Underwater Heartland waiting to be discovered

Underwater Heartland waiting to be discovered
By: CJ Cassidy
As we prepare for the onset of the winter blues, many folks are already looking for thrills away from home, and planning escapes to warmer climates.  But few people realize, there's a whole new world waiting to be explored right in their own backyard.
Exploring a Boeing 727 plane about sixty feet underwater with music piped in, in the background, can be about as surreal an experience as you can imagine, and it's one that keeps you coming back for more.
Owner Glen Faith had the 22 ton jet, used in the movie US Marshals, sunk in the quarry now known as Mermet Springs, eight years ago, helping create a diver's paradise.
"There are all kinds of things underwater, from a suspended Cessna Airplane to training platforms to an ambulance. It's a virtual underwater amusement park," Faith says, and adds, "Divers from all over the US, and even Canada come here. Probably the hardest group to find are local divers."
So Faith and his crew partnered with groups like St. Francis Hospital in Cape Girardeau, to reel folks in from across the heartland, and introduce them to a whole new world.
Folks like Brenda Mayberry.  "I had gastric bypass in 2004 and I've lost over 100 pounds. I'm trying to find activities to encourage a healthy lifestyle and gain more strength," Mayberry says.
Eleven-year-old Marlo Hughes just wanted to be able to spend more time with her diver dad, but says she's now discovered the magic of underwater exploration.
"You feel like you're floating in air, and all these fish swim right up to you, by your mask, and you can actually breathe underwater," she says.
Breathing under water's no small feat - or "fin"- as you might say in this case.
Learning to use your self contained underwater breathing apparatus or SCUBA gear can be challenging, so instructors at Mermet Springs make sure you know what you're doing, before you take to the water.
That includes learning to help your dive partner if they're in trouble, and knowing how to get to the top in case of an emergency.
Small but important details you may miss out on, and even forget, if you opt for a diving course on vacation at a resort.
" There's a difference between a four hour course and a 40 hr course. We have 16 hours in the classroom and 16-20 hours in the pool and we pride ourselves on going above and beyond the standards," Instructor Tom Runkle says.
After forty hours of training and six open water dives, I'm now a certified scuba diver ready for adventure.
After all, the world's my oyster, and I have a better chance at finding it underwater!
Glen Faith and his team also train several area fire crews and help get them certified in emergency life saving rescue procedures.
The diving facility is open all year around, and the crew even has a New Year's Eve polar bear dive planned.
For more details including costs of the course and directions to Mermet Springs, simply click on the link below.