By Jeffrey Gallant
This issue’s selection covers people and places from the all over the world including the Bikini Atoll, British Columbia, Alberta, California, and Norway. Here are a few fun facts for your January edition.
The first submersible jamboree took place off Catalina Island, California in 1969. The assemblage of seven submersibles included Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s Sea Fleas, and the Star II, Deep Quest, Nekton, Beaverand Dowb. During the dive hosted by the Rockwell International marine facility, the combined fleet discovered a shipwreck and was surrounded by a mass of squid.
With a depth of 4,291 feet (1,308 meters), Sognefjord, in Norway, is the world’s deepest fjord. Also known as Sognefjorden (King of the Fjords), it is also the largest fjord in Norway. The wreck of the Frankenwald, a German freighter sunk in 1940, was voted Norway’s Best Wreck Dive by the Norwegian dive magazine, Dykking, in 2009.
Norway is also the location of the world’s most northerly underwater post office. The Risør Undervannspostkontor was first opened in 2004 at a depth of 15 feet (4.5 meters). When no staff is present, divers simply leave their mail in the post office for later pick up. The fiberglass diving bell is serviced 2-3 times per week by volunteer divers during the summer tourist season.
One of Norway’s most interesting wreck dives is actually too deep for sport divers and most technical divers. The British submarine HMS Venturerwas the first submarine to sink another sub, the German U-boat (U-Boot) U-864,while both were submerged in the North Sea west of Bergen, on February 9, 1945. The entire crew of 73 was killed. The wreck of the U-864 was located by the Royal Norwegian Navy at a depth of 490 feet (150 meters) in March 2003. As of 2018, the wreck is being considered for a salvaging operation because it is thought to be leaking mercury into the local environment and food chain.
At a length of 2,790 feet (850 meters), the world’s longest known beaver dam was discovered in Wood Buffalo National Park (Alberta, Canada) on October 2, 2007. Satellite photos from the 1990s and ‘70s indicate the dam was constructed by successive generations of beavers starting sometime after 1975. Because this part of Wood Buffalo National Park is flat, the beavers had to build a long dam to contain the wetland waters. A typical beaver dam stretches less than 330 feet (100 meters). Incidentally, I once had to fend off a fully-grown and very irate adult as it raced for my head with its jaws wide open and its razor-sharp incisors glittering in the greenish sun of a Canadian river. For the first time in 30 years of diving, I let out a scream both out of fear for myself and out of concern for the beaver that was rightfully defending its colony, i.e. family, and lodge. The flash attack by the 40-pound ball of teeth and claws was as violent as it was unexpected. The furry torpedo rammed into my camera which then smashed into my face. The force of the impact tore off my spotting light and flooded my mask. I beat a quick retreat back to shore where the beaver followed in pursuit. No injuries were apparent on either of us before the proud defender headed into the bushes where it felled a small tree and started munching away as if nothing had happened.
In a closing nod to Palmetto State, Ted Churchill did the highest known number of volunteer dives at an aquarium by logging 1,286 diving hours at the South Carolina Aquarium from December 2000 to September 2009.
Read the full stories and discover hundreds more diving records, outstanding diving personalities, and 6,000 years of diving history in the Diving Almanac! www.divingalmanac.com
About the author:Jeffrey Gallant is the Editor of the Diving Almanac and a shark researcher. He started diving at age 14 in 1982 and has since led scientific and training expeditions around the world. Among other accomplishments, Gallant was trained as an aquanaut in Romania in 1995 and he dove with Équipe Cousteau in 1999.