The Only Interesting Thing in Missouri

Bonne Terre, Missouri seems small and rather insignificant–the kind of community that many pass by without out realizing they’ve gone through it. But taking a peak underneath, an immense set of flooded tunnels and caverns–once an active lead mine –would present themselves. The attraction enables scuba divers to complete their “Mine Diving” certification (rare and cool, but pretty much useless anywhere else). The mine stretches for miles underneath the town, and some of it (mostly what they call level-5) is unmapped.
Me and my dad decided that it was a must during the road trip after watching a brief video of it. When we arrived at the dive, there was no big entrance, no big shaft, no big opening, not even a big building that offered access. Instead there was just a lonely little shack, with a small door inside leading to the mine.
We strolled down through the slimy rock walled cavern to a little rickety dock bobbing up and down in the naturally filtered fresh water. As soon as I strode into the underground lake, the freezing cave water trickled into my wetsuit. I’ve never dived in cold water (and therefore never used a wetsuit), so it was a completely new experience than ever before. Once the expedition was underway, the team explored abandoned mine carts laying solemnly on the cave’s floor, hoes and shovels deteriorating by the walls, and what the local divers call “smoke” (fine particles of oxidation from the metal tools) stratifying in layers.
The guide lead us into some earth-worm tunnels, and hidden pockets inaccessible but by scuba. At times, a number of divers close to the mine’s floor kicked up so much silt up that I could see nothing. Rules stated that no one but the guides themselves could carry flashlights, which made the poor visibility a nightmare. The only thing I could see was the guide’s own light.
There are usually stadium lights set up through the cave, offering overhead lighting, but a storm two days ago wiped out many of them. That means that half the time we were basically night-diving (with no lights).
On the second dive the visibility was low, it was dark, and we were surrounded by over-the-head roofs of rock. A stray diver (who had gotten too low) panicked and shot to the surface too fast. At the time, I didn’t know what was going on, so I just followed the lights to the surface. When I surfaced, the guides were attempting to calm the diver down. He had to exit the dive early, and was administered oxygen. In the end, he was alright, but it sure gave everybody a scare. We were scheduled for three dives, and although the second had a hiccup, the first and third went smooth.
I know I say this a lot, but I encourage everyone to research the “Bonne Terre (Missouri) Mine Diving Experience”. The guides are super friendly, the dives are worth every last penny and effort, and even if you don’t want to dive– they offer boat tours as well. If you’re ever passing through Missouri, you’ll know where to stop. 
[Editorial Comment from my Father:  Alexander found the dives to be worth every penny because I paid for them.  Just sayin’…]

47 thoughts on “The Only Interesting Thing in Missouri”

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