Downstate search and recovery team trains in Alpena waters

Courtesy Photo Members of the Wayne County Sheriff Search and Rescue Dive Team train near a shipwreck in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary this week.

ALPENA — A team of downstate divers took advantage of Alpena’s shipwreck-rich waters last week to practice saving lives.

A search and recovery dive team from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office chose Alpena as the site of its annual deepwater training. The team explored shipwrecks in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and conducted drills near Rockport State Recreation Area, making use of the Sunrise Side’s deep water and underwater resources to hone its skills.

Water near Detroit lacks the depth available near shore in Alpena, according to Lt. Matt Gloster, dive team leader for the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office Marine Unit dive team.

He and his team started their training on Aug. 9 with exercises that required divers to find marked objects, place them in a crate, and lift them out of the water, simulating an actual recovery.

Tuesday through Thursday, the team dove around five Alpena-area shipwrecks. The sunken vessels provided practice in careful maneuvering while loaded down with the equipment needed for both a dive and a rescue, Gloster said.

Courtesy Photo A member of the Wayne County Sheriff Office Search and Rescue Dive Team trains near a shipwreck in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary this week.

When they practice rescues in the Detroit River, divers overweight themselves and follow search patterns along the river’s bottom.

In deep water, like that around Alpena, the team can practice buoyancy skills, navigating a search area while hovering closer to the surface.

Exercises also included skill refreshers in remotely operated underwater vehicle operation, diving etiquette, and how to fit a dozen heavily-clad divers and all their gear onto a boat, Gloster said.

The team did not require special clearance to dive the shipwrecks, according to Gloster.

Though Detroit water doesn’t require the dive team to conduct deep-water searches, mutual aid agreements with other counties mean the Wayne County team could be called to assist in deep lakes in Oakland, Monroe, and other counties.

The team usually conducts its deep-water training near Munising, the Straits of Mackinac, or the southern tip of Lake Huron. Last week marked its first Northeast Michigan training.

The clean, clear water and unique underwater experience will probably draw the team back again, Gloster said, giving “kudos to Alpena” for its friendliness, natural beauty, and unique resources.


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