BY JOE LATVIS
During the ARPP Open House held May 21, 1995 State Representative Marjorie Turnbull confessed to being more tantalized than satisfied at having viewed the live action video of the underwater excavation that we were able (for the first time ever) to transmit up to a TV monitor on the river bank. After divulging further that she already possessed a recreational scuba certification from a nationally recognized agency, we resolved to explore the possibility that she might actually dive on the excavation with us sometime as part of an insight visit to this state funded project.
After discussing the possibilities with UF Dive Safety Officer Dr. Robert Millott during the summer hiatus, a "visiting dignitary" status was extended to Rep. Turnbull for the fall field season, waiving the emergency medical certifications normally required of our working volunteers, in exchange for a requirement partnering her on the dive with Director of Diving Operations, Joe Latvis.
Undaunted by the dive buddy assignment, Marjorie (as we all came to address her at her own genuine insistence) arrived at Nutall Rise on the appointed day in October driving a pickup truck with a gearbag full of diving equipment in the back. After a few welcoming remarks from site manager Jack Simpson and a brief but thorough dive orientation discussion with Joe Latvis we proceeded down the two-mile long jeep trail through the swamp toward the world famous Page/Ladson site. Pausing on the trail only for a few minutes to observe close-up a family of wild hogs.
Foraging through the swamp, we arrived without further memorable interlude. Marjorie engaged in several conversation groups while circulating among the topside crewmembers, asking perceptive questions about the project, and disarming everyone's initial formality with her charming wit. Donning wetsuits and scuba equipment we descended onto the site, where Brinnen Carter and Don Munroe were mapping a fossilized deer antler rack they had just excavated from the 10,000 year old Bolen surface.
PHOTOS Mark Muniz
During the course of the 38-minute dive she was able to observe additional excavation, mapping and photo documentation activities firsthand. Her initial concern that she not jeopardize the integrity of the fragile site proved completely unfounded, as she demonstrated excellent diving skills, hovering neutrally above the exposed Bolen surface and communicating via the prearranged hand signals.
Upon our return to the surface, she was quite unabashedly infected with the enthusiasm that comes from having borne witness to this vault of fossils, artifacts, paleobotanical and paleoenvironmental treasures that lay undisturbed where they came to rest 10,000 years ago. It is an enthusiasm we have come to recognize from the many volunteers who return to the surface intoxicated by their first dive on these amazing time capsules. The field crew's pleasure on that sparkling north Florida autumn day was to have shared the otherworldly transcendental experience with someone who so thoroughly appreciated it's significance.