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Diving the "Pit Of Doom"

Abandoned Iron Mine - Coe Hill, Ontario Aug. 13, 2011

A difficult and dangerous dive.

This past weekend, several of us went scuba diving in a 100 year old, abandoned iron mine in Coe Hill, Ontario. The water was freezing cold, stagnant, filled with trees, logs, branches & algae and there was near zero visibility. The decomposing plant matter caused a buildup of noxious gas which almost made me vomit. Just to get to the spot, we had to carry a couple hundred pounds of equipment through the forest for almost a mile. With me on the dive was Peter Klose and Mark Robinson. Many thanks for helping out go to Dave Lewison, Stephanie LaRose and Jill Wynott.
 
This was, by far, the worst diving conditions I've ever experienced.
 
Why did we do this? Well, nobody has seen the bottom of that pit in over 100 years, and that's reason enough for me. We also wanted to see if this pit joined up with another, nearby pit via an underwater interconnecting tunnel. Because of the bad conditions, we never did find out.

Pit Of Doom Video

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Getting into the water of the pit.

Peter venturing in.

 

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But first... We had to get ourselves and all our gear to the Pit of Doom. Peter's car fir down the trail, but wouldn't get too far.

The obstacle... Mud, lots of it, filled with half buried railroad ties. The end of the road for us.

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Mark coming to the realization that we were going to have to carry all our scuba gear to the dive site about a kilometer away.

Mark loading me up with my lead weight belt and 2 scuba tanks. This was not going to be a pleasant walk.

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Into the woods we go. Between the 6 of us, we were able to carry everything in one trip, thankfully.

Peter and Jill arrive back at the point where we had to turn the car around.

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In total, we probably had a couple hundred pounds of equipment.

Our lucky day! a guy on a quad-bike happens to drive by and offers to help with the gear. Thanks Jim.

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Even though we only got the extra help for the last leg of the hike in, it was still nice to offload some of the weight.

At the staging area in the middle of the woods, Mark gets the tanks organized.

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Lowering the equipment down the side of a ridge to get to the water's edge. Each tank was filled to about 3000 pounds per square inch, so you don't want to drop them on the rocks!!

Whew, we finally got everything down to the suit-up area.

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Peter starting to get his things ready.

Adjusting his dry suit, Peter was going to be warm no matter how cold the water was. At the time, we didn't realize just how cold it was really going to be.

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I got the honour of being the first one to go in.

Splash. In I go. The first thing I noticed was that the water was freezing cold... And smelled really, really horrible.

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I almost threw up from the overwhelming presence of methane and other gasses produced by 100 years of vegetation rotting in the stagnant water.

It didn't take long for me to figure out that this was not going to be an easy dive.

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The water was also FILLED with logs, tree trunks and old fallen branches. Each one was a serious hazard for snagging and entanglement.

Mark giving Peter a final check before he goes in.

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In goes Peter. He was insulated from the cold by his dry suit.

The view from the upper ledge of the pit, looking down onto us inside.

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Now Mark is in.

His reaction to the cold water was priceless. He had the thinnest wet suit, so he felt it more than I did.

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Mark, wonder why we thought this was a good idea.

The water was murky at best at the surface, but drop even a couple of feet down and it became as black as night.

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One of countless sunken branches getting in my way. It was like a maze of dead trees.

Peter adjusting his helmet camera. The plan was to look for a tunnel under the water, but it was looking like that was going to be impossible.

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Typical visibility just a few inches below the surface.

Mark, slowly freezing to death...Well, it felt that way.

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I was trying to keep warm while figuring out how dangerous it was going to be to attempt any serious depth.

Modifying the plan with Peter. We would try to dive down and see what it was like.

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Peter's cave diving safety line. He tied it to a tree on shore. We would use it like a bread crumb trail if we found a passageway. Note the darkness below him.

Peter's view of me underwater. The visibility was just too terrible, it was too cold and the hazards too many for us to continue. We surfaced and were happy to be back in the light of day.

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Back on shore, happy to be out, but we all smelled like rotting vegetation and methane gas. Mmmm...

We never did find a tunnel, but it was far too dangerous to push on too far to find out.. We chose to live another day instead.