ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Talk about bone-chilling adventure.
Recreational diving in Alaska waters requires preparation: Layers of underwear beneath a dry suit, wearing a hood and gloves and carrying the requisite knife and flashlight.
Steve Lloyd, a recreational diver from Anchorage, said he was naive about what it took just to get into the waters around Alaska.
''It's harder to get wet,'' Lloyd said. ''You can't simply go diving on the spur of the moment. You've got to really plan it. You have to watch road and weather. Every dive is an opportunity.''
Water temperatures vary from a high of about 60 degrees to a low of around 35, so even dry suits don't always ensure that a regulator won't fall from your mouth because of cold-driven fatigue or that your face won't freeze.
But consider the benefits.
''(There are) a lot of beautiful sea creatures,'' said Loic Thomas, owner of Last Frontier Diving in Anchorage. ''The water is actually clear if you go to the right place at the right time.
''Cold water is definitely more strenuous and requires more equipment,'' Thomas said. ''Yet it's more adventurous and you can dive in places no one has ever been before.''
A dry suit is just that -- a head-to-foot covering that keeps you dry. It's made of vulcanized rubber, neoprene or some other kind of waterproof fabric. Dry suit divers usually layer their clothing with special undergarments.
Wet suits allow water in but the water warms between a person's body and the suit. No new cold water is flushed in. They come in varying sizes, styles and thickness and often are worn even in warm water.
''Dry suits are more expensive, and they give you a little more drag in the water,'' Thomas said. ''But they're making some (dry) suits where the fabric is more flexible.
''You can jump in a wet suit on some summer days, but as a rule, it's pretty much dry-suit diving all year in Alaska.''
John Bice, the owner of Sunshine Sports, another Anchorage dive shop, said cold water diving requires more training.
''It's more dangerous for somebody from a warm water environment. It requires new equipment and for different conditions,'' Bice said. ''They need training.
''The problem is, they think they don't.
''You're dealing with weather, you're dealing with cold. The message is stay warm. Wear the proper gear.
''It's not really a time issue,'' Bice said. ''I've been colder on California dives than on dives here. The water wasn't cold, it was simply that I was using different equipment. Swimming in 60 degrees with a 7 mil(limeter-thick) wet suit is colder than 40 degrees with a dry suit.''
Cold water divers can go anywhere in the world and be comfortable in their environment, said Thomas, who moved to Anchorage from the Seattle area.
''It's easier to jump from cold water diving to warm water diving, but not necessarily the reverse,'' he said.
Dennis Lanham has been diving for decades -- all of it in cold water.
''I've never been in warm water,'' said Lanham, a Sitka resident who augments his income harvesting sea cucumbers for the Japanese market.
''The critters, the marine life, the beauty that's down there, 100-foot visibility in the winter. You're dealing with 39- or 40-degree water. It's a kick.''
And then there's the diving-to-dine sideline.
Bice said he grew up diving in California, where the emphasis was on grazing rather than gazing.
''It's the same thing around Southeast (Alaska),'' said Bice, who also ran a dive shop at Sitka. ''There's plenty to eat. You never come back hungry from a dive. Abalone and three or four different kinds of delicious crab.''
Gathering a choice menu is a big part of diving in Alaska, said Craig Sempert, who operates Craig's Dive Center on Prince of Wales Island.
''Most of our divers are just here for the exploring and the adventure,'' Sempert said. ''Going out and taking pictures -- that sort of thing. But they also harvest rock scallops, abalone and crab. Those are the Big Three.''
Divers around island-dotted Southeast Alaska frequently swim with whales, dolphins and sea lions, Sempert said.
''We have caves. We have walls from zero- to 1,000 feet, offshore pinnacles, high-current drift dives. Big halibut. Caribbean-like visibility.
''A gal I taught how to swim just got back from Hawaii,'' Sempert said. ''She likes what she sees here much more and she's a Forest Service biologist.''
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