There was a sense of nervous anticipation in the air at the Tenino Quarry Pool on Thursday August 17 as spectators gathered at the local landmark for the big dive. The King 5 Evening film crew was present and ready to document the results of the dive, set to be aired on Monday, August 28 at 7:30 p.m. This event would go down as the first official expedition to explore the bottom of the Quarry Pool with the hope that Tenino can finally answer the question, “What is down there?”
It’s been 90 years since the Quarry filled with water under the ownership of the Tenino Sandstone Company and in that time, many rumors have circulated about the pool. Ask anyone who has lived in Tenino for a length of time and they will tell you the stories.
The pool is rumored to be over 100 feet deep. Word has it there is equipment at the bottom that was abandoned when the quarry flooded. The bottom could by now be littered with a number of lost things from old bottles to jewelry. Some locals suspect it’s a good place to toss things you never want found again like a weapon with a past. When a local woman went missing eight years ago, a dive took place at the quarry pool on an anonymous tip, but nothing came of it.
Tales of past expeditions into the pool abound as well, but any prior explorations would have been unauthorized and most likely undocumented dives. One such dive took place in the 1960’s by a lone diver who did it on a lark. Others claim to remember a dive in the 1980’s but with the quarry being owned by the city, most likely it would have occurred on the sly. The danger for a lone diver submerged in the murky depths of the Quarry Pool are very real. Turbid water at such an extreme depth with possible debris would be extremely dangerous Visibility would be poor and it could be easy to get caught on something or disoriented. For that reason, the pool has remained largely a mystery for nearly a century.
However, on August 17, a dive team waited half suited up and ready to go. The weather was warm, and those dive suits couldn’t be zipped up comfortably until it was time to dive. A small boat moved with purpose about the quarry pool looking for promising dive locations using sonar. Once the King 5 Magazine crew was ready, and a dive location selected, it was go time. Four divers, led by Clay Farre and sponsored by the Underwater Sports shop of Olympia, were on the team. Two men and two women, including Tenino Mayor Wayne Fournier jumped into the pool. The plan was to stagger their depths for safety with a floatation device on the surface.
When they returned to the surface from their first dive, Wayne reported that there were “trees down there.” Apparently sunken limbs and trees made the journey to the bottom treacherous and visibility, as was expected, very poor. Ordinarily the water in the Quarry Pool is quite pleasant but a swampy smell rose to the surface with the divers as they stirred the sludge that rested in the depths.
Despite these less than ideal reports, the divers went down a few more times. At one point Wayne surfaced with a huge smile on his face. He had found something, and that something was large as he had explored it with his hands. He happily handed the GoPro off to the Evening Magazine crew for their feature show on August 28, but kept the secrets he discovered to himself – for now.
Richard Edwards, the South Thurston County Historical Society Historian who attended the dive, circulated a photo of an old steam channeler and hopes ran high that it might be the large metal object the divers discovered lying dormant for so long at the bottom.
Wayne remained enthusiastic after the dive event was over. “I loved it!” he said. “The community support and interest were amazing. It’s so cool to see everyone connect to the history of our city and to be able to help make that connection.”
Concerning future plans Wayne shared, “I want to work on some pool improvements structurally and some water quality improvements. I know it has great potential to be used as a dive park and I can say with confidence that there’s a lot of history hidden in the water.”
Spectator Marissa Dallaire felt the dive expedition marked an important day in Tenino’s history. “The quarry legends are what make our town unique. This was a way for the public to love the mystery even more. I also thought it was incredible because I’m double majoring in anthropology and my interest is in underwater archaeology.”
Speaking to two of the divers after they emerged, they agreed that something would have to be done about visibility to make dives a pleasant experience in the Quarry Pool.
“It was nice around the edges though,” said one diver.
“And there are huge crayfish down there. Just huge,” said the other.
All the divers agreed that the pool was not as deep as previously believed in the areas they explored. In the past, more primitive attempts to gauge its depth involved dropping weighted ropes to the bottom. But this expedition involved sonar and digital depth gauges, improving accuracy and dispelling some of the quarry’s mythology. Wayne’s gauge registered his maximum depth at 65 feet though the depth may vary in different areas of the pool.
According to a 1910 Sanborn Map, there are five sections of the quarry. Three of those sections make up the deeper Quarry Pool and the depths as of 1910 from east to west were 50 feet, 35 feet and 95 feet respectively.
Another find at the bottom, which was brought to the surface for all to see, was an assortment of old glass bottles filled with sludge. Not surprisingly, one was reminiscent of an Olympia Beer stubby bottle.
The dive expedition was sponsored by Underwater Sports, Don Juan’s Mexican Kitchen and the City of Tenino. Tune-in to Evening on King 5 at 7:30 p.m. on Monday August 28 to find out more and see the depths of the quarry pool through the eyes of the divers who ventured below.
Want to take a dip in the pool yourself? Read all about a visit to the Tenino Quarry Pool here.