Bottle Collecting and the C-card

E.R. Cross

Nearly 20 years ago there was a flurry of thought in Skin Diver related to diving for bottles. This activity, mostly at the recreational diving level, provided an outlet for bottle collectors who had not previously thought of diving as a way to pursue their hobby. One reader wrote, I am very interested in your article on bottle collecting. I have been collecting for several years and will become an even more avid collector now that I have equipment for my new hobby diving for bottles.

Bottles and similar collectibles are most likely to be found at sites where groups of people use and discard various kinds of drinking utensils. This includes cups, saucers, jugs and bottles of many kinds. Bridges, docks and other means of crossing water are likely collection sites. Offshore anchorages are other areas for discarded or lost material. Piers for tour ships are particularly rewarding. Some collectible diving will likely occur in shallow water with visibility reduced to zero or nearly so. Buddy search lines are useful for such areas.

A buddy search line for small buried objects should usually be no longer than the span two divers can reach. It is helpful to tie a small weight to each end of the line. Divers start a search area at opposite ends of the line. As the search progresses toward the diver at the opposite end, both divers feel to full arm's length through debris on the bottom. A pattern of search may be behind the line of travel for the first pass and then in front of the line on the search back to the weighted ends. The weights are then picked up and moved forward six to eight feet and the search pattern repeated.
Another search pattern sometimes used is for one diver to remain at a fixed point while the second diver searches in slow methodical circles following the search line. The stationary diver will know when the searching diver has completed a circle and can signal that the search area is being advanced several feet.

A modified search pattern can be followed if diving can be done from a dive platform. One diver remains in the dive platform serving as a tender for the diver. The weighted descending line has a search line of suitable size and length that the diver follows in search for collectibles.

The location of any object in most bodies of water will depend on several factors. It has been my experience that the greatest changes occur as a result of stormy conditions when much new material is uncovered or deposited. Under ocean conditions, currents and waves can be a factor to a depth of at least 300 feet and may change the depth objects are buried as well as their location. In all waters, currents displace or cover objects. This applies to almost everything that is a collectible such as bottles, shells, artifacts, jewelry, tools, outboards and other lost items. Several excellent books on bottle collecting have been published. Check your local library.
Another reader wrote, What about the stress on the divers searching for collectibles in water with zero visibility? There is no great stress when working with buddy lines in reduced visibility. It is advisable for divers who have not worked with buddy lines to practice this method in water with some visibility until the signals and techniques are familiar. Divers should learn or develop signals to communicate specific information between themselves or the diver and surface tender.

One of my most rewarding and exciting dives for bottles was in Acapulco Harbor in near zero visibility. We made about a half hour dive during which we circled the German cruiser scuttled in Acapulco Harbor at the start of WWII. Several keeper bottles plus two large cone shells were collected.

C-card Certification
A C-card for entry-level, recreational scuba diving indicates divers have been indoctrinated in safe procedures for the use of open circuit scuba. They should be able to plan no decompression/depth-time profiles and be able to cope with potential environmental hazards. They should be aware of physical/physiobiological requirements for safe diving. This is usually adequate for the vast majority of today's underwater activities. Fortunately this goal can be reached and safely followed with a minimum of requirements.

Continued practice and experience leads to an apparent expertness. Becoming at ease in any level of training usually indicates that the diver is ready to begin more advanced training program. Divers should be aware of their changing underwater habits and seek training and supervised experience before any radical departure from the level for which they have been trained and qualified. There are no limits to new thrills and experiences available to divers. Go for them; carefully and with proper training.