With Halloween quickly approaching, scuba divers are raring and ready for one of their most favorite, and uniquely eccentric, fall activities: underwater pumpkin carving. Using deft skill and precision, aquatic devotees showcase their creativity in their favorite environment: the gourds gluttonous with gooey guts are given ghoulish, garish, or goodly grins; and beyond these typical depictions, pumpkin artisans have merged their passion for the undersea world with the craft with orangey dioramas displaying sea life. Throughout October, water-related organizations the world over facilitate freaky and fun fall festivities fit for family and friends.
Article by John Tapley
For Mystic Aquarium, located in Stonington, Connecticut,
entertaining children and families is the core of underwater pumpkin carving.
This year’s Sea Scare event, scheduled for October 26 and 27, is a celebration
of the season and the sea. During Sea Scare, visitors can watch the aquarium’s
dive team carve pumpkins within an expansive coral exhibit replete with
tropical fish; a friendly costume contest rounds out the event.
“We get a lot of interaction with kids anytime we’re in an exhibit or cleaning or having these other events,” explains Sharon Teel, Mystic Aquarium dive safety officer. “We get close to the glass and we have this cool skeleton costume the diver wears. It’s a huge photo op for the parents. We end up being in so many pictures.”
A 501(c)3 non-profit in operation since 1973, Mystic Aquarium’s overall mission is, per PR coordinator Stevi Bramich, “to inspire people to care for and protect the ocean planet through education, conservation, and research.”
Three time zones away, Seattle’s Marker Buoy Dive Club has hosted an annual pumpkin carving contest for decades, with 2019’s event taking place at Alki Beach Park on October 26.
“It’s an unusual activity,” says Fritz Merkel, Marker Buoy Dive Club webmaster. “It’s something completely different from what you’d do while diving. In our carve, you can draw on the pumpkin, but it cannot be otherwise altered until it’s at 10 feet at depth.”
One of the oldest dive clubs in the United States, Marker Buoy Dive Club has been in operation since the early ‘60s. The club is over 200 members strong and highlights Puget Sound as a diving destination while hosting and participating in community engagements.
Carving a pumpkin while maintaining the demands of scuba diving is not a simple undertaking. Pumpkins are known to be floaty vegetables and keeping them sedentary can be a challenge.
“Handling the pumpkin is the hardest part,” says Teel. “Everything else is pretty normal for the dive routine. What we do ahead of time is hallow out the pumpkin then… get a bit of weight in there to help it to stop floating up towards the surface. Then we’ll draw whatever we need to carve out ahead of time… keeping it looking like it’s cool and not too crazy.”
“You have to get a floaty pumpkin down to 10 feet before you can open it, get the air out of it, and start carving,” says Merkel, referring to the Marker Buoy carving contest. “It requires some skill. We’ve had people completely fail with that portion: if you could imagine trying to sink a basketball by hand. You have to have an assortment of carving tools depending on how elaborate you want to be, and then you have to pull that whole thing off with a buddy underwater within an hour, then get the whole mass back intact.”