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Vintage diving enthusiast says manoeuvering 180-pound suit underwater at the Vancouver Aquarium was an amazing experience

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Strapping on a 180-pound diving suit and descending into a shark tank may sound like a death wish, but for 25-year-old Chris Casavant, it’s “a dream.”

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The commercial diver delighted onlookers at the Vancouver Aquarium on Jan. 20 as part of the Aquarium’s annual Divers’ Weekend.

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Casavant is a member of the Heritage Hard Hat Divers Association, which aims to educate other divers about how their profession has developed from the “very, very heavy” suits of over 50 years ago, including weight boots to help keep divers on the bottom.

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“The experience itself is amazing,” Casavant said. The face plate is shut “and they bolt it up and you‘re basically stuck in there – you have no way of getting out on your own.…”

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“... But once you get into the water … [it’s] every diver’s dream.”

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Casavant slowly manoeuvered his 1940s-era diving suit around sharks, eels, a turtle and a manta ray, which he said he had to try not to step on.

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The Vancouver Aquarium’s next big event is the 18th annual Murray A. Newman Awards on Jan. 24. Two awards will be presented on Friday in recognition of significant advances in aquatic research and conservation. Event details as well as information about other upcoming and annual aquarium events can be found at www.vanaqua.org

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Chris Casavant is helped out of his suit after the dive.

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