Lake Burton, Our Newest Local Dive Site?

Bridge across the Tallulah River, 1905. Today, this bridge is at the bottom of Lake Burton.

In the early 1900s, Georgia Power built a series of four dams along the Tallulah River in Rabun County, along with the Terrora Hydro Plant, bringing hydroelectric power to that part of the state. The subsequent reservoirs are still important to the plant and to the local economy today, but their existence came with sacrifice, including the now submerged Ghost Town  of Burton.

Dolphin Divers ~and history enthusiasts~ Ross McConnell and Jay Cavanaugh are planning to explore Lake Burton and learn all her secrets. (And could Lake Burton become our area’s newest local dive site?)  Jay explains:

“This post is a repository for the photos and items used in the search of the Ghost Town of Burton GA, submerged by the power company almost a century ago. The motivation for this search comes mainly from Ross McConnell and furthered by another friend Rob Divis.

This is our Walk-in site. Many thanks to the owners for allowing us to use their property!

Well, we have been given permission by the owners of lakefront property to enter the lake on Friday Dec the 13th to make our first dives on the Town. We are developing the dive plan now, which includes so far:

  • Gear/equipment selection and testing
  • Emergency procedures at the site, including recall procedures
  • A list of objectives and locations
  • Depths and times, etc.
Thinking this will be the focus area. Easy to see the advantages of a walk-in from this angle.

So far the team consist of two 2-person dive teams and one diver on the surface.

The tactical approach will be to enter heading due west 270 degrees, straight down following the contour until we hit the Tallulah which, according to our resident dive team geologist, should be obvious. Then, we’ll follow the river southward to the Bridge. Once the bridge is located the teams can split up if they chose and head for separate targets.

The Church (

Some of the targets include:

  • The Tallulah
  • The Bridge
  • The Church
  • The Post Office.
A folk art rendition of the town of Burton Ga. (Looking Northerly)

* NOTE: The Church is in the opposite direction of the others. It was located on the West side of the River and up the hill next to the Burton Cemetery. The general location of both can be seen off the Eastern tip of the sandy areas that can be seen from Google Earth on the opposite side of the lake from our walk-in site…huh? ;<)” ~ Jay Cavanaugh

Erv found this one; which unfortunately, lends credence to the rumor some building material did wash down to the dam during the flooding process.


Citizens of Burton (

In the following weeks, look for subsequent posts that follow Jay and Ross on their expedition to the bottom of Lake Burton!

Interested in joining them? Contact Dolphin Dive Center at 706-548-3483 to learn how to get involved!

Read more about the history of Lake Burton HERE.

Take Your Diving to the Next Level

Scuba Diving Athens GAWith the warmer weather we had over the weekend, a lot of us have diving on our minds. If you’re an Open Water Diver, why not broaden your diver skill set this year?  The Advanced Open Water Diver (AOW) certification course at Dolphin Dive Center (DDC) will take your diving experience to the next level. Taking specialty courses is a great way to hone your skills and learn new ones. Pursuing continued diver education allows you to dive in a wider range of underwater environments and prepares you for any diving situation that could occur. As a Scuba Schools International (SSI) partner, DDC adhere’s to SSI certification requirements:  “To earn the certification for Advanced Open Water Diver, you must complete 4 specialty courses and have done a total of 24 dives.” (Source)

Dolphin Dive Center Athens GA

DDC offers its AOW class every third weekend of the month. Like the Open Water certification class, this course is divided into two sessions, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. Over the course of the weekend, students will participate in the following four specialty classes: Deep Water DivingNavigationNight and Limited Visibility Diving, and Wreck Diving.

One pool session is available to AOW students, should they wish to review their OW skills and work on navigation techniques in confined water. Although it’s not obligatory, we make sure students have a lot of fun during this session. We play underwater games designed to build confidence in low visibility environments and navigation, among others.

Upon completion of the AOW course and proof of 24 logged dives, DDC will issue the SSI Advanced Open Water Diver card. (Note: Should divers prefer to choose other SSI  specialty courses to take, one at a time, they will be eligible to receive their AOW Diver card once all four specialty classes are completed and 24 dives are logged.)

For more information about Dolphin Dive Center’s Advanced Open Water Diver certification courses, class schedules, and prices, call us at (706) 548-3483. Let’s go diving!

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

Staying hydrated is important to the proper function of every cell, tissue and organ in a person’s body. Most of us have heard the 8×8 rule, the basic guideline of consuming eight 8oz-glasses of water per day.  But life is busy, and hours can easily slip by between sips of water. In most cases, the resulting mild case of dehydration is rectified after a glass or two of water, with no serious consequences. But for a scuba diver, even mild dehydration can become dangerous.

How does dehydration effect scuba divers?

Dehydration predisposes a diver to decompression sickness (DCS). To understand why this is true, it’s important to first know the basic effects of dehydration on the body: A lack of water in the body thickens the blood, compromising the circulatory system by diminishing its ability to transport nutrients. As the exchange of gasses like oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen diminishes, so does the body’s ability to off-gas nitrogen. So when a dehydrated person goes on a dive, his body is not efficiently ridding excess nitrogen accumulated at depth.  Even if he dives within his computer limits and even if he ascends slowly at the end of the dive, he could have more residual nitrogen in his blood and tissues than normal. And if he reaches the surface safely, the increased excess nitrogen could trigger DCS on repetitive dives later that day.

In addition, dehydration can induce muscle fatigue and cramping, high blood pressure, confusion, accelerated heart rate, and rapid breathing. In a scuba diver, these symptoms lead to weakness and exhaustion, poor air consumption, reduced awareness, and the increased risk of decompression sickness.

Can scuba diving actually aggravate dehydration?

There are many factors in a diving day that compound dehydration. The intense sun and tropical air of popular dive destinations feel hot, especially for vacationers coming from cooler locations. Sweating is the body’s attempt to regulate its core temperature. And we sweat profusely stuffed in a wetsuit, preparing for a dive on the deck of a boat where there is little shade or trudging with heavy gear on our backs across hot sand for a beach entry dive.

Salt water effects a dehydrated diver. After being immersed in sea water, we’re covered with salt crystals whose hygroscopic properties draw moisture out through the skin. Even the sea spray that blows on us as the boat hits waves going to and from the dive site adds to our contact with salt water.

Everyone loses body moisture when they exhale, but the amount of moisture lost increases when a diver breathes compressed air. Most all moisture has been filtered out of the air when it traveled through the compression system and into the scuba tank. On a dive, this virtually humidity-free air draws moisture from a diver’s body during respiration.

Even a dehydrated diver feels the need to “go” during a dive, due to a phenomenon called Immersion Diuresis. Basically, water temperature and pressure during a dive cause the body to direct blood away from the arms and legs and toward the trunk, in an attempt to maintain core body temperature. This increase in blood levels around the major organs is detected by the kidneys and misinterpreted as excess fluid. Urine production increases in an attempt to flush the body of these excess fluids.

How to Stay Hydrated While Scuba Diving

  • Drink ample amounts of water in the days leading up to the dive. Bring a water bottle with you to hydrate before and after the dive, and during surface intervals. You can also eat fruits during surface intervals to replace lost fluids. 
  • Avoid excessive amounts of alcohol and caffeinated beverages, as these diuretics flush water from the body.
  • Rinse skin and hair with fresh water as soon as possible following a dive.
  • Apply sunscreen after a dive and every two hours during sun exposure. (The body pulls moisture from other parts of the body to soothe sun-burned skin.)
  • Stay in the shade, if possible.
  • Put on your wetsuit at the last minute, when you’re ready to get into the water.
  • Avoid seasickness if you’re susceptible by having medication on hand.
  • Don’t dive hung-over.

Hydrating your body is always important. But a scuba diver must avoid dehydration because the risk of decompression sickness increases when the level of body moisture decreases. Be a safe diver — drink lots of water! 


Trust Your Instincts

Athens GA Dolphin

Tim asked me to read an article in the Diver Alert Network (DAN) magazine Alert Diver, called “Trust Your Instincts.” We agree that the information in that article is important for all divers to hear.

Nicole Baker wrote the article to deliver two messages: 1) Diver instincts and training  are essential in determining whether a diver suffers from decompression sickness; and 2) DAN insurance is instrumental during the treatment process for decompression sickness.

To recap the article, Nicole and boyfriend Ben had dived the USNS General Hoyt S. Vandenberg in Key West. They’d done two dives, both to about 90 feet. Neither diver had exceeded his or her computer limits. Both divers had dived the identical dive profile, and both divers had included an extra half-depth safety stop. After the dives, Nicole noticed a large, purple honeycomb-looking rash on Ben’s chest and stomach. Remembering the signs and symptoms of decompression sickness (DCS) from her training, she voiced concern that Ben may be suffering from DCS and urged him to call the DAN Medical Information Line to get an expert’s opinion. Ben brushed it off. After all, he hadn’t pushed his limits. He chalked the bruises up as chafing from his new weight belt. But later he admitted to seeing stars and being unable to read printed papers or road signs. By the time they headed to the Emergency Room, several hours had passed.

Despite the hospital’s close proximity to popular dive sites, members of the medical team that initially attended to Ben were not trained in dive medicine. In fact, Ben received fluids and neurological exams before being administered oxygen. Readers who have taken DAN’s Oxygen-Provider Course know that the first thing you do when you suspect a dive-related injury is to put the diver on oxygen.

In the end, Ben was transported by ambulance 72 miles to the nearest hyperbaric chamber where he spent three hours compressed to 60 feet and another three hours at 30 feet. He made a full recovery.

Nicole goes on to explain that the couple received a mound of bills in the months following the accident, but all she had to do was scan each one and email it to DAN. She’s grateful they’d been insured. She says, “I had never had a positive experience with a health insurance company before; it was so nice to feel like an insurance company was actually on our side. There were no deductibles, and there was no fine print saying, “Well, actually, now that you mention it, we don’t cover this or that…,” and the caring nature of all the staff members with whom we spoke will ensure that we both renew our DAN memberships for the rest of our diving careers.”

What can we take away from Nicole and Ben’s story? Computers are excellent tools for planning and executing safe dives, but they are only tools. Decompression sickness has been known to happen to divers who dived within safe limits. Knowing the signs and symptoms of DCS is critical. And it’s important to trust your instincts. When you suspect something is wrong during or after a dive, don’t delay; investigate in that moment. And when an accident does occur, it’s wonderful to have the assurance that your DAN membership will be there to support you through the process.

If you’d like to read Nicole Baker’s article in its entirety, click HERE.

For information on DAN Memberships and Benefits, click HERE.

Do you have a story about DCS or DAN? Share it with us in the comments!

Are You an Underwater Tortoise or Hare?

Recreational scuba diving is a sport, and everyone can participate in it, whether male or female, young or old, stout or svelte. Though it’s true that a healthy level of physical fitness is ideal, you can dive regardless of where you fall on the health spectrum. What’s often misunderstood among new divers is how fast a diver needs to go in this water sport.

Speed is important in most water sports: Swimmers race against each other and against the clock; water skiers and wake boarders want the boat going fast for better control; and jet skiers get their adrenalin rush from screaming atop the waves. So it’s easy to understand why speed and scuba would be naturally associated.

In fact, scuba divers are safer and enjoy the dive more when they go slow. The reasons to take your time and go slow are numerous:

  • When preparing the dive, going slow and deliberate will reduce the risk of missing steps in gear preparation or dive planning.
  • Entering the water when you are calm and not rushed means you won’t breathe heavily at the onset of the dive.
  • Descending slowly allows effective ears and sinus cavities equalization.
  • Gentle fin flicks that allow you to glide along, as opposed to actively swimming, let’s you breathe slowly and deeply, conserving your air supply and extending your dive time.
  • A slow dive allows you to spot marine life hidden in the reef or along the bottom that you would simply miss if you were swimming quickly past.
  • If a situation arises with you or your buddy, stop. Breathe. Think. And then act. As with anything else underwater, taking your time will keep you in control of your emotions and more able to correct the situation.

Scuba diving is a relaxing sport. Take your time and enjoy every moment. When you do, you’ll be a safe and comfortable diver, and that’s the goal!


Attack Underwater Panic

I learned in my Open Water Diver certification class that a common reaction to anxiety or fear is a rapid, shallow breathing pattern, which leads to an out-of-breath feeling. I remember we were told to be aware of this symptom and if it occurred, to slow our breathing down and focus on the exhales to return to regular breathing. Good thing we covered that, because it happened to me. And it was terrifying.

It happened during my first open water checkout dive. I was already anxious, as my husband and I had opted to do our checkout dives while on vacation in Florida instead of with our Dolphin Dive instructors. I’ve always regretted that decision. However, DDC referred us to Mike Gomez with the Panama City Dive Center, and we couldn’t have been in better hands. Mike is such a great guy: funny, competent, full of personality and an instructor of the highest caliber.

We headed out with Mike on a dive boat with about 25 other divers. Everyone seemed experienced and excited to get in the water, unlike me who worried about being seasick, worried about how I’d gear up shoulder-to-shoulder with all those divers, worried about diving in sea water, worried, worried, worried.

The boat operator announced we were stopping in the shallows to allow the four divers working on certification, including my husband and I, to drop down with our instructors and demonstrate our skills. It was intimidating to feel like everyone was looking at us as we waddled to the stern. Trying to appear cool and relaxed, I casually looked over the side of the boat. That’s when I saw the jellyfish.

They were rusty orange in color. And they were everywhere.

I’d been stung by a jellyfish the summer before. I was not happy about doing a giant stride entry into jellyfish infested water. Did I mention I was not wearing a wetsuit?

I hit the water and bobbed up to the surface without a sting, but now my head was on a swivel, searching my immediate environment for the jellies. At the same time, I fumbled with my BC deflater, clenched the descent line, and attempted to clear my ears. I didn’t have enough hands. With so much to concentrate on, my off-the-charts anxiety went unnoticed and unchecked. Until I reached the bottom.

Kneeling on the sandy bottom under 25 feet of the Gulf of Mexico, the instructor indicated the first skill and pointed to me. I felt winded from the scary descent through the jellies, so I sucked air in quick, shallow breaths to catch my breath. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t get a lung full of air. Two more rapid breaths, and I felt like I was suffocating. I wasn’t getting any air. None. I panicked.

The instructor had his eye on me. He gave me the “Okay?” sign, and I shook my head frantically. I thrust my thumb up, emphatic. I needed to surface, like now.

The instructor wagged his finger at me. No. He flattened his hand, pushing it palm down in a deliberate motion. Calm down. Then he turned his attention away from me and continued with skills with my husband.

In that moment, the coursework came back to me. Severe anxiety can trigger hyperventilation. A little voice whispered, That’s happening to me! The training kicked in: Slow your breathing down and focus on the exhales to return to regular breathing. Within 30 seconds, I was back in control of my respiration, breathing as comfortably as I do on the surface. I gave the “Okay” sign to the instructor and completed all my skills.

Diver stress can happen to anyone, but new divers are especially susceptible. Remember your training whenever a stressful situation arises; it will get you through. And a comfortable, confident diver is one who dives often and who continues his or her diver education by taking specialty courses in a wide variety of subjects. The more you learn, the more equipped you become to handle any situation, any time.

And hey, if you’re ever in Panama City Beach, FL, be sure to stop by Panama City Dive Center and say hello to Mike Gomez!

Our New Site!

Welcome to Dolphin Dive Center’s new website! Please excuse our dust as we get this place up and running, with all the great content you’re used to enjoying. The transition should be complete in just a few days, so check back often to see our progress.

Thanks for your patience!