Mission implausible
What do you say when a Laplander calls and asks you to retrieve his snow-scooter from the bottom of a lake Dont skimp on the explosives, suggests Erik Bjurstrom

RRRIIING! THE NOISE OF THE TELEPHONE PIERCED MY BRAIN. Dazed, I fumbled for the receiver. It was early one Saturday in January, and an unfamiliar voice with a strong dialect wasted no time on introductions: Can you dive to around 40 metres he asked. Half-conscious, I replied: It shouldnt be any problem, I guess.
ÂÂÂÂ Can you dive in a lake and salvage a snow-scooter asked the voice.
ÂÂÂÂ I regained enough consciousness to ask what this was all about. He was, it seemed, a native of Lapland. He and his family had a camp at a lake deep in the mountains and had lost a valuable snow-scooter through the spring ice. It now lay at the bottom of the lake.
ÂÂÂÂ I looked out at the Swedish winter darkness. The thermometer showed minus 20ÂC. If I accepted, I faced a 250 mile drive into the mountains, followed by a 35 mile snow-scooter trip into the wilderness. All my dive-gear had been packed away for the winter in the cellar, and my car was not equipped for winter. I was not enthusiastic. To discourage the caller, I told him he had to hire a car for me, and quoted a ridiculously high fee, with no guarantees of success.
ÂÂÂÂ Without hesitation he said: A rented car will be outside your door in two hours. Well meet you at the main road west of the lake. My wife and I packed the gear, the car arrived and we headed north.
ÂÂÂÂ After five hours we found the Laps standing by the road with their scooters. We bedded down in reindeer-skins on the sleds and raced through the winter landscape into the wilderness.
ÂÂÂÂ It was like a Jack London novel. I expected to see bears crossing our path and wolves howling at the Northern Lights.
ÂÂÂÂ Two hours later we reached the camp - three cottages beside the lake. That evening we discussed the next days work by the light of a kerosene lamp. The Laps planned to use dynamite to blast a hole into the ice quickly. And the next morning we made our way to the site of the accident, marked by branches.
ÂÂÂÂ I thought about the icy black water, but it was too late. The Laps laid down five dynamite sticks and lit the fuse.
ÂÂÂÂ FFfffffft! A small explosion and a plume of surface water shot into the air, but it left no hole in the ice. Without a word, two of the Laps scootered off to the nearest town - almost 200 miles away - to buy more dynamite.
ÂÂÂÂ It was interesting to get to know the Laps and observe their lifestyle. They were still partially supporting themselves by hunting and keeping reindeer.
hspace=4 ÂÂÂÂ But the next morning brought home to me what kind of people they were as, to my disbelief, they attached a fuse to the entire box of dynamite and lit it.
ÂÂÂÂ We ran for our lives. The explosion threw a gigantic pillar of water into the air. A wave spread through the ice and a 3m hole opened up.
ÂÂÂÂ I put on my Viking drysuit. I knew there was a possibility that my regulator could freeze and free-flow. If this happened at the bottom, and if I failed to find the opening fast enough, I could be in serious trouble - the tank would empty in minutes. My wife tied the lifeline, we repeated the signals, and I was in the water. The iciness burned my face, but it soon became numb.
ÂÂÂÂ As I aimed my light downwards, I had a big surprise - the water was crystal-clear. I had never seen anything like it.
ÂÂÂÂ The beam cut through the water and I could see the scooter standing upright on a clean gravel bottom. I took the lift-rope and descended quickly. My gauge showed 38m. I tied the rope around the steering and that was it.
ÂÂÂÂ By now I was enjoying the dive and was reluctant to ascend straight away. I looked up - what a sight!
ÂÂÂÂ A weak light filtered through the ice and bright sunlight shone through the opening. I aimed my light towards the opening and could see the Laps looking over the edge, and the lifeline and lift-rope descending.
ÂÂÂÂ I felt like an astronaut on a spacewalk. Visibility must have been in the region of 90m and I realised that this was something I would never experience again. It was a dream-like scene, perhaps amplified by slight nitrogen narcosis.
ÂÂÂÂ Reluctantly, I pulled myself together and began to ascend. When I broke the surface it felt unreal - like waking up after a good dream onto which you want to hold.
ÂÂÂÂ It took the Laps only minutes to pull up the vehicle, using the other scooters. After cleaning, lubrication and a battery change, it started almost immediately.
ÂÂÂÂ The Laps cheered and danced about on the ice. One gave me a hug and a cup of tea from a Thermos flask. I realised, coughing, that tea was not the only thing in that bottle.
ÂÂÂÂ A substantial amount of money subsequently changed hands, and that was it. We set off home, and I was left with a diving experience I will never forget.

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