September 2001 Lake Sasamat Underwater Cleanup

The following article was posted to the freedivecanada email list on September 17, 2001 by Tom Lightfoot.

Yesterday four freedivers participated in an underwater cleanup in Sasamat Lake. This event was organized by Roy Mulder of the Underwater Council of BC. The freediving contingent consisted of myself, Peter Scott, Stephanie Ortlepp and Mike Krukowski. There were also five scuba divers and four people doing surface support.

Sasamat lake is near Port Moody and is a popular lake for fishing, swimming and heavy drinking. There are no power boats allowed on the lake and it gets nice and warm in the summer. It is Eric's favorite training lake and Stephanie, Peter and I have also trained there so we all jumped at the opportunity to contribute to the lake's health.

At one end of the lake is a Scout Camp and a nice swimming beach. At the other is a floating bridge with a couple of platforms for people to fish from. Our cleanup was centered on the floating bridge. According to Eric's accounts, there is quite a lot of debris, consisting mostly of bottles and cans near the floats, but bottles and cans can be easily found anywhere in the lake, probably deposited by canoes. The lake bottom consists entirely of mud and it is 33m at the deepest. Our cleanup area, however was 11 to 14m.

We jumped in at about 10:30 and immediately started bringing up bear cans and bottles. Soon afterwards, the scuba divers entered the water and we were kept pretty busy servicing them, swapping full grab bags for empty ones. With the mud bottom, the visibility quickly deteriorated so the divers kept moving to keep ahead of the bad vis. Without knowing where they were, half of the divers ended up far away from the floating bridge. This, however didn't detract from their ability to fill their bags quickly so we had to work pretty hard to swim full bags of junk back to the bridge. Far from the bridge they found mostly cans and bottles, but nearby they also found deck chairs, sunglasses and even underwear. Stepanie even found a bicycle in pretty good condition.

After the divers had emptied their tanks, we stayed in the water, directly picking up bottles and cans near the floats. We tried two techniques. The more direct method was to go down and gather up bottles by the armload and swim up to the surface to dump them on the dock. The other method was to use the onion bags the scuba divers were using. These bags had a line that went to a four litre milk jug used as a float. The line could be used as a descent reference and the freediver can descend and ascend unencumbered. Once the bag is full, it can be pulled up from the surface. Either way it was slowish work and I was able to grab only six bottles per dive on average.

Fortunately, two of the scuba divers had second tanks and they came in for another run. Again they worked out towards the middle of the lake but they filled their bags quickly and kept us busy at the surface.

We got out after about three hours in the water. After doffing our suits we got back in to splash around and practice our synchronized swimming moves. Roy estimated that we had retrieved about 500 lbs of junk from the lake that day. On a previous underwater cleanup they had also retrieved 500 lbs but with much more divers. Unfortunately, I think we could have pulled another 500 lbs of junk the next day and the lake would still not look much different. There must be several tons of cans and bottles on the bottom of Sasamat Lake.

Roy said that having freedivers on the scene has made a huge impact on the way that underwater cleanups are done. Freedivers maximize the effectiveness of the scuba divers by allowing them to concentrate on finding and gathering junk while the freedivers shuttle it to shore and sometimes help with navigation. Roy was very appreciative of our help.

Thanks to all who came out and see you at the next underwater cleanup!

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