The ninth Bonne Terre Mine Expedition was on April 15th, 2006.
The Mine is located in Bonne Terre, Missouri; about an hour Southwest of St. Louis in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. This year several regular members of the team had pressing business to attend to and couldn’t get time free to join us. Only Carrie drove down with me this time, instead of the usual van full of people. After the usual Friday night festivities including an above water tour of the mine, our annual Bonne Terre one mile run, dinner at the Shamrock and a projection viewing of “Into The Blue” on the Park & Allen Lodge room wall, we were all pretty beat and crashed early. The next morning after going out for breakfast, we met Bear early at the mine and discussed our first trip to the deepest part of the mine, “The City”.
We ended up making several dives there throughout the weekend. Bear ran cave line above the silt, past buildings, shelves, the mule’s paddock, and past a workbench with tools strewn around the top of open draws. On one of the dives, after working our way through roughly 200+ feet of dark passage we came out at the now underground base of the elevator structure. We shot video and chronicled the bell command sign and many other artifacts along the way.
On the last Saturday dive we went back to the lake room to shoot video of a section of the Carlsbad area that we had missed on previous trips. These dives were the most aggressive we’ve made in the mine. Because of the depth, there was a lot of decompression. In fact after one very long cold hang, Chuck proclaimed that it was the longest amount of deco he had done in one dive. His daughter Cheryl, still diving in a 7mm wet suit, became so chilled after one particular dive we had to quickly get her out of her suit, into a down parka, and into the equipment drying room to warm up before starting the climb out of the mine.
After another good prime rib dinner at the Shamrock we again, as usual, went to bed early, most of us before the projection movie of the evening was over.
Our last dive on Sunday morning before driving back home was a sort of “greatest hits” dive to the ladder room. We again swam past the train, the timekeeper’s shack, the redwood forest of pillars, the pearly gates and the secret passage. Somewhere around the redwood forest, my power inflator started to give me problems. Unknown to me it had started slightly adding air to my BC at a constant rate. As my depth was up and down a lot on this dive, I wrote it off as “just a bad buoyancy day.” Coming up to the Pearly Gates Ore Dump, I started to dump a little air and the valve let go. It completely free flowed into my BC and shot me toward the surface. By the time I hit 20 feet, I disconnected the inflator hose and dumped the extra air. I used the argon in my drysuit to get neutral again and joined the others. Luckily there were no deco obligations and the short trip up was inconsequential. Soon we turned the dive and headed back to dockside. After the long climb out of the mine with our gear, we thanked Bear, took pictures, stopped at a local gift shop and headed back home.