November 30, 2020

One Week Out

In a few days, I will pack my little car to the gills and head North. Way North. To the Forefinger of Michigan North. And in about a week, our #Big5Dive team will be suited up, waiting for our attempt to make a record. Or at least, I’m pretty sure it’s a record. If not, good on whoever else has tried it.

5 Great lakes, 5 shipwrecks, 13 divers, and 24 hours.

You can’t tell me that’s not Big.

Liz and her snack prize

Big takes a lot of organization, which has been going on for months up in Michigan. The amount of time and planning that has gone into this adventure is incalculable, and I won’t even know the full extent of it until I get up there. I can’t wait to write all about it, because I can’t thank them enough.

But in my small world of prep here in the South, I can tell you that Liz and Kyle have already driven North. They’ve done the most important thing: obtained the potato chips.

So while I’ve prepped at home with my PADI certification book, set up my tent in my living room to make sure it didn’t have any holes,

dive book #Big5Dive
Doing my homework

and made mental lists of appropriate road trip snacks, I’ve ALSO geeked out on our second dive site.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the wreck at our third dive site, the Joseph S Fay. Before we head there, we will be in the Headlands Dark Sky Park.

Have you never heard of a Dark Sky Park?

CamelopardalidsOak2014 #Big5Dive
Heritage Village Oak Tree at the Headlands Dark Sky Park with the Milky Way. This tree is how you know where to park. Photo courtesy of Emmet County.

Then yes, you ARE missing out.

There are currently only 37 locations world-wide certified by the International Dark Sky Association, a non-profit dedicated to letting the world have some respite from the lights. The Headlands Dark Sky Park in northwest Michigan was awarded its designation in 2011, making it the 6th location in the US, and the 9th in the world to receive the recognition.

There have been studies about the long-term damage humans (and other species) can suffer because of the rarity of real darkness, due to computer screens, LED alarm clocks, and street lamps (I mean, if we are just listing off the top of our heads here).

The Dive

dive site B5D
Aerial view of the Headlands, courtesy of Emmet County. If you look closely, you can see the wreck close to the shore.

We will be diving the Headland wreck at this location, which remains unidentified, but still a site regularly explored by local divers. While the best images of the wreck are taken during the day, we will be visiting the site closer to 2 AM. In some cities, bars will close, but at the Headlands, we will be splashing in.

If you were ever a person who had a massive glow-in-the-dark poster of the constellations in your childhood bedroom, which hung until the corners were so destroyed by thumbtacks, and the glow-in-the-dark paint chipped off onto your bedspread, go check out the Storyteller’s Night Sky Facebook page.  Mary Stewart Adams, the director of the Headlands Dark Sky Park and Star Lore Historian, posts all of the tidbits that wax poetic about the stars, the night sky, and our place in the Universe. She has a weekly segment on the Interlochen Public Radio, and recent article is about using trees as markers to find constellations.


Mary Stewart Adams, Storyteller of the Stars, also let me know about other fortuitous events coinciding with our dive at this site:

  1. Headlands Dark Sky Park will be hosting its regular Starlight Trivia (8:30-9:30), and inviting anyone who would like to stay and cheer us on to linger until the wee hours when we arrive.
  2. The moon will be at waxing gibbous phase, heading toward its full phase, setting into Lake Michigan with both Saturn and Mars at 3:28 AM.
John Hills Milky Way 6.2016, #Big5Dive
Milky Way over the Headlands, photo credit: John Hill Photography

Since our dive will be at roughly 2 AM, the moon, Saturn and Mars, will be in their descent into the lake as we submerge. Of all the places to night dive, this seems perfect.

Already, I am imagining the moment of surfacing, a million stars, the Milky Way, and gasps of all the divers as we trade out the respirator for a snorkel and head back to shore.

The only bummer? We won’t have time to linger.

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