On Saturday, November 25, the Michigan Underwater Divers (MUD) Club held their annual “Turkey Dive”. The event notice specifically said “expect cold water, very low visibility, steep river side, moderate current, and you will not be disappointed.” Something to do with truth in advertising. It also mentioned that Bubble Watchers (surface support personnel) and anyone offering manual support were welcome.
Now, there is some debate as to why it’s called a “Turkey Dive.” Though most believe it’s because it’s held the weekend after Thanksgiving, others think that it’s because many do not consider the turkey to be very intelligent and the same goes for divers who are going to dive in a cold river in November (especially when it’s known to have limited visibility – zero to maybe a foot- a fast current, and hazardous rip/rap along its banks).
With all that said, the dive has been a MUD club annual event for 25+ years.
Now, the site is not always at Fisherman’s Park in Benton Harbor. Sometimes the current is too fast or the river is covered in ice. So, when that occurs, the club finds an area with slower current or thinner ice.
The specific site depends on the river conditions that week. This year, it was held along the banks of Fisherman’s Park (by the new Whirlpool building) right off of Main Street in Benton Harbor, Michigan.
The hardcore divers come early and setup ice shanties with heaters to enable them to don & doff their dive suits, and stay warm while doing so. That part’s real critical if you’re diving in a wet suit – especially after the dive and you’re all frozen up. Some of the older divers have gotten smarter as they have gotten older and figured out that dry suit diving is a great deal warmer. And just because they always used to do the dive in wet suits, doesn’t mean they still have to do so to maintain their macho image.
This year, the divers had a warming trailer available that allowed 6 divers at a time to don & doff their gear in absolute comfort and have warm clothing to put on afterward.
Club members who chose not to dive, but came out to show support for the turkeys – I mean divers – are always appreciated because they provide extra hands and muscle to help divers set up their gear and assist the divers getting in to and out of the water. People on the shore line provide an important safety factor for the divers in the event of a diver problem or emergency.
In addition to the heated trailer, we also had a warming shelter/windbreak set up with hot drinks and sweet treats to keep everyone fortified against the elements.
We had two divers diving rebreathers, one doing side mount, and the remaining divers using standard scuba gear. Other than being very breezy, it was a very nice day for a dive, though the visibility could have been a tad bit better. Hats off to Rhonda, who did the dive wet, unlike the rest of us old guys going dry. After the dive, and with all the gear stowed, we adjourned to the local Pizza Hut to continue discussion on the day’s dive and those planned.
Here are a few pictures from the 2017 Turkey Dive.