I’m officially certified for underwater exploration, as per my Bucket List for 2012. Weirdly, the deed was done in the middle of Pennsylvania cornfield country in an old abandoned rock quarry that is now a PADI diving site. It’s also home to bass, catfish, a cement truck, a chess board complete with pieces, and a quarry barn that is likely now enveloped in algae and slime.

The water was freezing and murky, a good thing for a newly certified diver. Any other water would be markedly warmer and clearer in comparison, a psychological advantage only known to cold-water divers. I’d also like to report that the lake’s fauna have no concept of boundaries, as certain inquisitive fish would swim up to our masks and make us go cross-eyed. They had no response to ‘shooing’ gestures, and indeed, one girl managed to slap a fish, a feat that many deemed nothing short of remarkable. The fish later returned.

Various unassuming buoys bob on the surface to mark the coordinates of some quarry point of interest. The quarry’s deepest point is 150 feet, but we only descended 60 to see the cement truck. This was where I found myself stuck on an underwater tree, its branch snugly snagging on some of my scuba apparatus. I failed to notice this however, and kept joyfully kicking my fins and bobbing side to side until Gregg – my instructor – saw that I was inadvertently swimming in place. He came to the rescue and later mocked me for it.

The whole ordeal was expensive, exhausting, and time-consuming, but it feels good to call a goal accomplished. One of the more involved tasks on my bucket list is now crossed off, and I’m free to dive pretty much anywhere I want. I have plans to dive in Sweden this summer, but I also need to dive in Egypt, Southeast Asia, Madagascar, and the Great Barrier Reef. There’s a whole world to see and now I have access to substantially more of it. Now that’s something to celebrate.

My fellow divers about to descend to a giant tube, which they'll have to navigate in complete darkness.

Gregg, the scuba pro. B&W 200, Nikon FM 50mm f1.4

Some guy who said 'yes' to a photo.

Cokes between dives, beers between dinner and bed.

Like I always say, the people you’re with make all the difference.