clean and a rather nice stay. I used priceline to book my room and paid $38 plus tax.

wheelman
12-23-2007, 08:24
Cool... excellent report. I haven't dove the mine yet either but it is on my list.

snagel
12-23-2007, 12:27
Thanks, so I take it that tank+air is part of the entry fee?

S. Nagel

terfmop
12-23-2007, 15:26
Thanks, so I take it that tank+air is part of the entry fee?

S. Nagel

Correct, you get a new freshly filled tank for each dive.

snagel
12-23-2007, 15:51
Thanks again....I may have to check this out.

S. Nagel

cummings66
12-28-2007, 21:17
Don't forget that the dive is a 2 dive minimum, so the $65 is actually $130 to start with.

I've got buddies who have dove it and had good experiences, and buddies who've had less than stellar experiences. I guess it all depends on the guide.

Think
01-28-2008, 13:04
Thanks for the detailed report. This gives me a much better idea of what it is like than their website does. What part of Indiana are you in?

Mycroft
01-28-2008, 15:33
I too dove BTM, though my dives were in the summer of 2000. I liked the staff and had no problems with them. As I remember it, the price quoted here was the same as I paid then. I don't remember the option of renting your lead, just the option to go with the 95 CFT tanks for an extra fee, which I did.

They even allowed me to chain my dog up while he was waiting for me. (Yes, the dog had food and water available to him the whole time!) And the dog had my car keys clipped to his collar too! I had no worry about someone stealing MY car!

cummings66
01-28-2008, 18:23
The dog bit is unexpected, but I like the idea of your keys on him. If he's mean looking that could be a deterrent.

jtkkym
06-05-2008, 16:05
Thanks for the report.

KennyD
06-06-2008, 18:46
I've dove there on two different occations. The Staff is a little "Country" if I do say so. Not in a bad way! It goes different ways. The short little lady with long grey hair is very nice and a good guide. The larger man with a limp walk takes a while to warm up to people. But once you strike up a conversation with him he really comes alive.
It's sorta a cattle herd at times if you have a large group and that can get a little OLD... But the low light and great vis. really sets the mood for a neat dive.
My LDS is on their way there as I type for the Bonne Terre Treasure Hunt that is going on this weekend.
I'm heading off to Oronogo in the morning!

jtkkym
06-06-2008, 18:52
So, Is Bonne Terre good as it looks on the web?

PepeDiver
06-06-2008, 20:34
I've dove there on two different occations. The Staff is a little "Country" if I do say so. Not in a bad way! It goes different ways. The short little lady with long grey hair is very nice and a good guide. The larger man with a limp walk takes a while to warm up to people. But once you strike up a conversation with him he really comes alive.
It's sorta a cattle herd at times if you have a large group and that can get a little OLD... But the low light and great vis. really sets the mood for a neat dive.
My LDS is on their way there as I type for the Bonne Terre Treasure Hunt that is going on this weekend.
I'm heading off to Oronogo in the morning!

i just heard about the treasure hunt today. I was in West End Diving killing some time and Doug told me about it. Thats twice this weekend I wished I had an opportunity to get in the water.

beperkins
10-14-2008, 13:42
So, Is Bonne Terre good as it looks on the web?


The diving can be spectacular. I have been 4 times(for a total of 10 dives) and it ranged from great (I was the only diver in the group, just me and 2 safeties) to awful (12 or 13 people + 2 safeties everybody bumping into each other and the guides trying to make everyone stay together). I think the key is to go in the Summer which is the down season. If you try to go in the winter it is crowded because all the wetsuit divers have water fever and there is almost nowhere else that you can dive wet in January as an open water diver.

Byte Me
03-01-2009, 16:54
We're going next weekend - what did people wear? 58 seems too cool for a 3mm.

cummings66
03-01-2009, 18:29
IMO drysuit, but lacking that I'd wear a 7mm wetsuit, farmer john style would be warmest.

cowgirldiver
03-01-2009, 18:46
This last weekend at Oronogo, my computer registered the water temp as 47. I wore a 7 mil Farmer John, with a hood and 5 mil gloves (thanks gNats) and while not toasty only my uncovered face and towards the end, my hands got cold.

Defman
03-01-2009, 20:57
We're going next weekend - what did people wear? 58 seems too cool for a 3mm.

I wore a 7/5 Henderson Gold Core with hood & gloves, once you get over the "OH JESUS THAT'S COLD!!" that hits you first it's not too bad.

My suggestion, and that's about all it is, dive a few times and take the above water tour...

Byte Me
03-02-2009, 09:33
Thanks! Looks like my 7mm gold core farmer john is gonna have to be it. Should have timed the drysuit purchase better - well, actually, should have researched the water temp in Bonne Terre better!! Then I would have made the drysuit purchase earlier!

Ah well, appreciate the input!

jaxjags64109
03-08-2009, 10:51
I read somewhere that there was treasure hunt at BTM scheduled for June 2009. I have sent emails through the website but have gotten no responses. Anyone know anything about this event?

Byte Me
03-09-2009, 09:48
No idea, just got back yesterday from Bonne Terre and didn't see anything posted around the place about it. Hopefully someone will get back to you, might be easier if you call. Almost all of the help is volunteer and this is their busiest season.

Oh, and the mine is only open on the weekend.