Jenn Preedy, co-ordinator of the Maritime Discovery Centre, and Bryce Casavant of Heritage Hard Hat Divers welcomed visitors Saturday to Knights of the Deep, a new exhibit on this history of diving. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

Descend to the depths of diving history in Port Alberni

New exhibit opens at Maritime Discovery Centre

MIKE YOUDS

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

By extraordinary coincidence, the Maritime Discovery Centre opened its doors for the season with a new exhibit on the same day that a cruise ship dropped anchor in Alberni Harbour.

“It just coincidentally fell on opening day,” Jenn Preedy, museum co-ordinator, said of the timing on Saturday, which marked the second visit this year by the MS Maasdam.

Passengers strolled along the waterfront to discover a fascinating glimpse of history in the form of Knights of the Deep: Heritage Diving on the West Coast. The exhibit is the first of its kind on the Island, said Bryce Casavant of the Heritage Hard Hat Divers, a club with members in Vancouver, Washington State and Port Alberni.

Club members dug into their personal collections of diving artifacts to assemble the exhibit full of vintage diving helmets and other gear. Casavant credited Preedy for the “heavy lifting” required to bring the exhibit to life.

“I’m very proud of how it’s been put together,” she said. “We agreed that this would be a great exhibit for our little space. It’s more than I could have imagined.”

Heritage Hard Hat Divers not only cultivate an interest in old gear—they put it to use, donning the bulky suits and hard helmets to descend to the depths. Last year, Casavant demonstrated his Mark V suit for a diving event at Vancouver Aquarium. Each fall, club members gather at Sproat Lake to test their equipment.

READ: Divers explore the deeps of Sproat Lake using vintage equipment

As a diver intrigued by military history, he was naturally drawn to the old gear.

“It’s one thing to go diving,” Casavant explained. “It’s another thing to have connection to diving history.”

He gives a lecture on diving history on Sept. 19 at 7 p.m.

“It is like walking on the moon,” he added, describing what it’s like to dive in the old suits. “You can literally hop as if you were on the moon. It’s a real unique feeling.”

And if you’re a diver, Port Alberni is a good place to hang your hat.

“Jacques Cousteau called this area the Emerald Coast,” Casavant noted, placing the B.C. coast prominently on the world diving map.

The show includes an old Gorman pump that barely survived the Blitz, the intense bombing of London during the Second World War. Mike Bentley bought the burned-out pump from a salvage company and brought it back to Port Alberni for restoration.

“Those divers had to be dedicated,” observed Gareth Flostrand, chair of the heritage commission.

“What was the interesting part is that the club is actually using the gear,” said Steve Marshall, a passenger from the Maasdam and a former scuba diver. “It’s keeping heritage alive. It’s nice that people keep history alive like that.”

Knights of the Deep continues at the centre until April 2020. Check portalbernimaritimeheritage.ca for opening hours.

 

Steve Marshall, a cruise ship passenger from Florida and former scuba diver, photographs vintage diving helmets, part of Knights of the Deep at the Maritime Discovery Centre. MIKE YOUDS PHOTO

Just Posted

BCHL: Bulldogs new coach Joe Martin looking for hard skill, winning attitude

Alberni Valley team heads into new era with new owners, coaches, expectations

China Creek bullhead derby a hit

Derby was organized by the Port Alberni Port Authority

Go Bearfoot in the Park and help kids too in Port Alberni

Fundraising event will take place at Blair Park on Aug. 24

B.C. manhunt suspects left cellphone video before they died: family

Two B.C. suspects of a Canada-wide manhunt reportedly recorded a cellphone video… Continue reading

Sproat Lake residents oppose large-scale cannabis production in their neighbourhood

Community group calls public meeting for Aug. 21 to discuss implications to ACRD land

UPDATE: Wildfire east of Port Alberni under control

Crews continue to mop up 3.1-hectare fire

Vancouver Island RCMP hunt for man after pair of indecent exposure incidents

Elderly Qualicum Beach woman grabbed by man who had been masturbating in the woods

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Pile of wood mulch ‘spontaneously combusts’ at Vancouver Island industrial site

Business owner thanks fire department for quick response

Five hedgehogs quickly adopted after being left at BC SPCA

Lucky new owners picked up their pets from Maple Ridge branch on Aug. 20

B.C. cricket players get interrupted by racist remark

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

Nearly 50% of Canadians experience ‘post-vacation blues’: poll

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

Most Read