Some of us find carving a pumpkin on our kitchen table challenging enough, but about 20 local divers added another wrinkle to the traditional Jack-O-Lantern on Saturday: carving it under water in the Strait of Georgia.
The annual Underwater Pumpkin Carving event has been held by Pacific Pro Dive and Marine Adventures down in the Comox Valley for 23 years, according to owner Robyn Fyfe, but this year they partnered up with OceanFix.ca Dive Centre in Campbell River – formerly known as Beaver Aquatics – and hosted it at Argonaut Wharf.
Former owners Bill Coltart and Sharon Morgan started the event in the Comox Valley, and when the Fyfes took over the business in 2019, they knew they needed to keep it going.
“It’s always a popular event for the divers, and the money goes to charity, so it’s an important tradition,” Fyfe says. “This year the money is going to the Comox Valley Pregnancy Care Centre, and Sieffert’s Farm Market, as they do every year, gave us a bunch of pumpkins to help out.”
The idea is relatively simple: divers will show up – hopefully in costume – don their SCUBA gear, pick a pumpkin from the pile and go carve it under the water.
The complication, however, is that pumpkins float.
They also need to hollow out the guts before carving it, just like you would any other carved pumpkin, and the lid needs to come back with you when you bring it back to shore.
“It’s like dragging an upside down bucket of air to the bottom,” says local diver Ken Blackburn, “but once you manage to get the lid off and the guts out and get some rocks in it, the actual carving goes pretty easily. My lid got away from me, but thankfully someone saw it and grabbed it for me and brought it back.”
That “someone” was actually local artist Eiko Jones, who ended up winning the carving contest with his “self portrait.”
“I knew I was going to do the pilings when I went in,” Jones says, “but I didn’t know what else to do, so I decided to do a self portrait. It turned out pretty well. It’s me with a camera, filming a rockfish.”
He can’t really make a comparison between carving a pumpkin above or below the surface of the water, however.
“I don’t think I’ve carved a pumpkin ever,” he says with a laugh. “I’ve done watermelons and and made them into flowers and stuff for decorative table displays and stuff, but I’ve never really been a big Halloween person, so I’ve never done a pumpkin.”
OceanFix.ca co-owner Roger McDonell was on hand taking photos and video of the event, and says he’s happy to be a part of the annual event.
“Diving is a very social sport,” McDonell says, “and, of course, it’s been challenging during the COVID times, so it’s nice to get people together like this when you can. People can keep their distance while still being together. And it’s great that we can bring the two diving communities together under one umbrella, so to speak, and maybe make some new friends.”
In the end, $300 was raised for the Comox Valley Pregnancy Care Centre from the event.