Dive Travel: Madison Aquatic Park, Alabama
If you sink it, they will dive. That’s the maxim at flooded quarries all across the underwater USA seeking to attract traveling divers. Like latter-day P.T. Barnums, rock-pit impresarios have always sought out sizable junk — from planes to school buses — for the wonder of their wetsuited clientele. Occasionally, though, these deep-six museums strike a poignant, even poetic note, like at the newly reopened Madison Aquatic Park in Alabama, where a 1962 NASA Minuteman missile is located.
When you look down at the eight-acre lake from the cliff, the upright, protruding rocket ominously looks like it’s ready for take-off. The 53-foot-long nuclear missile — America’s “ace in the hole” during the Cuban Missile Crisis — used to be on display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center’s Museum; but because the educational exhibits are updated regularly, it was moved to a warehouse. When the old limestone quarry was turned into a diving park in 1995, the owners acquired the gutted, Cold War relic as well as an old 30-foot-high space station.
Staring up at this weapon of mass destruction from the bottom of the lake, you can feel its monster power — its enormity sent shivers down my back. It was a relief to note that, in the end, the missile is indeed underwater, appropriately covered in dense algae, unable to do any future damage.
For more info on dive travel to Madison Aquatic Park, visit www.madisonquarry.com