Mark Brooks, owner and manager of Southern Indiana Scuba, supplies gear to divers from all over the state, for expeditions all over the world. But he says the single most common line he hears is, “I want to dive in Lake Monroe.”
His response: “No, you don’t! Ten feet down, you can’t see your hand in front of your face. There are fishing lines and all kinds of entanglements…. No, you don’t want to go there.”
The best scuba diving in Indiana, Brooks says, is found in quarries, particularly those in which old vehicles have been sunk. Automobiles, train cars, buses, helicopters, and airplanes are among the items placed (often intentionally) at the bottom of quarries for divers to explore.
“In addition to the manmade objects, you’ve got bluegill, bass, carp, and catfish that you get to look at,” says Brooks, who has 24 years of diving experience and a Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) Master Instructor certification. “Sure, people may say it’s not the ocean, but when you get to swim around with fish and see them interacting and sitting on their nests, it’s pretty cool.”
Brooks says no quarries in Monroe County are legally open for diving, but his shop organizes trips to quarries in Logansport, Muncie, and beyond state lines in Kentucky, Ohio, and Illinois. It also runs excursions to more traditional diving destinations, such as the Florida Keys and Cozumel, Mexico. One notable site is the USS Spiegel Grove, a 510-foot Navy ship that was sunk in 2002 to create an artificial reef near Key Largo. Brooks was one of the divers who helped install the ship on the ocean floor.
Established in 1975, Southern Indiana Scuba boasts a top PADI rating of five stars and a staff of experienced divers. Brooks took over the shop in 1998 after the founder, noted undersea archaeologist Charles Beeker, became a full-time educator at IU. The shop moved four years ago from South Walnut to South Empire Road, just off Old State Road 37.
The staff offers training for divers of all skill levels, from basic instruction to highly specific techniques. It also sells, rents, and services a wide variety of diving equipment.