Sunday, September 19, 2004


Divers net 4 tons in undersea trash - Hey! That's archaeology in the future.


Herald Staff Writer

Divers combed the ocean floor off the Monterey Peninsula, bringing up everything and the kitchen sink, not to mention a toilet bowl and a mattress.

Divers weren't looking for housewares, but rather trying to help clean up the ocean floor as part of the annual beach cleanup along the Peninsula. Dozens of divers searched the bottom of the ocean looking for anything manmade that was thrown into the ocean either by accident or on purpose.

"The first dives happened about 15 years ago, and it was a series of dives to clear out the marina," said Stephen B. Scheiblauer, harbormaster for the city of Monterey, which sponsored the dive.

Saturday's dive was organized by the Central California Council of Diving Clubs and the San Francisco Reef Divers club. About 60 divers, ranging in age from 14 to 77 years old, pulled up about four tons of junk, including metal cables, tires, car batteries, boat ladders, and flashlights, as well as a kitchen sink, a toilet bowl and a bed mattress.

"This year wasn't quite as interesting as in the past," said Pierre Hurter, a member of the reef divers club. "The year before last we found a headstone."

"This year was more just junk," said Gerda Hurter, Pierre's wife and the event coordinator.

While the dive did not turn up anything as interesting as a tombstone, it did bring in its share of unusual objects. In fact, the prize for the most interesting object pulled up ended in a tie, with three different people who pulled up fire hydrant caps sharing the honor with a diver who found an "adult" cigarette lighter.

"It was a lighter with erotic scenery," said Gerda Hurter.

The most bizarre object found was a .45 caliber bullet, while the most expensive object was a key to a BMW.
"Whoever picked up the BMW key can find it in the parking lot and drive off with it," quipped Gerta Hurter.

Complementing the ocean dive was a beach cleanup that brought dozens of volunteers all across the coastline. Donning plastic gloves and carrying garbage bags, the volunteers picked up broken glass, bottle caps, and cigarette butts. Lots of cigarette butts.

"In less than five minutes, we've picked up about 17 cigarette butts," said Theresa De La Vega of Santa Clara, a volunteer who was visiting the beach.

A group of Girl Scouts from Salinas also took part in the beach cleanup. Hoping to earn their "Sign of the World" badges, the girls dealt with the cigarette butts as well as something they called "squishies."

"It's actually pretty clean out here. Just mainly cigarette butts and squishies," said Jesse Drogemuller, 10.

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