Aquaspace, the last frontier

by Marty Brown
Northern News Services

NNSL (NOV 13/96) - The auditorium lights dim, the projector hums and suddenly the screen is filled with underwater shots of aquatic life, fish and a colorful garden in vivid purples, pinks and yellow.

Wait a moment. This is supposed to be a film on scuba diving North of 60. It looks like shots from under warm Caribbean waters.

Yellowknife master diver and instructor Paul Beilstein explains what we're watching is some of the best diving in the world and it is North of 60.

"There's marine life you'd expect to see in warm water and this footage was taken in September off Panama Island near Rankin Inlet," he tells a crowd of 50 people at Amazing Sunday's at the Prince of Wales Museum Sunday.

"Not only is the marine life interesting, but it's not crowded under the water as it can be under the tropical seas."

And don't be worried about being cold. Beilstein hates being cold but with modern diving suits, including gloves and boots, divers don't get cold even when it's minus 30 on land. Besides, even divers in the tropics get cold hands after an hour.

"Diving is the last frontier," he says. "It's aquaspace."

Diving is like flying. Early man wanted to do it but it took centuries before modern technology caught up with the urge to explore under the waves.

Experimental equipment was made from old inner tubes just before the Second World War, but it took much experimenting to perfect self-contained underwater breathing apparatus or scuba gear.

Even Prince Charles is an enthusiast of Arctic diving.

Beilstein said there's more to it than putting on a mask and strapping on air tanks.

Like everything else there's book work, then basic training in a pool before jumping in for open-water training.

But after students pass the test there's photographs to take and sunken ships to explore.

Franklin's ships haven't been found yet and there are a few wrecks left over from the search for the Northwest Passage that didn't quite make it.

Beilstein has been diving North of 60 for more than six years and has taught about 600 swimmers the joys of aqua space.

"There's nothing like it," he said.