Accident brings diving to PelhamPublished 1:30pm Wednesday, June 1, 2011
By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor
On weekends during Alabama’s hot summer months a group of deep-water enthusiasts gather in Pelham to take a journey to depths usually reserved for ocean explorers.
Tucked behind the Alabama Power appliance center off Industrial Park Drive, a hidden former quarry offers an experience rarely found so far inland.
Dive Alabama, which is located at 100 Industrial Park Drive, is one of the only inland dive centers in the state, and features waters up to 140 feet deep.
The center offers ideal conditions for local divers, but the deep-water oasis was actually created by accident more than 30 years ago.
“It used to be a mining quarry back in the ‘70s,” said Dive Alabama Business Manager Stefanie Combs. “They dug too deep and accidentally hit an underground spring. After that happened, the whole quarry filled with water.”
After the mining company abandoned the site, Pelham residents began flocking to the old quarry and transformed it into a local swimming hole. But liability and insurance concerns soon forced the swimming hole’s closure.
“It just cost too much to allow the public to swim in there. I think the insurance was pretty high,” Combs said. “After that, it got transformed into a dive center.”
Even though Dive Alabama has only been operating the dive site since February, the old quarry has served as a diving location for more than 20 years, Combs said.
Many of the past owners of the site have placed large fixtures and items at the bottom of the quarry to serve as a makeshift underwater reef or simulated shipwreck. Today, the pool contains items such as a school bus, a cement mixer, fire trucks, cars, a sailboat and much more.
“Actually, we are not completely sure what all is down there. It seems like every weekend a diver will come back up and tell us about something else they have found down there,” Combs said with a laugh.
The pool also contains several types of aquatic life from turtles to Japanese coy.
Because of the site’s depth, Dive Alabama is able to conduct diving classes, and is able to certify divers on-site, Combs said. The company also offers snorkeling sessions, and features a full-service dive shop.
The center’s uncommon design routinely draws visitors from surrounding states and all over the country, especially during the summer months, Combs said.
“We actually just began our busiest time a few weeks ago,” she said. “Saturdays and Sundays are going to be really busy for us for a while.”
Dive Alabama is open from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturdays and from 9 a.m.-5p.m. on Sundays. The center is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
For more information about Dive Alabama, visit Divealabama.com, or call 663-7428.