Sydney on the Trails: Scuba Diving at the Gray Quarry

Trail Team 11

GRAY, Tenn. (WJHL)-  Before we begin, it is very important to note- New divers should NEVER try scuba diving on their own, and should always go with an instructor.

This is an activity, like many that we do, that, if not done properly, can be deadly. Never try this without a professional.

For many, scuba diving seems like an elite activity; something you can only do on vacation, something that costs a lot of money, and something you need to have experience for. Well, in Northeast Tennessee you can scuba dive and none of those concerns are a factor.

With the ‘Smoky Mountain Divers’ you’ll be able to get in the water as a first-time diver, for 2.5-3 hours, for only $55, making scuba diving something everyone can experience.

First mined in the 1970s to pull the rock out for what is now I-26, Brian Chandler, a board member for the Gray Quarry, says it is now a not-for-profit entity, “so we charge $15 a day to come in and all that money goes back into the quarry we’re not making any money off of that we use that to pay electric bills to pay for improvements.” And you pay that fee when you first stop at the dive shop. Owner Barry Burton says, “We get you a wet suit we get you one that fits you well and get your equipment for you and make sure it fits you so it’s going to be comfortable not going to be sliding around your body and the guide set up a 4-foot platform… 4- 4 1/2 deep platform and that’s the first place we take new divers.”

However, before you get exploring you have to learn how to scuba properly, meaning learning what the signs are underwater. Watch the video above to learn what those signs look like. You’ll then learn how to breathe underwater, sit on your knees, float, and swim, all on that 4 foot platform. This is something that anyone 10 years and older can do, according the Burton, “From 10 years old up so we’ve taught folks that were 72/75 years old and we love working with the kids so that’s a lot of fun too.”

From the 4 foot deep platform, to the 12 foot platform, and then down to the 20 foot platform, the dive instructors will get you ready to go down to the bottom. During this time divers will learn how to pop their ears, and clear their goggles, all without coming up for air.

At the bottom of the quarry, divers will find all sorts of treasures. “The first big thing is they put in the quarry was a school bus,” explains Burton. “It isn’t a wreck and it was prepared particularly for scuba diving and then they put in a twin engine Cessna 310, there’s a 40 foot three deck 40 foot house boat down there and lots of little divers treasures”

Remember that when you go even 20 feet underwater, you can’t come straight up, you have to take it slow so you don’t get hurt.

The quarry itself is only for divers. “We kind of had to separate you know we didn’t want people swimming that would interfere with the diving when you go in and out you muck up the water and make it not clear for divers so we cater just to divers, dive training so students,” says Chandler.

Don’t forget to bring some fish food! They’re fun to feed, and they love to eat!

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