Bonne Terre Mine

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Sprawl­ing out 17 miles be­neath the town of Bonne Terre is one of the most unique scuba div­ing des­ti­na­tions in the world. This mine was once the world’s lead­ing pro­ducer of lead ore be­fore 1961, when the pumps that kept the tun­nels dry were turned off. There are 52 es­tab­lished routes along which divers are guided, each of­fer­ing divers a chance to re­trace the steps of min­ers from the late 1800s to the 1950s and see im­pres­sive ar­ti­facts along the way. Divers swim cir­cuitous routes, pass­ing ore carts, shacks, tip­ples, el­e­va­tor struc­tures and many of the tools and equip­ment that were left be­hind. There’s a rail­road en­gine, small boat and — deeper in the mine — build­ings that once housed the var­i­ous ma­chine shops. Wa­ter tem­per­a­ture is a con­sis­tent 58 de­grees Fahren­heit, and known wa­ter depth is 230 feet. Most dives are con­ducted in 40 to 60 feet of wa­ter, and vis­i­bil­ity is around 100 feet. De­spite be­ing lit by more than 500,000 watts of light strung from the mas­sive pil­lars of rock hold­ing the place to­gether, the mine is dark and spooky. Rich Synowiec, owner of Divers In­cor­po­rated in Michi­gan, has more than 35 dives here. “It’s the clos­est thing you can get to div­ing on an­other planet,” he says. —Andy Mor­ri­son

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